Vehicle ban on Upper Red Lake to be lifted

The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office says colder weather and calmer winds will allow them to lift the order restricting vehicle access on Upper Red Lake on Wednesday morning at sunrise.

A team- including Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, 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.  Aerial observations show that Upper Red Lake has iced over.

The sheriff says the ice that was shifting causing the open water has locked up, leaving little room for the ice to shift.

Vehicle ban lifted on Upper Red Lake. Minnesota DNR

The ice assessment team used those aerial observations, ground observations, measurements of the ice and input from guides/resort operators. The group determined the ice is now more seasonable than what was experienced in mid-December.

Sheriff Jason Riggs said in a statement, “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.”

The sheriff also elaborated the 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

The original order was issued on December 30, 2023 after a series of ice breakthroughs on the lake.