Cooperation has enhanced ice caves experience

The Eben Ice Caves are a wonderful attraction in the heart of Alger County, within the Rock River Canyon Wilderness. Each winter, hundreds of people visit the colorful ice formations, which hang from a sandstone cliff face.

For years, thanks to the kindness of Tim and Heidi Swajanen, who own land near the ice formations, the public has been able to access the ice caves by crossing a field they own. A trail from there leads into the Rock River Canyon Wilderness, in all, a hike of less than a mile.

Last winter, the Swajanens worked with the Alger County Road Commission and a private contractor to put in a 30-vehicle parking lot. This greatly reduces the number of vehicles parked along North Eben Road. This year, the couple has put up a concession stand offering hot dogs, coffee, hot chocolate and other items. Proceeds from the stand will be used to offset the cost of providing portable toilets near the parking area.

Hats off to the Swajanens for their efforts to enhance the experience of visiting the ice caves, one of the area’s still relatively well-kept secrets. This is a great place to visit.

We also think the ice caves are a great example of how attractions in wilderness areas can be used effectively, without overuse or abuse. A visit to the site should be a must at least once every winter. The ice formations are always different, depending on the recent weather, and the trip is definitely worthwhile.

When you go, don’t forget your camera and take time to stop off at the concession stand for a cup of hot chocolate or coffee and say thanks to the Swajanens.