Madeline Island Residents Cheer "The Best Ice Road in Maybe a Decade"
Yesterday, I drove the "ice road" between Bayfield, Wisconsin and Madeline Island for the first time in just over a year. And it was one of the smoothest, most pleasant ice road passages I've ever experienced.
We overheard a local resident in the Mission Hill Coffee House who proclaimed this year's ice road, "the best in maybe a decade". I'd have to agree with him.
The ice is thick and smooth this year, without noticeable ruts or bumps. We were told last week that there was a pressure crack close to the Bayfield approach, but there was no sign of it yesterday.
A cautionary sign on the Bayfield approach reads "travel at your own risk". But once you drive onto the ice road in your car or light truck and begin your trip across the two-plus miles of Lake Superior separating the Island from the mainland, you might even consider that advisory message to be excessively cautious.
Drivers crossing the ice road to and from Madeline Island are advised to travel at a speed not to exceed fifteen miles per hour. The folks who maintain the ice road tell Islanders that vehicle speeds of over 15 miles per hour may create wave motion beneath the ice sheet which can denigrate the ice.
Once the ice road is opened, we all become custodians of this valuable resource, in a way. The ice road provides Islanders with the ability to come and go at all hours of the day and night (weather and ice conditions permitting, of course), without paying a ferry fee or buying a windsled ticket.
We also heard the good news that the ice caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are now accessible to the public by crossing the solidly frozen Lake Superior ice, for the first time in five years. The caves, located eighteen miles west of Bayfield, Wisconsin are an extremely popular area attraction in winter, drawing as many as a thousand visitors per day on midwinter weekends.