Ice on for Lake Mendota

Ice on Lake Mendota on January 15, 2024, courtesy Robert Bertera

January cold snap helps lake freeze

Ice on! Temperatures below zero, combined with cold water and low wind, helped Lake Mendota officially freeze on January 15, 2024, as declared by the Wisconsin State Climatology Office. Lake Mendota, the largest lake in the Yahara Watershed, froze a full 26 days after December 20th, which is the median ice-on date for the largest lake in the Yahara River Watershed. The January 15th freeze is the 3rd latest freeze date since monitoring began over 170 years ago. The latest ice-on date is January 30th, and that took place in 1932.

The Wisconsin State Climatology Office requires ice to hold for a period of 24 hours before a lake can officially be declared frozen over. The January 15th freeze date is three weeks later than last year’s December 25th freeze date. For statistics about determining the freeze date and the Madison ice record, see History of freezing and thawing of Lake Mendota and Madison lakes ice summary.

Ice on Lake Mendota 15Jan2024 Courtesy The Edgewater
View of Lake Mendota on January 15, 2024, courtesy The Edgewater

We have a winner!

For the 12th year in a row, Clean Lakes Alliance held its annual Mendota Freeze Contest, asking people to make a guess as to when the lake would officially freeze. Of the 2,100 people to enter the contest, 88 people guessed Lake Mendota would freeze on January 15th. The randomly selected winner is Kathleen Maier of Madison. She said she picked the 15th because it is a family member’s birthday. Maier will receive a $1,000 gift cards courtesy of Lands’ End as the grand prize.

All Madison area lakes frozen over

The other shallower lakes in the Yahara chain typically freeze earlier than Lake Mendota, and are determined by different methods and organizations. Below is the list of “ice on” dates and the correlating organization that makes the call.

Lake and freeze date

Mendota – January 15, 2024

Monona – January 15, 2024

Kegonsa – January 14, 2024

Waubesa – January 14, 2024

Wingra – December 13 & 19, 2023 and January 5, 2024

“Ice on” determination

Wisconsin State Climatology Office

Wisconsin State Climatology Office

Friends of Lake Kegonsa Society

Christenson family – Christy’s Landing

Wisconsin State Climatology Office

Ice on Lake Mendota on January 15, 2024, courtesy Robert Bertera
Ice on Lake Mendota on January 15, 2024, courtesy Robert Bertera

Stay safe!

Though the lakes look solid, don’t be misled – ice may still be thin. The Wisconsin DNR recommends waiting for at least four inches of ice to develop before heading out to ice fish on our lakes. If you are venturing out on the lake, always let someone know where you are going or take a friend with you! With warmer temperatures in the forecast next week, the ice conditions can change rapidly.

Race (or walk) on a frozen lake

Registration for Clean Lakes Alliance’s popular Frozen Assets 5K Run/Walk is open. Participants can choose between a timed 5K race or an untimed 5K walk. All participants receive a t-shirt and kids 10 and under can participate for free with a registered adult. Starting and finishing at The Edgewater, the Frozen Assets 5K is the only race in North America held entirely on frozen lake!

Learn about ice cover on Lake Mendota and other local lakes.

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