Lake Minnetonka ice is out early
The ice is out on Lake Minnetonka for 2015.
The Freshwater Society and Hennepin County Sheriff’s Water Patrol returned to shore this morning and declared the lake to be ice free as of Sunday, April 5 at 10:00 a.m. This is 19 days earlier than 2014.
The median ice-out date for Minnetonka — half the recorded ice-outs have occurred earlier, and half later — is April 14.
Ice-out records on Lake Minnetonka date back to 1855 and are a valuable if inexact method for revealing long term trends. There is no one best way to determine ice-out on lakes. Methods vary from lake to lake so consistency from year to year is what researchers and agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources prefer to see.
The ice-out call for 2015 was made after monitoring the ice from shore and calls to nearby Society members. Once conditions allowed, the Water Patrol began boat trips accompanied by Freshwater Society board members to areas of the lake where significant ice remained.
Deputies Jeremy Gunia and Shawn Eberle with Freshwater Board member Kent Warden concluded it was possible to boat through all the bays and channels of the metro area’s largest lake. Lake Minnetonka is just over 14,500 acres in size with 37 bays.
Each year the Freshwater Society holds an annual fundraiser to coincide with the departure of the ice and return of the loons. This year’s event is slated for April 23 at CHS Field, the new home of the St. Paul Saints.
Last year, we declared the ice out on April 24—ten days later than the median date due to the exceptionally cold winter. In the last twenty years, 13 dates have been less than the median date and seven have been later.
The ice-out call for 2014 was made after several days of monitoring the ice from shore by the Freshwater Society and five trips into the lake by the Water Patrol. Tom Skramstad, a Freshwater Board member, accompanied a deputy sheriff on boat trips to the last places on the lake where significant ice had been observed.
On the morning of April 24, the Freshwater Society and the Water Patrol concluded it was possible to boat through all the bays and channels of the metro area’s biggest lake. They then declared the ice out for the season.
Check out a year-by-year log of past ice-out dates, and a calendar showing the number of times the ice-out has occurred on specific dates. View the Minnesota Climatology Working Group’s listing of ice-out dates for other Minnesota lakes this year.
Ice-out on Lake Minnetonka is a sign of spring that scientists, naturalists and lakeshore residents have been tracking since at least 1855. The late Dick Gray, the lead founder of the Freshwater Society, cataloged the early records and made his own records from 1968 through 2013.
Ice-out has been determined by a number of methods — sometimes when a car placed on the ice fell through or when a boat could travel from Excelsior to Wayzata. Read a 2003 column by Mr. Gray about the history of ice-outs on the lake.