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Ice In & Out Dates
East - West Okoboji data from 1916
Big Spirit Lake data from 1944

Lakes Freezing:

East Lake Okoboji


November 4


December 1


January 2

West Lake Okoboji

November 29

December 14

January 13

Big Spirit Lake

November 4

November 30

January 13

Ice Going Out:

East Lake Okoboji


March 3


March 31


April 26

West Lake Okoboji

March 7

April 5

April 28

Big Spirit Lake

March 6

April 4

January 13

Cold Water

*Information provided by Gary Owen, National Ice Rescue Instructor




Coldwater by definition is 70 degrees F and below, the colder the water temperature the faster the effect the cold water will have on your body. Water robs your body heat 25 to 40 times fast than air at the same temperature, you should always get out of the water as soon as your can.


If you capsize your boat always stay with the boat, get in it or on top of it. It will be easier for the rescuers to see your boat than just your head in the water.

Warm Blooded Mammals

We are warm-blooded terrestrial mammals, meaning we need to keep our body core temperature 95 degrees F and above and have good air exchange. If our body core temperature drops below 95 degrees F then we will become Hypothermic, A cooling of the body core temperature and puts you medically in trouble.

Terrestrial Mammals

This means that we need to always have good air exchange. Getting rid of the bad air and replacing it with good air, Oxygenated air. Deep breaths force out the bad air and deep gasping bring in the good air. Always keep your head above the water so that you can get that needed air exchange. Your life jacket will keep your head above the water so you can get that needed air exchange. Your lifejacket is your best friend in the water.


When you make your initial plunge into the cold water your body will go through a series of involuntary responses. You have no control over the involuntary response, but you can take steps to help you overcome these responses.

The first response your body will undergo when you plunge into cold water will be a gasping reflex, breathing in. You could swallow water or aspirate water which could accelerate the potential for you to drown.

The second response
your body will undergo when you plunge into the cold water will be that your blood vessels in your arms and legs will close, or vasoconstriction. Vasoconstriction shuts down the flow of warm blood in your blood vessels which keeps your arms and legs warm. Your arms and legs will begin to cool until you will lose use of them. Your body takes this action to preserve the warm blood to keep your body core warm, heart, lungs, and brain. You will reach a point of swim failure, your ability to keep your head above the water for the needed air exchange. Therefore wearing your life jacket is so important, it could save your life.

The third response that your body will undergo when you plunge into the cold water is irregular breathing. We need good strong regular breathing which will keep oxygenated air, good in our lungs. The irregular breathing could cause us to hyperventilate, unbalanced level of gases in our bloodstream which could cause us to pass out.

The fourth response that your body will undergo when you plunge into cold water is an irregular heartbeat. We need a good strong and consistent pumping of our heart to move the warm blood through our body to keep us warm.

The good news is that in a matter of minutes the gasping will stop, your breathing will return to normal, and your heartbeat will return to normal. The vasoconstriction will continue until you get yourself out of the cold water. When you make that initial plunge into the cold water, cover your mouth to prevent swallowing water. If possible find something to hold onto, your boat, the edge of the ice, a floating object. Hold on until the gasping stops, your breathing, and heartbeat return to normal. You now need to get out of the water as soon as possible. Remember that the vasoconstriction in your extremities will continue to cool your extremities. You will reach a point where you will no longer have the ability or the strength to pull yourself out of the water. Your body will continue to cool to a point where you eventually will go into swim failure. You will no longer have the ability to keep your head above water to maintain good air exchange unless of course, you have a life jacket on. This timeline to swim failure could be as short as 5 to 10 minutes depending on how cold the water is. Remember that the colder the water is the faster you will reach swim failure will.


Once you are out of the cold water immediately contact 911 emergency.  Let the professionals treat the effects of cold-water immersion. The effects of the cold water can cause some serious medical conditions that only professionals can determine and properly care for.

Cold Water Immersion

Proactive Approach

Taking a strong proactive approach to keeping you safe on the ice or in the water is so very important. Always wear a PFD when you are on the ice or in the water. 

The Life Jacket will always keep you afloat if it is the proper size for you and worn with ALL the straps tied, zippers zip, and snaps snapped. There are many different types and styles of PFDs available for you to use. A standard type three wearable PFD works well worn on the inside or the outside of your clothing. The Type five inflatable vest PFD is offered with manual release, automatic release, or both. The inflatable PFD should always be worn on the outside of your clothing, never inside your clothing. The inflatable PFD inflates the air cells of your PFD with air from a pressurized CO2 canister. The inflatables are very lightweight and comfortable to wear. You can go to the next level with your PFD and provide you protection from the effects of the cold water. A standard float coat is a type three PFD and a coat provides you more protection from the cold water than a standard type three PFD. The next step up would be to add floatation bibs with the float coat. They also make full floatation coveralls which would be a type five PFD. The floatation coveralls will float you safely when worn and give you some protection from the cold water. The float coat, float bibs, and float coveralls come in many different colors and sizes, even camouflage for the duck hunter.


Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. Having a cell phone is very beneficial to you to call 911 for assistance if needed. You should keep the cell phone in a waterproof container should you find yourself in the water.

Breaking Through The Ice

If you should break through the ice, do not panic! You have your PFD on to help float you right! Remember to cover your mouth and nose to prevent swallowing water. If you can slow down how deep you go underwater do that.  By swinging your arms forward in a fast hard motion bringing your hands together will slow you down. If possible, try to prevent your head from going under. Your warm clothing will trap air in the clothing and provide you with some buoyancy.  When all the air is gone from your clothing and replaced with water, know that boots and wet clothing are neutrally buoyant. Neutrally buoyant means that your wet clothing and wet boots will not provide you any buoyancy, but it will also not cause you to sink either. Do not waste your energy and time taking them off. Once your breathing is under control turn and swim back to the place you fell through the ice. You know that those ice conditions were supporting you there. Get to the edge of the ice and get both your arms up on the ice. Allow your legs to flow back from you making yourself as horizontal in the water as possible. Then kick your legs hard and army crawl up onto the ice. Once on the ice roll toward the good ice, keeping a horizontal position spreading out your weight until you know you are on good ice.  Then stand up and seek medical attention as soon as possible.


Having a set of ice awls with you will help you get up onto the ice easier by gripping the ice assisting your climb onto the ice. There are many different brands of ice awls available to you, choose the set that you feel will work the best for you. (Place some ice awl information, but not from the Swedes but “Pick of Life” with pictures)

Driving Through Water On The Road

Please ”Turn around- Don’t Drown“ This should be your response when you come across water over the road. “About 94 people in the U.S. die every year in floodwaters, with nearly half of those occurring when drivers try to travel across submerged roads.” According to the U.S. National Weather Service.

It only takes approximately six inches of water flowing fast enough across the road to take your vehicle off the road and into the flow of water and possible drowning. If you do find yourself swept off the road Do Not Panic! The first thing you need to do is take off your seat belt! Unlock your door! Roll your window down! Try and get on top of the roof. Do not use your cell until you are out of the card. Once you are on the roof call 911. If you stay in your vehicle it could fill up with water.



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Type III PFD Coat

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Type V Inflatable PFD


Type V PFD

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Float Bib Overalls

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Self Rescue Using Ice Awls

Cold Water

Posters Found At Information Kiosks

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For more information:

See Outdoor Action Guide website - click on  OUTDOOR ACTION GUIDE

Check out US Search & Rescue Task Force - click on SEARCH & RESCUE

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