Spring Thaw & Rising Water Levels – Safety Tips for your Family

Spring thaw on an embankment

During spring thaw, water levels rise in lakes, rivers and streams. Slippery, muddy shorelines and fast running water are hazardous to anyone unfamiliar with the potential dangers.

Spring thaw on an embankment

25 to 30 Canadians die every winter in ice-related incidents and countless others fall through the ice. 

Taking the time to ensure your children understand the dangers and safety precautions can prevent needless injuries and accidents. 

Safety Tips and Important Facts!

  • Children and pets should be supervised at all times when playing outdoors.
  • When children and pets are playing near water, it is especially important for an adult to be within arm’s reach.
two men rescuing a dog in the water
  • Avoid river, lake and stream shorelines and riverbanks during spring thaw. Even if the water is only a few inches deep, fast moving water can knock children off their feet and carry them down stream beyond safety.
  • River currents and moving water at the narrows (where one lake flows into another) can quickly change ice thickness or have much thinner ice than other locations on the river or lake.
  • Lake ice is most fragile in frozen areas around an open patch and along the shore.
  • The crust that forms on top of a river is unstable due to water swirling beneath it.
  • Snow and ice overhangs form in riverbanks. Make sure your children know not to venture on or near these very hazardous areas.
snow and ice overhang on the shoreline
  • Warm days and cold nights create weak ice during the spring season.
  • The heavy weight of snow can cause snow tunnels to collapse.

“Snow accumulation during the winter season can lead to flooding during the early spring if conditions are right. When temperatures rise, snow melts and turns to runoff. Ice jams that have accumulated in rivers also start to move with the melt. This can be a gradual or very quick process depending on temperatures. When this process combines with precipitation events and frozen ground, the spring thaw can become a serious flood event,” says Toronto and Regional Conservation Authority.

The premise is to enjoy the outdoors, provide your children with plenty of fresh air and exercise but be careful where your children and pets wander off to play.

spring thaw and the dangers of shorelines


For additional information, Diligencia Investigative Reporting recommends the following articles:

Diligencia Investigative ReportingFrostbite and Hypothermia

Diligencia Investigative ReportingWinter Emergencies! How prepared are you?

Spring Flooding – Toronto and Region Conservation for the Living City - A MUST READ! 

Ice Navigation in Canadian Waters – Government of Canada – Canadian Coast Guard

Environment and Climate Change Canada



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