Caution tape across unsafe ice
  • When is ice safe?

    The simple answer is never; no ice is safe ice. This is the message that the Coast Guard advocates. The reality is that people will be on the ice for a variety of recreation opportunities including fishing, snowmobiling, skating and skiing. The Michigan DNR does not measure ice thickness and there is no reliable "inch-thickness" to determine if ice is safe. Your safety is your responsibility!


  • Guidelines to follow

    • If you are going on the ice, test the thickness and quality of ice using a spud, needle bar or auger (A spud features a long-shank with a chisel-like end that's used to chip a hole in the ice. A spud is a tool you use when the ice isn't too thick. An auger is a corkscrew-like device with a cutting blade that operates like a hand drill to make a hole in the ice.)
    • Clear ice with a bluish tint is the strongest type of ice
    • Ice formed by melted and refrozen snow appears milky and is often weak
    • Ice covered by snow should be considered unsafe
      • Snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows the freezing process
      • Ice under the snow will be thin and weak
      • A recent snowfall can warm and melt existing ice
    • If there is slush on the ice – stay off
      • Slush ice is only about half as strong as clear ice and indicates the ice is no longer freezing from the bottom
    • Use caution on ice that has formed following a recent cold front
      • A sudden cold front with low temperatures can create cracks within a half-day
      • A warm spell may take several days to weaken the ice, causing the ice to thaw during the day and refreeze at night
    • Ice weakens with age – the longer ice has been frozen, the weaker is becomes
    • Big lake ice:
      • Conditions can vary in just a few feet
      • Use caution around pressure cracks
      • The stronger the current, the more likely the ice will give to open water
      • If there’s ice on the lake but water around the shoreline – use caution
    • Avoid areas of ice that have protruding debris, such as logs, brush, plants and docks, including areas near marinas or warm water discharges near power plants

    Tips for being on the ice:

    • Wear a lifejacket and bright colored clothes
    • Bring ice picks or ice claws
    • Carry a two-way communication device that you know receives signal; keep it readily available

    If you do break through the ice:

    • Try to remember to remain calm.
    • Don't remove your winter clothing. Heavy clothes won't drag you down, but instead can trap air to provide temperature warmth and flotation. This is especially true with a snowmobile suit.
    • Turn in the water toward the direction you came from – that is probably the strongest ice.
    • If you have ice picks, dig the points of the picks into the ice while vigorously kicking your feet to pull yourself onto the surface by sliding forward on the ice.
    • Roll away from the area of weak ice. Rolling on the ice will distribute your weight to help avoid breaking through again.
    • Get to shelter and remove your wet clothing, redressing in warm, dry clothing and consume warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages as soon as you can.
    • Call 911 and seek medical attention if you feel disoriented, have uncontrollable shivering or have any other ill effects that may be symptoms of hypothermia, which is a life-threatening condition.