Madeline Island's Ice Road

Travel Guide to Madeline Island's Ice Road of Wisconsin

Madeline Island's Winter Ice Road is the name of an ice road located on Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area, in Wisconsin, United States.

The road is about 3 km (1.9 mi) long and used for several weeks in the year as replacement for the summer ferry service. It runs from the city of Bayfield (in Bayfield County), on the mainland, with La Pointe (Ashland County), on the western shore of Madeline Island, the largest and most southern island of the Apostle Islands. It’s said to be the only ice road that appears on official state maps. While the road is open, the ice is monitored several times a day. Drivers should observe the same rules of the road as they would on any Wisconsin highway.

Once the lake begins to freeze over, the car ferry between the island and the Bayfield mainland, ceases to operate. When the ice is too thin to allow the construction of the road, but too thick to allow ferry service, a type of hovercraft is used to transport school children from the island to and from the mainland. The ice road is traditionally marked by discarded Christmas trees and is officially an extension of County Highway H. Once the ice thickens enough to support conventional vehicles the ice road is officially opened to cars, trucks, and buses. Do not exceed 15 mph and keep plenty of space in between vehicles. Remember to start by rolling your windows completely down and then remove your seatbelt. Beneath the ice road, water depths can be as shallow as 50-60 feet while in other places over 250 feet. If you fall through the ice you’ll only have a few seconds to escape.


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