Ice-out Approaches



A foggy  spring morning near the Crosslake dam shows a mixture of ice and open water. Though the water never freezes close to the dam, ice out is around the corner. Photo by Kate Perkins

The ice is just starting to pull away from the shore on area lakes, and though the area is still waking with the occasional skiff of snow on the ground, most of the winter’s snowpack has melted. Migratory birds are starting to arrive, maple syruping is on and, well, everyone’s eager for spring.

The median ice-out day for Whitefish Lake (upper and lower) is April 25, according to the DNR and its 35 years of records for that lake. According to the DNR, the earliest ice-out on record for Whitefish Lake is April 11, and that record was set in 2017.  Lower Hay Lake saw its earliest ice out on April 7, 1998, while Ox Lake had its earliest ice out on April 9, 1973.

Already a few lakes in the metro area are ice-free. You can keep an eye on ice-out across the state, for this year or years past, at the DNR's website. Individuals across the state help provide the data for this map, and the map is updated whenever new information is obtained.

This is an important time of year to remember ice safety and that the ice is not only constantly changing, but never totally safe. Ice that is honeycombed or pitted, as it can be in the springtime, is not as strong as the clear ice that lakes often form in the beginning of winter. Even if the ice is thick, it may be weak if it's not solid and clear.

It’s also important to remember, as you take to the water this spring, that cold water can be dangerous. It takes only 30 minutes in cold water for one’s ability to swim to be impaired or lost. That’s why wearing a life jacket is important, especially in early spring when the water is still cold. Read more about cold water boating safety here.

If you live far away from the Whitefish Chain but want to keep an eye on ice-out, the real-time satellite imagery available on the MODIS  website is a great way to take a look. Though the lakes can only be seen on clear days, it’s interesting and fun to zoom in on your favorite area of the state (click the “250m” button at the top of the screen) and see how the lakes are looking.

This image from April 14 shows a less-cloudy day when the lakes could be seen. We've still got a little ways to go, but we're on our way!

It won’t be long now! Happy spring!

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