Waskish, MN – The order restricting vehicle access on Upper Red Lake imposed on December 30, 2023 will be lifted effective sunrise on Wednesday, January 10, 2024. Colder weather and calmer winds have allowed ice conditions to improve. A team that included Beltrami County Sheriff Jason Riggs and deputies, resort operators, Kelliher Fire and Rescue, Red Lake Nation and the Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers has been monitoring ice conditions on the lake.
The vehicle restrictions were primarily put in place due to moving ice that would separate from the ice connected to shore, requiring the need to rescue stranded fishermen. Aerial observations (Sheriff's Office drone and the DNR flew a plane over the lake) have shown Upper Red Lake to have iced over. The ice that was shifting causing the open water has locked up, leaving little room for the ice to shift. The ice assessment team used those aerial observations, ground observations, measurements of the ice and input from guides/resort operators. The ice is now more seasonable to what we experience in mid-December.
Lifting of this restriction does not mean that the ice on Upper Red Lake, or any area lake, is "safe" or has consistent thickness and integrity. Ice can never be considered 100% safe. Whether you walk or operate vehicles on the ice, check the thickness and quality frequently. Follow the advice of area experts and check with local resorts. Recent snowfall has made it difficult to see areas with poor ice.
The DNR recommends the following ice thickness of new clear ice, and double the thickness for white ice (do not include snow or slush in your measurement):
4 inches – foot traffic/walking
5 to 7 inches – snowmobiles and small ATVs
7 to 8 inches – side-by-side ATVs
9 to 10 inches – small cars or SUVs
13 to 17 inches – trucks
20 inches or more – heavy duty trucks and wheelhouses
Sheriff Jason Riggs said, "Imposing restrictions on Upper Red Lake was not an easy decision, it impacted many people and their livelihoods as well as inconvenienced those who wanted to enjoy fishing on the lake. Those inconveniencies proved to be necessary in the interest of public safety due to the number of ice rescues and people becoming stranded. Since imposing the vehicle restriction, my office has not had to respond to one ice rescue on Upper Red Lake. I would like to thank everyone for their cooperation."
Businesses that assisted in messaging by posting signs may remove them after Tuesday, January 9, 2024.
-Sheriff Jason Riggs