CLAYTON, N.Y. (WWTI) — There’s barely any ice to break on the St. Lawrence Seaway this year.

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have confirmed that ice conditions across the Great Lakes during the 2022-2023 season were the third-lowest on record.

Although this is a widespread trend, it has had significant impacts on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The graph below shows Lake Ontario’s average ice concentration in 2023 compared to the long-term average.

Long-term average ice concentration compared to the current year (Graph: NOAA)

Thousand Islands Land Trust Assistant Director Spencer Busler said these findings matched conditions along the St. Lawrence Seaway.

“It was mid-December and January when we had those really deep freeze moments, but they were pretty quick this year,” Busler explained. “It was a short window when we had good ice cover between the islands.”

Without the typical thick ice, many winter recreational opportunities were too dangerous. Such as ice fishing, pond skating and snowmobiling out on the River and Lake Ontario.

This resulted in event cancellations throughout the region, Tyler Forger, the General Manager of Clayton Marina explained.

“Obviously we’ve missed all the ice fishing derbies, which are usually held right out in [our] bay. We missed events like that and some fundraisers,” he said. “So it has affected the community for sure.”

The low ice conditions also could have effects on native wildlife.

“Shorter winter and less ice cover could mean a shorter breeding and spawning season for fish and other wildlife,” Busler added. “Animals like the red fox and bobcat will use ice cover to travel amongst the islands.”

As of March 16, NOAA data confirmed that the total ice cover across the Great Lakes was 6.7%. On the same day in 2022, the total ice cover was 43.1%.

But as the winter season comes to a close, the low ice conditions may allow for an earlier season for water recreation.

Many marinas and public docks have already made preparations for early-season boaters.

“I think we’ll see an early spring. The sun’s out, people are itching to get ut of the house. That’s what we’re looking forward to at our marina,” Forger expressed. “So we’ll get phone calls from people that are trying to get to their island homes and we’ll see an earlier jump this year.”

More information on ice conditions across the Great Lakes region can be found on NOAA’s website.