New freeze record set at Lake Sakakawea

Kim Fundingsland/MDN This photo take at Sportsmen’s Centennial Park Saturday shows chunks that were blown into a bay recently and have since frozen, along with newly formed lake ice, right.

RIVERDALE – Finally, it happened. Lake Sakakawea was officially declared frozen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on 12:45 p.m. this past Sunday. It is the latest date freeze date in the history of the reservoir.

A recent stretch of warm temperatures and high winds opened up much of Lake Sakakawea that was previously frozen. However, more recent cold temperatures, combined with minimal to no wind, resulted in the inevitable – the freezing over of the state’s largest body of water.

The ice pack varies in thickness, with some areas supporting some ice fishing activity and other areas deemed too risky on which to venture such endeavors. As always, extreme caution is urged when going onto the ice on Lake Sakakawea. There’s great uncertainty to ice thickness over much of the reservoir.

How long the reservoir remains frozen, or if it will open up again if the region enters a warm spell, is yet to be determined. However, it appears that the reservoir is on track to be frozen for one of the shortest spans in its history. That distinction belongs to the winter of 2011-2012 when Sakakawea was declared “frozen” on January 3, 2012 and “ice free” on March 27, just 69 days.

Should Lake Sakakawea be declared “ice free” on March 27 of this year it would best the record for the fewest days of ice covering by three weeks.

Below Lake Sakakawea the Missouri River is getting the attention of the National Weather Service hydrologists. Some areas along the river have seen a rise of 4 feet in recent days. The sudden increase is being caused by ice formations in the river that create a dam and back up Missouri River flows.

The NWS cautions that “overnight low temperatures in the single digits through Wednesday will continue ice formation on the Missouri River until late in the week”. Although the rise is most notable in the Bismarck-Mandan area, the NWS concludes that “residents along the river should be prepared for a rapid rise in the Missouri River through the end of January.”

Monday’s discharge through the Garrison Dam power plant into the Missouri River was 16,000 cubic feet per second.


January 24, 2021 – 12:45 a.m.

January 18, 2012 – 10:10 a.m.

January 16, 2000

January 15, 1987

January 13, 2016

January 12, 1976, 1998, 2019

January 11, 2003, 2020


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