Leelanau Co. Sheriff: 'Ice caves no longer safe'

In a photo posted on the Sheriff's blog, open water is visible near the caves.

The Leelanau County Sheriff says the new weather conditions - thawing temperatures and high winds - are making the famous ice caves unsafe for visitors.

According to the Sheriff, high winds have broken up and moved the ice on the west side of the formations, making it impossible to view them.

He also says there are large fissure cracks in the arches that make it unsafe, as well. If someone is climbing on or under the caves, they could give way at any time - possibly trapping the person.

The Sheriff said even the Lake ice to get out towards the caves isn't safe, and encourages people to remain on shore. Due to the weather conditions, the top ice layers have become slushy, making the ice underneath extremely slippery - and making it more likely for someone walking on it to fall and injure themselves. There are also cracks in this ice making it possible for someone to fall through.

In a photo posted on the Sheriff's blog, open water is visible near the caves.

"The actual open water - which we couldn't see from shore - is now right up to the edge of the ice caves. So we're telling people stay off the ice. Stay out of that area," said Leelanau County Sheriff Michael Borkovich. "We can't mandate that, it's not a state or federal law that we can tell them to stay off the water but common sense should prevail. People should look at this as a dangerous situation out there now. They were interesting to see, and even as late as Wednesday it was a really neat phenomenon to see, but right now it's pretty shaky out there."

He noted that by heading out onto the ice, you're not only endangering yourself but also the lives of rescuers from Leelanau Township, law enforcement and fire personnel, the Coast Guard, etc.

The Sheriff also reports the traffic pattern that had been established to allow more vehicles in the area has ended and traffic patterns on Gills Pier and Onomonee Roads are now back to normal, two-way traffic.