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How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond – Part 2 | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond - Part 2

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond

Part 2: Creating Your Winter Wonderland

A thick, solid, strong and dense ice sheet on your pond or lake means you’ll have some cold-weather fun on your skates this winter. But how do you determine if that ice is safe to hold an ice skater, a hockey team or a truck to transport all their gear?

In this second part of our three-part series on how to make an ice rink on your pond, you’ll learn how to identify the perfect spot for your rink, how to measure your ice sheet’s thickness, how to create a glassy smooth skating surface, and how to build your winter wonderland.

Thick and Blue, Tried and True…

You’ve been watching your ice sheet develop over the fall and winter, and you think it’s ready to be fabricated into a fantastic ice rink. The first step is to identify an area on your pond or lake with the best ice. What does that look like? It should be:

  • Thick and strong. By “thick,” we mean inches of solid ice – up to 12 to 15 inches, depending on your plans for the rink. Some general guidelines are outlined below:
    • 3 inches or less: Not safe, so stay off the ice.
    • 4 inches: Suitable for ice fishing, cross-country skiing and walking (about 200 pounds).
    • 5 inches: Safe for a snowmobile or ATV (about 800 pounds).
    • 8 to 12 inches: OK for a car or group of people (about 1,500 to 2,000 pounds).
    • 12 to 15 inches: Suitable for a light pickup truck or a van.
  • Solid, blue to clear. This is high density, very strong and safe ice when thick enough. Areas that appear light gray to black, white to opaque, mottled or slushy are unsafe and should be avoided. Also stay away from areas with cracks or breaks, ice that appears to have thawed and refrozen, and abnormal surfaces you haven’t seen before, like ridges caused by currents or winds.
  • Located away from inlets and outlets. Moving water affects the integrity of the ice, so avoid areas near inlets/outlets and springs.

Before you go out on the ice, follow safety protocols: Tell someone where you’re going, dress accordingly, wear a floatation device, carry a change of clothing and an emergency kit in a waterproof bag. When inspecting the ice, remember this rhyme: “Thick and blue, tried and true; thin and crispy, way too risky.”

Checking the Ice

So how do you check your ice sheet’s thickness and quality? You have three options: an ice chisel, an ice auger and a cordless drill. You’ll use one of these tools – along with a tape measure, of course – to carve a hole in the ice and check on what’s happening below the surface.

An ice chisel is your most basic ice-checking tool. It’s a metal rod with a sharp, flat blade welded onto one end. You drive the chisel into the ice using a stabbing motion until you create a hole. *This option may not be the best if you have fish. Pounding on the ice can cause fish stress.

Augers drill a hole in the ice via a spiraling blade that’s rotated by hand or powered by an electric or gas motor. Hand augers are inexpensive, lightweight and quiet to operate. Electric augers are also quiet, but they require less manual labor to operate. Gas augers blast through the ice fastest, but they’re heavy, noisy and more costly than hand or electric models.

A 7.2-volt cordless drill with a long, five-eighths-inch wood auger bit will drive through 8 inches of ice in less than 30 seconds. It’s the most efficient way to get the job done.

Once you have made a hole in the ice, measure its thickness with a tape measure. Put the tape measure into the hole and hook the bottom edge of the ice before taking a reading. While you’re there, inspect the quality of the ice. It should be dense, blue and thick – at least 4 inches.

Create a Glassy Smooth Surface

Now that you have identified the perfect spot for your rink, it’s time to prep the surface. First, check the weather to make sure below-freezing temperatures are forecasted for the next five nights. Then, gather some gear, including a flat-head shovel, a pickaxe or hatchet, and a bucket or garden hose, head out to the rink site and get to work:

  1. Stake out your skating area. A 50-foot by 100-foot rink is plenty of space to start with, particularly on a smaller pond. The area can be expanded as needed.
  2. Shovel the entire surface Next, using your flat nose shovel, push the snow from side to side in the middle of the ice, and then from the middle out to the ends.
  3. Strategically pile up the snow. Create seating areas, hockey goals and some backstops at either end of the rink.
  4. Access some water. You’ll need water to pour onto the surface of your rink, so break through the ice with your hatchet or pick axe to create an opening large enough for a bucket or garden hose. Build a ring of snow around the hole for future reference.
  5. Ice the surface Fill your bucket with pond water and pour it onto the exposed ice sheet. If you’re using a hose, siphon the water and distribute it evenly on the surface. Repeat until you’ve evenly covered the area with water.
  6. Freeze and repeat.. Let the pond ice freeze overnight. Return to the pond the next day and repeat the process for five nights.

Before long, you’ll have a smooth, solid ice rink that’ll provide hours of fun for you and your friends.

Remember: Safety First

Despite all your careful and diligent rink-building efforts, it’s important to remember that there’s no absolute guarantee that the ice is safe. Accidents can happen. Be proactive by installing a life ring nearby, and providing a first aid kit, blanket and other emergency essentials just in case someone does fall through the ice.

If you missed it, check out Part 1 – Understanding How Ice Forms and Part 3 – Maintaining Your Ice Rink.

Create A Smooth Skating Surface

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond – Part 1 | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond - Part 1

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond

Part 1: Understanding How Ice Forms

One of the joys of having a pond on your property is being able to create a winter-sports wonderland. Whether you’re an ice skater or a hockey player, curling competitor or broomball aficionado, it’s sure nice to simply walk out to your ice rink, slip on your skates and play.

But before you groom your pond for ice sports, it’s important to understand how to safely create a sturdy ice sheet and what red flags to look for while the ice is forming. In this first part of our three-part series on how to make a rink on your pond, we begin with the basics.

From a Liquid to a Solid

Ever wonder exactly how ice forms? Here’s a quick lesson for you.

When the air temperature cools in the late fall and early winter, the water on the surface of your lake or pond loses its heat and becomes heavier. This cold, heavy water sinks to the bottom while the warmer water from the bottom rises to the top and cools. The cycling process continues until the overall water temperature reaches 39º Fahrenheit (or about 4º Celsius).

Before long, the water on top cools enough to freeze. As it does so, the liquid molecules transform into solid ice crystals—and those things expand and space themselves out when they form, which is why ice floats and why it takes up more room than liquid. When given enough time to form, the ice layer created by this crystallized frozen water thickens to the point where it is strong enough to support animals, humans and even vehicles.

Creating Good Ice

Since your goal is to create an ice rink, you’ll need to grow a sheet of ice that’s thick, solid, strong and dense. Water movement affects the integrity of the forming ice – in fact, just a little bit of movement on the water surface can create uneven, porous ice that’s not suitable for walking or skating. So it’s important to turn off and remove your water-moving Aeration System from the lake before the ice starts to build on your lake’s surface.

The winterizing process starts with unplugging your aeration system and shutting it down completely. Leave the airline and diffuser plates in the pond, but cover the airline ends to prevent debris from entering. Finally, store the compressor and cabinet indoors to keep them dry and rust-free.

The only movement your lake water should experience now will be from wind and waves – both of which are in Mother Nature’s control.

Beware of Red Flags

As the ice is forming, keep an eye on it. Do you see any weak or soft spots? Are there any areas with running or pooling water? These could be signs telling you to abandon your ice rink plans. Here are some more red flags to watch for:

  • Flowing water near or at the edges of the ice can cause soft spots that appear gray, dark or porous.
  • Flowing springs under the ice in spring-fed ponds and lakes can cause areas to not freeze.
  • Water flows in and/or out of the iced-over water body. Stream inlets and outlets can erode ice, making it highly variable in thickness.
  • Areas with cracks, breaks or holes are obvious danger zones.
  • Ice that appears to have thawed and refrozen. These fluctuations can cause weak spots in the ice.
  • Abnormal surfaces that you have not seen before, like pressure ridges caused by currents or winds.

Ice is generally strongest where it is hard and blue or clear. If you’re unsure of whether your ice is forming well, check with your local government officials (like your department of natural resources) about safety suggestions.

Next week, we’ll discuss how to make sure your newly formed ice is thick and safe enough for winter sports, and how to create a pristine winter wonderland with ice primed for fun.

Continue Reading:
Part 2 – Creating Your Winter Wonderland
Part 3 – Maintaining Your Ice Rink

Always Promote Pond Safety

I’m buying property with a half-acre pond. What do I need to know?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I’m buying property with a half-acre pond. What do I need to know?

Q: I’m buying property with a half-acre pond. What do I need to know?

Vernon- Tolono, IL

A: A pond is a great resource to have – and it’s even better when it’s filled with clean water and supporting a thriving ecosystem. To keep it functional and healthy, you’ll need to do a few clean-up and maintenance chores and do a little research to ensure you’re complying with the law. Here’s what we recommend.

Check Regulations

While you’re waiting for move-in day, contact your city, county and state government offices for information about chemical use and pond/pool safety regulations. For instance, depending where you live, you may not be able to use some algaecides or herbicides, or you may need to install a fence around your pond to prevent kids or pets from falling in.

Install Safety Gear

Speaking of safety, you should also make sure safety gear, like a Life Ring, rope and first-aid kit, are installed in a conspicuous and accessible place near the pond in case of emergency. You never know when you’ll need it, so it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Assess Aeration

Does your new pond have an aeration system installed, does it work, and is it included in the sale of the property? An aeration system, which includes a diffuser, compressor and airline, is an important piece of equipment to have. It circulates the water column and delivers life-giving oxygen to your pond’s inhabitants. If the property includes an aerator, make sure it works; if not, consider investing in one. Measure the length, width and depth of your pond and call 866-POND-HELP to select the right system for your pond.

Power to the Pond

Your aeration system will need to be plugged in, so does your pond have electricity? What voltage is it set up for? If you plan on buying a new aeration system, Airmax® models come in both 115 volt and 220 volt.

Meet Your Neighbors

Before you apply any pond-care products to your pond, find out what kinds of critters live in it. Certain types of fish, including trout, carp and koi, will affect the way you use chemicals in your pond.

Manicure Weeds

If your pond hasn’t been tended in a while and the weeds have taken over, you’ll need to regain control by identifying the unwanted vegetation, killing and removing it. Start by using a Weed Control Guide or email a photo to weedid@thepondguy.com to help you identify the plants and select the right products for the job. Once the weeds are dead, mechanically remove them from the water with a Pond & Beach Rake so that they don’t become algae fertilizer next spring.

Start Maintenance Routine

Your last to-do item: Start a maintenance routine using a series of beneficial bacteria products like those found in the Pond Logic® ClearPAC® PLUS seasonal care package. The microorganisms will break down pond muck buildup and keep the water clean and clear all year long.

Pond Talk: What advice can you share with this new pond owner?

Be Prepared For Any Senario All Year - Taylor Made Life Rings

I’m considering digging a pond but I hear they are a lot of work, is it worth it? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

I’m considering digging a pond but I hear they are a lot of work, is it worth it?

Q: I’m considering digging a pond but I hear they are a lot of work, is it worth it?

Peter – Stoughton, WI

A: Let’s be honest: pond maintenance can be a drag. Going out to your lake or pond over and over to clean up dead vegetation, fill the fish feeder, add your beneficial bacteria and check on your aeration system (not to mention all the seasonal chores) takes precious time and energy—so why bother?

Here’s some inspiration: Think about why you wanted a pond in the first place. Check out these four fabulous benefits of having a pond. They’ll remind you why all that maintenance is worth your effort.

A Cool Place to Relax

Your pond or lake is a scenic, peaceful place to snooze in a hammock or Adirondack chair, sip some cool lemonade, take in the views and just relax. It’s also a great place to hang out with family and friends and let the warm days of summer pass by. Enjoying the tranquil beauty of a pond—enhanced by Pond Logic® Pond Dye, which shades and protects the pond while adding to its color and beauty—is one of the top reasons why people have one in the first place, so it’s in your interest to keep it looking its best.

Sport Fishing

Having a lake stocked with game fish, like trout and bass, is another benefit to keeping and maintaining your pond. Any time you’d like, you can grab your fishing pole, head down to the lake and hook some tasty dinner. You can invite the kids (or grandkids) down for some catch-and-release fun. Maintaining you pond or lake—and feeding your finned friends some extra grub—will ensure a big catch every time.

Water Recreation

Do you enjoy swimming in your lake? How about boating or kayaking around—or even just floating on an inner tube? Your pond or lake is an ideal place to keep cool (and get away from your lengthy to-do list!) all summer long. When you keep your pond of lake in tip-top shape, it’ll be an inviting place to get wet, stay cool and forget about the outside world.

Support Local Wildlife

Deer, frogs, birds, dragonflies, raccoon, opossum—lots of critters (besides you and your family, of course!) make use of your pond or lake. They’ll visit for a drink of water. They’ll use it for shade and protection. They’ll even nibble at the bugs, plants and fish food, giving them sustenance throughout the year. By maintaining your pond, you’ll help support the local wildlife. And what land owner doesn’t want to do that?

Yes, maintenance can be a chore. But when you remember these four benefits to keeping a pond, you’ll (hopefully!) see those chores as a way of keeping and improving your property—and your peace of mind!

Pond Talk: What was the No. 1 reason why you decided to add (or restore) a lake or pond on your property?

Pond Logic® Pond Dye - Shade & Protect Your Pond

Q&A: Are there any tips to making sure the ice on my pond is safe to stand on?

Are there any tips to making sure the ice on my pond is safe to stand on?

Are there any tips to making sure the ice on my pond is safe to stand on?
Nicki – Sandusky, OH

Winter brings not only cold weather and snow to your pond or lake but a perfect layer of ice for skating, ice fishing, snowmobiling and other fun as well. While you may be eager to get out on the ice this season, it is important that you know how to distinguish the difference between safe strong ice and a potential hazard.

There are a lot of different factors that determine the ice thickness on a water body. Temperature has a large part in ice formation of course but water currents, wind and snow coverage also play a role in how water freezes. You should see a satisfactory layer of ice form on your pond after two to three weeks of freezing temperatures. Once temperatures stabilize and the ice has time to thicken you can venture onto the surface and perform an inspection.

You can visually determine the quality of ice by looking for bubbles, trapped snow, cracks and color. A clear solid blue layer of ice is stronger than a white brittle formation caused by air pockets and other flaws. Keep in mind that a pond with a running aeration system will have air pockets and should not be used for recreation in the winter. Naturally new ice is stronger than old ice as there are less chances of warm weather thawing and re-freezing. Once you have inspected the surface of the ice you can drill or cut samples to verify thickness. Since a water body will not always freeze evenly you will want to take samples in multiple locations as you work your way out towards the center. A layer of ice less than 3 inches is unsatisfactory for most people to walk out onto. It may be able to hold up lighter people or small animals but can easily crack. If you plan on having a group of people on the pond or want to take your snowmobile out on your lake an ice formation of 6-8 inches minimum is ideal. Click over to our blog on Ice Formation for more information regarding ice thickness and formation.

Be patient this winter and exercise extreme caution when venturing onto the ice. Taking the extra time out to visually inspect your ice and take samples can mean all the difference between a fun day outdoors or potential injury. Always make sure there is a floatation device within reach in case of a fall-through and always use common sense when venturing out on the ice.

Pond Talk: How do you determine when it is safe to venture out onto your pond or lake in the winter?

keep your pond safe at all times with a life ring!

Do herons fly south for the winter? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Do herons fly south for the winter?

Do herons fly south for the winter?
Bobby – Milwaukee, WI

Herons are migratory birds, and they have no appreciation for cold weather. So if you’re located in the cooler northern climes – particularly where ponds tend to freeze during the winter months – you’ll usually notice their absence when temperatures start to drop. Like many of us would like to do during winter, herons that choose to migrate will head for Central America and northern South America to warm up and fill up on fish. If you live in warmer portions of the United States, however, you may see herons all year ‘round, provided there’s enough open water and food to keep them happy.

While they’re beautiful to watch, herons are often unpopular with pond keepers – particularly those who have stocked their pond well. Herons consider fish as their favorite snack, and a single bird will happily devour every available fish, leaving the pond empty, and the pond’s owner grumpy. Herons aren’t picky eaters, though, and they’ll also snack on feeder fish, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, grasshoppers and even dragonflies.

Fortunately, herons don’t hunt in flocks. When they spot a pond that’s already been claimed by another enterprising heron, they’ll typically fly elsewhere. That’s why we strongly recommend our Great Blue Heron Decoy as a simple way to discourage hungry herons from settling in for an uninvited visit.

Without preventative measures – like a well-placed and regularly relocated decoy – a heron will settle in as long as food is available. Otherwise, only cold temperatures, which send fish to the warmer water layers at the bottom of the pond and other food sources to their winter lairs, will encourage a heron to move on.

Pond Talk: Do herons continue to visit your pond throughout the fall and winter or more on?

Pond Logic® Blue Heron Decoy

What happens to the frogs and toads during the winter? | Pond & Lake Q&A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

What happens to the frogs and toads during the winter?
Dustin – Huntsville, UT

As the temperatures continue to drop you will begin to notice that your pond, once full of life, is now starting to look like abandoned arctic tundra. Gone are the cool summer nights spent on your patio and deck watching fireflies tastefully illuminate your lawn while being serenaded by a choir of frogs and crickets.

While you are inside cuddled under blankets for the season where do your web-footed friends spend their winter? The winter retreat of choice will depend on the type of frog you have hanging around your pond. You will commonly find either some variety of frog frequenting the shallow areas or shoreline of your pond and toads farther inland rummaging about your gardens or front lawn. Both are very similar but can usually be identified by a few visual characteristics. Frogs tend to have smooth glossy skin that feels slimy to the touch while toads have dry lumpy skin. The eyes of a frog tend to protrude further from its head than those of a toad. A toad will usually have poison sacks located behind their eyes which help prevent them from becoming a snack for larger predators.

As frogs are cold blooded they will begin to slow down as their body temperatures drop. When winter arrives they will go into a state of dormancy and wait out the cold weather. The hibernation strategy varies between species of frogs. Toads tend to bury themselves in leaves or mud while frogs can pass the winter at the bottom of your pond below the ice. Frogs produce a type of glucose in their bodies that will allow them to freeze solid and still be able to survive. As the temperatures begin to rise in the spring their hearts will begin to beat again and they will begin to thaw. When they are once again mobile they will actively search for a place to mate.

Since frogs have an arsenal of survival skills to get them through the winter there is not much you have to do to help them survive the cooler months. Instead focus on keeping yourself warm and healthy and try your best to enjoy the snow and beautiful landscapes this winter brings

POND TALK: Do frogs frequent your pond? How do they adapt to the changing season in your area?

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