Ice-out on Lake Minnetonka

Check the Freshwater Society website here for ice-out 2009 information, when declared

To see a calendar of previous ice-out dates on Lake Minnetonka, 1855-2008, as compiled by the Freshwater Society, click here

Every year at the first sign of spring, our thoughts immediately turn to warmer weather. In Minnesota, shorts, T-shirts and sandals are often in evidence as soon as the thermometer edges past 60 degrees. But spring hasn’t sprung until the ice and snow, the hard physical evidence of winter, disappear. As the weather warms, residents of northern climes the world across keep an eye on the lakes and streams that surround them, wondering when, exactly, that ice will clear.

Since 1968, the Freshwater Society has kept close records of the day the ice yields to warmer temperatures on Lake Minnetonka. Freshwater founder Richard G. Gray, Sr., described the standard for determining ice-out in a 2003 column: The ice is considered to be “out” when it is possible to travel from any one shore to any other shore through any passage on the lake.

Ice-out on Lake Minnetonka generally spurs a fair amount of local competition, with various pools of local residents competing to be the most accurate prognosticator. Prior to 1968, methods for determining whether the ice was out were non-standard. They included various boat routes through the lake, as well as the old practice of parking a derelict car or truck on the lake and seeing how long it lasted before falling through.

In addition to declaring the ice-out every year since 1968, Gray has compiled a list of all recorded ice-out dates on Lake Minnetonka, dating back to 1855. Since then, the average ice-out date has been April 15th, although interestingly enough, the ice has never given way on that exact date. The earliest recorded ice-out, measured by noted naturalist Dr. Thomas Roberts, was March 11, 1878, and the latest recorded date was May 8, 1856.

Ice-out dates on Lake Minnetonka are still missing for the years 1861 through 1876 and 1879 through 1886. Anyone with information regarding ice-out dates for Lake Minnetonka, or any other body of water in Minnesota, for those years, should send the data to the Freshwater Society, c/o Richard G. Gray, Sr., 2500 Shadywood Road, Excelsior, MN 55331.

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