Ontario's Crystal Beach Ice Caves Destroyed

By Eric Zerkel
Published: February 23, 2014

Crystal Beach Ontario Ice Caves

Crystal Beach Ontario Ice Caves

A view of the ice caves in Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada. (Kim Manley Ort, Flickr)

  • Crystal Beach Ontario Ice Caves
  • Crystal Beach Ontario Ice Caves
  • Crystal Beach Ontario Ice Caves
  • Crystal Beach Ontario Ice Caves

Authorities in Fort Erie, Ontario demolished a popular ice cave formation on Lake Erie, after heavy foot-traffic spawned dangerous conditions at the site. 

According to the Niagara Falls Review, the caves formed just off the shoreline in Crystal Beach, a once popular resort community within Fort Erie, after a series of extreme weather events combined to form the caves in a phenomenon known as an ice shove. 

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), ice shoves occur when wind and currents push free-floating ice onshore, causing a traffic jam of ice that can sometimes leave towering mounds in its wake. Sometimes—and in the case of Crystal Beach—given the right weather conditions, those piles of ice can take on quirky formations like ice caves. 

And that's exactly what William Kennedy, a resident of the area, said he experienced back in January after three days straight of bad weather with near zero visibility. 

“Three days of wind,” Kennedy told The Buffalo News. “That’s basically it. That’s what happened. We basically sat in our house for three days. Then we came out, and this was here.”

When the ice settled there were three massive ice caves on the surface of Lake Eerie, the largest of which was 30 feet deep, 15 feet wide and six feet high, reports the Welland Tribune. The icy sprawl caught the eye of more than locals though. Thousands of tourists flocked to the quiet coastal town as news of the ice caves spread. At its peak, Fort Erie officials estimate that up to 50,000 people visited the site over a popular holiday weekend, reports the Niagara Falls Review

But as foot-traffic increased, so too, did safety concerns. Temperatures warmed in the area, and on Monday, February 17, cracks formed under the feet of visitors. Couple that with two injured people—one with a broken hip, the other, a concussion—and authorities had had enough. So the Fort Erie Fire Department and the Niagara Regional Police teamed up to close off and evacuate the ice caves.

(MORE: Could the Harsh Winter Kill Off This Pest?)

Still, visitors lingered for a chance to traverse the caves, even as authorities roped them off.

"We were pulling people out of the caves...up to 30 or 40 people," Fort Erie Fire Chief Larry Coplen told the Welland Tribune

Authorities issued a stern warning to potential visitors, urging them to stay away from the site, but when word spread that officials were thinking of destroying the caves, the number of visitors only increased

So the next day, after approval from the proper authorities, a contractor with a backhoe took to the icy surface of Lake Erie and knocked the caves down one by one.

(MORE: Lake Superior's Ice Caves)

“We were concerned about the dangerous over hanging areas and we needed to knock them down,” Fire Chief Coplen told the St. Catherine's Standard. “There was a short window, because if we left it for the weekend, we’d have a lot of people. We want people to get the message that it’s knocked down and hopefully people will stay away.”

But even as the backhoe whirred, and the caves fell, visitors fought for a chance to see the natural wonder.  

“Even as we were knocking them down, we had to push people away as they were trying to get one last look before they were destroyed,” Coplen said.




(Ben Nilsson/Big Ben Productions)

  • ICEHOTEL Entrance
  • ICEHOTEL: Entrance 2010/2011
  • Suite: Blue Marine
  • Suite: L’Aquila
  • Suite: Illuminated
  • Suite: Nest
  • Suite: Floating
  • Suite: Between Worlds
  • Suite: Legacy of the River
  • ICEHOTEL Main Hall: I Indialand
  • Sakai Suite
  • Suite: Art Deco
  • Suite: Iceberg
  •  ICEHOTEL: Ice room
  • Suite: Dimensional Journey
  • Suite: Midvinternatt
  • A Piece of Torne River
  • Northern Lights Suite
  • Suite: Flow
  • Ice Church: Kyrka
  • ICEHOTEL Main Hall: I Indialand
  • Bedtime Story
  • Bubblesuite
  • Suite: The Flower
  • Suite: Royal Deluxe
  • Suite: Absinthe Minded
  • Suite: Embrace of Life
  • Ice Church Wedding
  • Suite: Arktikos
  • Beam Me Up
  • Suite: Freeze Frame
  • Building ICEHOTEL
  • Building ICEHOTEL
  • Suite: Retro Drive
  • Church
  • Suite: Cold and Crazy
  • Suite: Frigid Dare
  • Suite: Dragon Residence
  • Suite: Elliptical
  • Eternity
  • Suite: Ice Fishing
  • Suite: Genesis
  • Suite: The Dream Catcher
  • ICEBAR 2012/2013

Featured Blogs

Ex-Hurricane Oho Going Where Few Hurricanes Have Gone Before: Alaska

By Dr. Jeff Masters
October 8, 2015

Alaska and British Columbia are on alert to receive a very unusual dose of tropical weather: the remains of Hurricane Oho, which are on track to hurtle into the Alaska Panhandle on Friday evening. Oho completed the transition from a hurricane to an extratropical storm with 70 mph winds on Thursday morning, and after short period of weakening, is expected to interact with a powerful jet stream over the Gulf of Alaska and intensify on Friday afternoon off the coast of Alaska into a powerful 960 mb low pressure system with near-hurricane-force winds and heavy rain.

An extraordinary meteorological event; was one of its results a 1000-year flood?

By Stu Ostro
October 5, 2015

The confluence of meteorological ingredients the first weekend in October 2015 resulted in an extraordinary weather event with severe impacts. Was one of them a 1000-year flood?

Why the Arrest of a Science-Loving 14-year-old Matters

By Shaun Tanner
September 16, 2015

By now, many of you have heard or read about the arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old high school student from Irving, Texas. Ahmed was arrested because school officials called the police after he showed one of his teachers his homemade clock. Mistaken for a bomb, Ahmed was taken into custody, interrogated, shamed, suspended (still on suspension today, Wednesday), and reprimanded. All of this after it has been found that the "device" he brought to school was indeed, a homemade clock.

Hottest Summer on Record for Much of the Pacific Northwest

By Christopher C. Burt
September 7, 2015

The summer of 2015 is likely to go down as the warmest such on record for much of the Pacific Northwest, especially for the states of Washington and Oregon. It was also anomalously warm in other parts of the country. Here are some of the details.

2013-14 - An Interesting Winter From A to Z

By Tom Niziol
May 15, 2014

It was a very interesting winter across a good part of the nation from the Rockies through the Plains to the Northeast. Let's break down the most significant winter storms on a month by month basis.

What the 5th IPCC Assessment Doesn't Include

By Angela Fritz
September 27, 2013

Melting permafrost has the potential to release an additional 1.5 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and could increase our global average temperature by 1.5°F in addition to our day-to-day human emissions. However, this effect is not included in the IPCC report issued Friday morning, which means the estimates of how Earth's climate will change are likely on the conservative side.