Observing Ice

a person looking at a lake at sunset

The most important thing when IceWatching is to not walk on the ice! Early-season and late-season ice are inherently dangerous – please stay off. IceWatching should only be done from a safe place with your feet firmly planted on the ground!

Strategies for IceWatching

  1. Track the freeze and thaw dates for a small body of water close to home.
    The easiest way to become an IceWatcher is to observe a small body of water you can visit every day. This might be the duck pond in your local park, the irrigation pond in your field (if you live on or near a farm), or the lake outside your home or cottage. Take your smartphone with you, and on the day you first see it freeze over, enter the data right away on your phone. If you don’t have your phone handy, make sure you enter it via the IceWatch website as soon as you can.
  2. Observe one small section of a larger body of water.
    Many lakes and rivers in Canada are so big you can’t possibly see the whole thing. That’s OK. Select one section of a river, or an inlet or small cove that is attached to the larger lake. Find a spot from which you can easily make daily observations during freeze-up. Go back to the exact same spot each day, and when the bay or visible stretch of river freezes completely over, record it. Make sure you keep a careful record of your observation spot so that you can go back to it to make your observations during the thaw period. Record a description of your observation spot so that other people in the future might continue your observations. For example, your ‘spot’ might be described as “the bridge on Highway 7 at Innisville, looking south” or “that part of West Lake visible from the public boat launch accessed from Beach Street”.
  3. Create an imaginary line across a body of water.An alternative to option 2 above is to simply choose a straight line between two points on opposite shores of a large water body. Imagine you are lucky enough to live beside a lake and can see the opposite shore from your living room window. Select an easily identifiable spot on the far shore – for example, the red boat house – and record the dates that the water between those two points has frozen completely across (and when it thaws again in the spring).

Whichever method you choose, the key is to always make your observations from the exact same place in the exact same way, and record the observation spot and method accurately so that others can do the same thing in the future.