DNR urges snowmobilers to operate safely as ice thins

Agency reminds riders that no ice is totally safe, and recent warm weather has increased risks.




3 minute read

Note: Snowmobiles may be driven on the frozen surface of the St. Croix River from Prescott upstream to the Osceola Bridge, and from St. Croix Falls to Riverside Landing. More information below.

Snowy St. Croix River (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding snowmobilers to operate safely as current warming trends thin ice across the state and make certain areas extremely unsafe.

“With these unusually mild temps and International Snowmobile Safety Week coming up Jan. 14-22, we urge snowmobilers to be extra careful when driving on ice,” said Lt. Jake Holsclaw, DNR Off-highway Vehicle Administrator. “Remember that no ice is ever completely safe, and that even areas that seem thick and covered with snow may be hiding patches of black ice that could break apart under the weight of the machine and riders.”

Ice safety reminders

  • Contact local sport shops to ask about ice conditions locally on the lake or river you want to cross.  
  • Wear proper clothing and equipment, including a life jacket or float coat should you fall through the ice and to help retain body heat.
  • Do not travel in unfamiliar areas.
  • Slow down when traveling at night.
  • Know if the lake has inlets, outlets or narrows that have currents that can thin the ice.
  • Watch for pressure ridges or ice buckling. These can be dangerous due to thin ice and open water.

There were 16 fatal snowmobile crashes in 2022.

Visit the DNR’s snowmobiling webpage for additional information on snowmobile safety classes, regulations, safety tips and how to register your snowmobile.

DNR violation hotline

Anyone with information regarding natural resource violations, including unsafe snowmobile operation, may confidentially report by calling or texting the Violation Hotline at 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Trained staff relay the information to conservation wardens. Reports can also be filed online.

National Park Service:

Snowmobiling is allowed on the frozen surface of the St. Croix River, with some exceptions, on designated snowmobile trails sponsored by the state, county, or clubs and designated river crossings. The National Park Service adopts and enforces all state laws as applicable.

St. Croix River: Snowmobiles can travel on the frozen river surface from Prescott to the Osceola Bridge and from St. Croix Falls to Riverside. Snowmobiling from the Highway 243 bridge at Osceola, Wisconsin north to the Xcel Energy Hydroelectric Dam at St. Croix Falls is prohibited at all times due to unsafe ice. Travel is also prohibited from the Highway 35 bridge at Riverside, north to Gordan Dam.

Namekagon River: Snowmobiles may cross the river at locations along designated trails, but may not travel the length of the river.

Safety and Rules:

  • The St. Croix and Namekagon rivers do not freeze uniformly, currents, springs, water depth, and water level fluctuations because of the dams, all contribute to ice that can be thick or thin within short distances. Use caution and pay attention for thin ice when travelling on the river.
  • Snowmobile speed within the park is 45 miles per hour unless otherwise posted.
  • Racing or otherwise operating a snowmobile in a dangerous or reckless manner is prohibited.
  • Check that your brakes and lights are working and that your engine noise is not excessive (78 decibels or lower)
  • Snowmobile events can be held with a special use permit from the Riverway.
  • Water skipping can be dangerous, can cause damage or loss of your machine and is discouraged.

For information on Minnesota regulations and trail locations:

For information on Wisconsin snowmobiling regulations:


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DNR urges snowmobilers to operate safely as ice thins