Ice-out dates interest many Minnesotans

Ice on the beach at Stony Point.Lake life in northern Minnesota is a year-round experience, but a sure sign of spring is hearing the words ice-out!  Some local communities even hold contests where people guess when the ice will be gone.

The definition of lake ice-out can vary from lake to lake. For citizen observers reporting data to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) ice-out occurs when the lake is completely free of ice. Or, it may be when it is possible to navigate from one point to another. Ice-out may also be when a lake is 90 percent free of ice. Observers use consistent criteria based on the individual lake from year to year when reporting lake ice out dates.

While ice-out dates in Minnesota have fluctuated within the past five years, records kept by the Minnesota DNR have demonstrated a trend over the years that the annual length of time that lakes are frozen is decreasing.  The earliest ice-out on record is February 29, 2000, on Lake Pepin.  The latest ice-out was June 3, 1936, on Gunflint Lake, near Grand Marais.

The Chippewa National Forest, has over 1,300 lakes including one of the largest in the state, Leech Lake.  The earliest ice-out for Leech was April 9, 1945, and the latest ice out was May 23, 1950, with an average date of April 27.

To track ice-outs throughout the Forest and state go the Minnesota DNR’s ice-out page: