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With spring melt underway, DNR urges caution on Minnesota lakes and rivers: Fort Snelling State Park closes due to flooding

Warm weather and significant rainfall in parts of the state have resulted in slush and standing water on many water bodies, leading to rapid ice deterioration and making travel over the ice difficult and extremely unsafe, according to the Minneso...

Warm weather and significant rainfall in parts of the state have resulted in slush and standing water on many water bodies, leading to rapid ice deterioration and making travel over the ice difficult and extremely unsafe, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. While most lakes across the state remain ice-covered, strengthening spring sun combined with previous precipitation means ice conditions can change dramatically within a matter of hours, even when the air temperature remains low. Ice this time of year is dangerously deceptive in its appearance and thickness. Snow ice, which looks milky and has been through the freeze-thaw cycle, is only half as strong as new, clear ice.

"We've had reports of anglers falling through ice that was just fine an hour earlier-that's how fast things can change," stated Lisa Dugan, recreation safety outreach coordinator for the DNR Enforcement Division, in a news release. "If you choose to venture onto late-season ice, use extreme caution."

Stay away from channels and areas with a current or runoff, as they tend to be the first spots with open water, Dugan advised. Wear a life jacket or float coat and remember - no fish is worth the risk of losing a life, she added.

There have been five ice-related fatalities reported during the 2018-19 ice season, and each year people fall through the ice as winter turns to spring.

"As long as there is ice in Minnesota, it's imperative people don't let their guard down when it comes to safety," Dugan stated.

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Anyone who heads onto the ice this time of year should use a chisel to check the strength of the ice frequently, have ice picks along, and be sure to wear a life jacket or float coat, the DNR stated. Adults also should be vigilant about keeping children away from ice and open water unless they're accompanied by a responsible adult.

For more information about staying safe on the ice, visit www.mndnr.gov/icesafety .

Spring thaw affecting state recreational facilities

As the heavy snowpack across Minnesota melts under warming temperatures, some state parks, trails and other outdoor recreational facilities may be closed to protect public safety and infrastructure. Users should check current conditions before visiting, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

As of Monday, Fort Snelling State Park, one of Minnesota's busiest recreational units, closed due to flooding as the high flood waters from the Minnesota River rise. Interpretive events were canceled through mid-April and the park was closed indefinitely, until flood waters recede and the roads and trails have been assessed for safety.

"We know how eager folks are to get out and enjoy nature now that spring has finally arrived, so closing the park-or even limiting access-is not a decision we make lightly," said Fort Snelling State Park manager Kelli Bruns in a news release. "But our first priority is ensuring the safety of the public and our staff, so these are steps we have to take."

Located at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers near the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, the park is a popular destination for hikers, bikers, birders and school groups.

"Nature is beautiful, but it's also a force to be reckoned with," said Greg Salo, assistant director for DNR's Enforcement Division, in a news release. "Don't drive into standing water. Don't get too close to flowing water, because spring currents are powerful and with icy water temperatures, they're especially hazardous. Have fun, but be careful!"

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Other recreational facilities around the state also have been impacted by melting snow, heavy rain and flooding. Some roads and trails in state forests, state parks, recreation areas and wildlife management areas are closed temporarily because they are not firm enough to support vehicle traffic without causing damage.

The closures could remain in effect until sometime in May, depending on weather conditions. People are advised to check on current conditions before heading out. For DNR managed units, consult www.mndnr.gov/closures .

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