The Department of Natural Resources is warning everyone to be careful out on the ice covering Iowa’s lakes and rivers after four snowmobiles recently went into the water at the Great Lakes. Conservation officer Steve Reighard, says two sets of snowmobilers got a chilly dip in the water.
“There’s a couple of gentlemen that actually rode snowmobiles into it at night, Thursday night. No injuries, they were able to get out. No damage to the sleds other than they had to dry those out also. And then again Saturday morning, two individuals went through,” Reighard says. “And Saturday morning with the cold temperatures there was a thin skim of ice over the open water. We got a little bit of snow cover so it looked like it was solid out there, and they drove out onto that thin ice and broke through. There again, they weren’t injured.”
He says conditions have been different on the Great Lakes this years as the water was high at the start of winter and continued flowing. “With that current flowing through there, it’s keeping that water open or the ice extremely thin,” Reighard explains. “Plus, the ice never does freeze evenly. There’s a lot of variability out there — I’ve seen it as thick as 13 inches on West Okoboji, and also as thin as three in the last week.”
He says the bridges around the Great Lakes pinch down the flow of the water, which makes it faster and less likely to freeze. Reighard says there are similar situations across the state with the ice this winter. And he says no matter where you go on the ice, the one constant is there is no guarantee of perfectly frozen ice.
“It’s not like the ice cubes in your tray in your freezer — and even if you look at those — they don’t always freeze the same either,” he says. “There’s just to many variabilities with water depth, on obstacles underneath the ice, springs, currents, all of those things come into effect.”
Some people are driving vehicles onto the ice to fish, and Reighard says that’s something he never recommends because of the uncertainty of the ice depth.