Ice caves might cost you this winter

Nearly 2,000 hikers visited the Apostle Islands Sea Caves on one day in February, and that was a slow day. An estimated 11,000 people converged on the ice caves on a weekend day to see the frozen caves, the first time they've been accessible by foot in five years. Dan Kraker / MPR News/file

The popularity of the ice caves last winter Apostle Islands has come at a price — a price.

The Duluth News Tribune reports the National Parks Service may charge $5 a head this year if and when the ice caves return.

“This unprecedented visitation received national and even international attention and was driven largely by the widespread use of social media to spread news of the ice cave phenomenon,’’ Apostle Islands officials noted in a news release Wednesday. “We believe the Ice Caves Special Event has now entered the national and international consciousness in such a way that visitation of this magnitude will now be the norm, rather than the exception. The Ice Caves Event in 2014 brought in nearly 10 million dollars in revenue to the local communities.”

The $5 charge would help the small park recover some of the cost of directing traffic, policing the ice, providing portable toilets and cleaning up the debris left behind by the crowds.

The charge would be in addition to the $3 per car parking, which many people avoided by parking on Highway 13.

The odds, though, are against there being any impressive ice caves this year since the attraction is the fact they’re increasingly rare.