Lake Minocqua remains unsafe and unmarked

Be especially aware of an area of open water and/or thin ice on Lake Minocqua near the west side of the Highway 51 bridge. ALL RECREATIONAL USERS ARE ADVISED TO AVOID THIS AREA ALTOGETHER. The snowmobile club will mark trails on the lake when they believe there is enough ice thickness for use.

Contrary to speculation, no aerators have been operated in the immediate area of this thin ice. It may have appeared that the Pointe Hotel was operating aerators near the bridge, but the hotel has not run aerators at any time this season. In fact, having solid ice in this area is critical to their winter business.

Far around the corner and to the south of the Pointe Hotel (800+ feet from the problem area), the separately-owned Pointe Condominiums had been running aerators to protect their pier system. Since the Town’s initial inquiry with them on December 4th, they have cooperated and greatly reduced the use of their aerators. There are hundreds of feet of good ice between their aerators and the problem area.

At this time, the only way the situation will improve is with consistently cold, cold weather. Continued 25+ degree days simply will not allow for ice to build.

It’s probably impossible to know the cause of the thin ice near the Minocqua bridge with complete certainty, but here are some possible contributing factors:

  • The dam on Lake Kawaguesaga is drawing down the lake level on the chain. This is a normal winter procedure and is not likely the sole cause. We have learned that the gate opening is in keeping with previous winters. This process creates a current through Lake Minocqua and results in turbulence after the water flows from a larger area though a constricted area (e.g.: bridge narrows).
  • While the lake had a very early freeze-up, average temperatures in the weeks since have been well above normal, hampering the normal development of lake ice. In fact, average daily temperatures this December were almost 50% warmer than 2017. And so far in January, average temperatures have been well above normal.
  • Groundwater levels in the area have been at record highs. It’s possible that the drawdown of the lake combined with high groundwater levels may be creating a spring-like action in some areas. This may also be keeping water temperatures somewhat elevated.
  • While the very early ice-over of the lake this year seemed like welcome news, it prevented the water body from shedding heat over a more prolonged period of time, possibly resulting in warmer residual temperature averages being retained in the lake. Locations with deep water and current seem to have much less ice than normal this year.

There are problem areas all over northern Wisconsin and the entire state with respect to lake ice conditions. Recreational users have to remember that there is ultimately no such thing as “safe ice.” Knowledge of current local conditions and taking all safety precautions are critical. Don’t assume that any lake or portion of a lake is safe because you were able to use it in previous years.

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