Many of the lakes in and around the State of Minnesota have been frozen for quite some time now. There are ice fishing shelters on lakes south of Duluth and anglers are heading out onto the ice on various lakes throughout the state. One would think all of the lakes on the Gunflint Trail way up in Northeastern Minnesota would surely be frozen over solidly allowing for safe travels by now, think again.
The bigger lakes on the Gunflint Trail have just now frozen over. Up until two days ago open water could be seen on Gunflint and Saganaga Lakes. The DNR recommends 4 inches of solid black ice for safe travel on frozen lakes. With the cold temperatures we have had on the Gunflint Trail the ice should have frozen solidly, but "should is a fantasy" so they say.
The large amounts of snow that fell onto the freshly frozen lake ice helped to insulate the ice. This insulating layer may have prevented the ice from freezing over in a consistent manner. This snow could also be the cause of the reported slush pockets on area lakes. The high water levels of this fall have also produced some interesting ice conditions in unlikely places. While traveling on ice is never completely safe there are some times when it is safer than others.
To protect yourself when planning an outing on the ice always determine the thickness of the ice yourself. Do not rely on other people’s tracks since conditions may change rapidly and some people are luckier than others. It’s best to bring along some device to test the ice numerous times along the way. The DNR records show that in the last ten years, 52 people have died falling through the ice in Minnesota and 21 percent of those accidents involved children under nine years old.
Please keep yourself from becoming a statistic and make sure the ice you are travelling on is frozen solidly.