Sorry, Mendota, Trout Lake Has the “Good” Ice

Ice thickness on Lake Mendota was 17 centimeters on Feb. 29th. Photo: Adam Hinterthuer

Last week, I ventured out on the ice of Lake Mendota as Ted Bier, senior research specialist for the North Temperate Lakes Long Term Ecological Research study (LTER), drilled through the ice to take samples in the open water below. Bier mentioned that the ice, at 17 centimeters thick, was thinner than usual, but I still felt pretty good about the ice under my feet.


This block of ice was cut out of Trout Lake on March 7th. Photo: Adam Hinterthuer

Turns out that THIS is what “good” winter ice looks like. Even though it was 10 degrees Celsius (50 F) and raining out on my drive up north to outside of Minocqua, Wisconsin, turns out there’s plenty of ice left on the lakes. CFL staff cut this block out of Trout Lake today that’s somewhere in the ballpark of 50 centimeters thick. The ice will be part of an activity to kick off the LTER Schoolyard program. Trout Lake is another LTER sampling site and, tomorrow, we’ll welcome 40 middle school students from across the region to get out on the ice to take secchi depths, light readings, plankton tows and other forms of winter limnological research.


Ice from Trout Lake (left) and Trout Bog (right) Photo: Adam Hinterthuer

First, though, they’ll explore why and how ice forms and learn why the block of ice on the left (Trout Lake) looks so different from the block of ice on the right (Trout Bog).

Stay tuned for answers on that and details on what we find beneath the ice way up north. Until then, I’ll keep marveling at the clarity of “good ice.” No offense to Lake Mendota, but I’ll feel a lot more secure standing around on Trout tomorrow!

Ice block cut from Trout Lake, March 7th. Photo: Adam Hinterthuer