Stay safe on the ice!

During the pandemic many of you have been discovering new and exciting ways to get outside and enjoy the watershed. This winter you may find yourself out on the river for a walk, skate or ski, or even zipping around on a snowmobile. While these are all awesome ways to enjoy the river during the winter, it’s of the utmost importance to remember that accessing river ice is never 100% safe.

There are many factors that contribute to the formation of ice on rivers, lakes and streams. While your nearby lake or pond may be completely frozen over with a thick layer of ice, the same may not be true of the river in your area. The formation of river ice can be influenced by the following factors, some of which can change over the course of a day:

  • Size and depth of waterbody
  • Current action
  • Changes in water level
  • Weather and temperature fluctuations
  • Docks, logs, or rocks in the water that may absorb heat from the sun and warm surrounding water

One sign of ice strength and thickness you can use when assessing ice conditions is colour. Clear blue/black ice is the strongest. Grey ice indicates the presence of water and means the ice is weaker and unsafe. Ice can also be white or opaque which is considered to be about half as strong as clear ice. Extra precaution should be taken when considering white ice for recreational use.

The Red Cross provides a general rule of thumb for ice thickness when assessing whether conditions are safe for the following activities:

  • 15 cm (6”) for walking or skating alone
  • 20 cm (8”) for hockey games or group skating
  • 25 cm (10”) for snowmobiling

These are just a few considerations to keep in mind when out near frozen water bodies this winter. For additional information and safety tips check out these resources from the Red Cross and the Insurance Bureau of Canada. The Red Cross in particular has important information on: 

Taking a few minutes to assess ice conditions will help ensure you and your loved ones stay safe while enjoying our beautiful watershed this winter.

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