Updated: 03/16/2014 10:21 PM
Created: 03/16/2014 6:56 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
The Apostle Islands Ice Caves have drawn thousands of visitors a day this winter, but park officials closed the caves Sunday night. The melting ice formations may wash away an economic boom for the South Shore, but local businesses were happy while it lasted.
“Well, for the store itself it's hundreds of people a day,” Michael Upthegrove said. “Weekend days have been 12 to 13 hours of work here. Some nights it's hard to get people out.”
That is a good problem to have for the employees of Ehler's General Store in Cornucopia. The businesses is usually closed for the winter, but the ice caves crowds need lunch and maybe a few treats according to cook Janel Ryan.
“There's been a lot of fabulous people coming in through the door more than I could have anticipated,” Ryan said.
That has been good for business and workers like her.
“Yeah, it's been great because, I mean, that's very unusual for us so it's very nice to go home with a little money,” Ryan said.
Visitors drove for hours to get to the caves, but said the unique experience of walking on Lake Superior is worth it.
“Very worth it. Yeah, it's been really cool to lay under some of the ice and see it forming above you. It's really cool,” Megan McEnna said.
The caves may have been free, but guests were spending while they visited the area.
“It looks like a great small town, and I think that a lot of people will hunker down and eat and fill up their tank to get back to the Cities or where ever they are coming from,” Laura Eusterman said.
Considering 130,000 people turned out this winter it is easy to see how the boom hit the entire South Shore.
“The store owners, and the restaurant owners and the lodging owners they're just in shock and gleeful at the same time. So it's been a wonderful boost for the area,” Ryan said.
The businesses and employees hoped the unexpected tourism will roll over into summer.
“If they have a good time up here in the winter I think they're looking around and going, 'Wow, it would be really wonderful in the summer when you actually swim in the lake instead of walking on it,'” Ryan said.
The money was great, but hosting the guests was more than just business to residents of the South Shore. They were happy to share their home.
“Thank you to all the people that came here to visit us, and thank you for their kindness, and their genuine sweetness, and for coming to see what nature can be at it's best,” Ryan said.
Chester Bowl Ski Jumps to be Torn Down, Memorialized
Out with the old and in with the new is a transition that's difficult for many especially when the old is something as historic as the Chester Bowl Ski Jumps. They will be torn down the week of August 18th, but a new memorial will go up by early 2016.
Duluth Hunt To Allow Unlimited Antlerless Deer Harvest
As hunters gear up for fall, bowhunters in Duluth are also getting ready for a change. The city hunt will allow unlimited antlerless deer to be harvested this fall. The change comes as most of the state is seeing tighter restrictions.
130 Years of Mining in Minnesota
Folks gathered in Soudan on Thursday, to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the first shipment of iron ore.
Independence Party U.S. Senate Candidate Announces Support for PolyMet
The Independence Party's candidate for U.S. Senate in Minnesota announced his support for a proposed copper nickel mine on the Iron Range.
Four Republican Candidates for Minn. Governor Face Off On Air
The four Republican candidates for Minnesota governor faced off in a radio debate Thursday morning in Duluth. Marty Seifert, Scott Honour, Jeff Johnson and Kurt Zellers addressed the issue of what to do in the case of a budget shortfall, among other questions.