Lake Superior Shoreline - Myers Beach, Lake Superior Sea-Caves, Twin Falls Park
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore- Meyers Beach:
At the extreme western end of the mainland portion of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, about 5 miles east of Cornucopia, Wisconsin, is Meyers Beach (photos: the caves are near the tip of the peninsula). The Park Service has recently paved the road into the beach and created an ample paved parking area. While the beach itself is quite attractive and offers a nice spot for swimming, a picnic, or beach combing, its popularity is mainly due to something about 2 miles away: the Sea Caves of the Bayfield Peninsula.
The Sea Caves make Meyers Beach a popular departure point for Kayakers (photo) wishing to explore the caves. The caves can also be seen by taking a 1.8 mile hike up the Lakeshore Trail. (Note for backcountry campers: there is a camping area 2 miles further down the trail near Sand Point.) There is also a land route to see the caves.
Although called a lakeshore trail, good views of the lake are rare until you got near the caves. The trail runs near the lakeshore, but the woods are too thick to see the lake clearly. These woods with its variety of tree species would be especially attractive during the fall color season. The trail was rated moderately difficult because of the frequent up and down undulations; however, it is well maintained with stair steps wherever the trail gets steep. The trail crosses a number of creeks. The reward at the end, the Sea Caves, is well worth the hike. Care must be taken when reaching the cliffs above the caves. There are treacherous spots, such as the small land bridge (photo) across a chasm over the water.
Sea Caves :
Centuries of wave action, freezing, and thawing have sculpted shorelines throughout Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Some of the Great Lakes' most spectacular scenery occurs where these forces interact with sandstone of the Devils Island Formation to create extensive sea caves. Nature has carved delicate arches, vaulted chambers (photo), and honeycombed passageways (photo) into cliffs on the north shore of Devils Island, Swallow Point on Sand Island, and along the mainland near the Lakeshore's western boundary. People come to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in summer and winter to visit the sea caves and witness Lake Superior's ever-changing handiwork.
The caves' beauty varies dramatically with the season. In summer the red sandstone is sandwiched between sapphire blue lake and emerald green forests that grow right up to the brink of the cliffs. Large waves generate plumes of spray and thunderous explosions as they surge into the sea caves. While visitors must enjoy these scenes from a distance, such is not the case when the lake is tranquil. Under calm conditions, kayakers can explore the caves' deepest recesses while listening to the murmur of water against rock.
By February, an ice bridge might connect Sand Island to the mainland. The lake surface is usually a frozen white expanse. Lakeshore cliffs form a crimson red border to this arctic landscape. Pillars of ice extend to the cliff tops where waterfalls have hardened in place. Frozen lake water encrusts the base of the cliffs. Inside the caves awaits a fairyland of needle-like icicles. The formations change from chamber to chamber and from day to day.
The story of the Devils Island Formation begins over one billion years ago. At that time, rivers carried sandy sediments from hills in what is now southern Minnesota to a basin where the Apostle Islands are now found. These rivers, known as braided streams, carried sediment that slowly filled the basin, forming a sand flat. That area was covered with many shallow ponds, some only a few inches deep, connected by shallow channels. Sand deposits in this environment were thinly-bedded, fine-grained, and extensively ripple marked. These deposits eventually became the sandstone known as the Devils Island Formation, named for the locality where it was first identified and described by geologists.
Where wave action erodes and undercuts the base of a cliff, a feature known as a "reentrant" develops. Sea caves are produced when a number of reentrants join behind the face of a cliff, leaving behind supporting pillars and arches. They develop most easily where the sand layers comprising a rock formation are very thin. The thinly bedded, easily eroded sandstones of the Devils Island Formation are the source of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore's spectacular array of sea caves.
In summer, the sea caves are best seen by boat. The Apostle Islands Cruise Service offers daily trips past the Devils Island sea caves from late May through the middle of October. On Wednesday and Saturday evenings in July and August, the concessioner also offers a sunset cruise to the mainland caves. Kayak outfitters in Bayfield guide day trips to the mainland caves throughout the summer. Kayakers with their own boats wishing to visit the mainland caves will find a good launch point at the end of Meyers Road. This is located about 18 miles west of Bayfield off Highway 13. Boaters wishing to visit the Sand Island caves will find a boat launch at Little Sand Bay, 13 miles north of Bayfield.
To reach the mainland caves in winter, visitors should drive to the end of Meyers Road. The lake in this vicinity is frequently covered with ice for some or all of the period from late January to mid-March. If the lake is sufficiently frozen, visitors can walk, snowshoe, snowmobile, or ski northeast across the ice to the cliffs. The caves begin about one mile from Meyers Beach.
Twin Falls Park: The entrance to Twin Falls Park is just west of Cornucopia off Highway 13. This small park has picnic areas, restrooms, and two scenic waterfalls. There is a scenic overlook where you can get a good view (photo) of the large falls from above. Follow the hiking trail to a short climb down to a spot where you can get very close to the small falls and get a close-up view of beautiful sandstone rock formations (photo). A stairs takes you down to the small pool the large falls (photo) cascades into. Later, as the trail loops back toward the parking lot along the stream, you will find a long sandstone cave (photo).
The Lower Falls at Twin Falls Park