Lake Minnetonka’s ice cover

The ice is going out on Lake Minnetonka.

The Freshwater Society and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Water Patrol are once again partnering to monitor and eventually declare when the ice is officially off the lake. Open water on the lake is a welcome sign of spring and a good time to put the loons back in.

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.