Ice In Voyageurs National Park Is Getting Thick, But Not Enough To Safely Support Travelers

Ahhh, you know winter is almost at full force when the folks at Voyageurs National Park start issuing advisories on ice conditions in the park.

The Minnesota park is popular in winter with ice fishers who set up huts on the lakes to stay warm while angling, cross-country skiers who glide through the park's forests, and those who rely on the 7-mile-long Rainy Lake Ice Road that runs from the boat launch ramp at Rainy Lake Visitor Center to the mouth of Cranberry Bay. (Note: If you're visiting the park for the first time in winter and want to check out the ice road, be advised that it's open to cars and trucks of less than 7,000 lbs. gross vehicle weight and that snowmobiles are not permitted on the ice road.)

While it's been pretty dang cold in the park of late, on Thursday the park sent out this advisory:

At this time ice travel is not recommended on any lake surface due to inadequate ice thickness. However, conditions are rapidly improving with the colder temperatures. Park staff is evaluating ice conditions on a daily basis between the Rainy Lake Visitor Center and Crane Lake. If cold weather conditions continue, park staff expects to have the Green Trail staked and open sometime next week. Land based ski trails are being prepared, but are not yet open. Regular weekly winter trail conditions reports will be available on our website at www.nps.gov/voya.

And in case you're able to visit Voyageurs over the upcoming holidays, here's the schedule for the Rainy Lake Visitors Center:

* Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24, 2009 - closed

* Christmas Day, Friday, December 25, 2009 – closed

* Saturday – Sunday, December 26 - 27, 2009 – open 10:00am to 4:00pm

* Wednesday-Thursday, December 30-31, 2009 – 10:00am to 4:00pm

* New Year’s Day, Friday, January 1, 2010 – closed

* Regular winter hours resume on Saturday, January 2, 2010. The visitor center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Visitors are invited to come to the visitor center to view winter exhibits, watch the park’s film, and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa. With the area’s recent snowfall, now is a good time to take advantage of the park’s snowshoe loan program. Call the visitor center for details at 218-286-5258.