Ice Safety

Safety on the Frozen Lakes and Waterways During Winter

Every year, families and friends fish, skate, and traverse the frozen lakes in New Hampshire. The winter season can be fun but can include several dangers, especially when spending time on frozen lakes, ponds, and rivers. That’s why it’s crucial to prioritize ice safety when exploring our frozen lakes. But how do you identify ice that is not safe to be on?

We always advise folks who are planning to venture out onto a lake or pond that appears to be frozen to follow a few basic ice-safety tips:

Check it! The most important thing to remember is never to assume that the ice is thick enough to hold your weight. Always start at the shoreline and use an auger, spud, or axe to make test holes at intervals as you proceed away from the shore.

Assess the shoreline: Look out for cracked or squishy ice along the shoreline. Avoid areas with honeycombed ice, dark snow, or dark ice. Dark ice and snow result from melting and weakened ice, and when this ice refreezes, it can form a weaker, dimpled, or honeycomb pattern on the ice.

Check your weekly forecast: Avoid going on ice during fluctuating temperatures above 32° F. Even if it may take weeks of warm weather to see ice fully retreating from the lake, fluctuating temperatures cause the ice to thaw during the day and refreeze at night, resulting in weak, unsafe ice.

Moving water: Remember that ice is generally thinner at inlets and outlets, around docks, bridge abutments, islands, and objects like rocks that protrude through the ice.

Look for clear dark ice: Fresh ice that has not thawed and refrozen is strongest and typically a clear, dark blue to black. Ice thickness will not be consistent across a body of water.

For new, clear ice, check for a thickness of:
* A minimum of four to six inches for a few well-dispersed people
* Six to seven inches for small, on-foot group activities
* At least eight to ten inches for a snowmobile

Have a safe and fun time on one of New Hampshire’s 1,000 frozen lakes and ponds this winter! Remember, ice safety is essential for a fun and safe winter season. Take the time to check the ice and be cautious when venturing onto frozen lakes. Learn more from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Ice Safety resources here. Stay safe, and enjoy the winter wonderland!

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