Glacier Park’s Lake McDonald freezes over

March 6, 2019

After a frigid start to March, Glacier National Park’s Lake McDonald has frozen over in its entirety, save for a few holes the size of a school bus.

The park’s biggest lake last froze over in the winter of 2016-17. The lake, which is about 465 feet deep, saw plenty of cold in February, but it also saw a lot of wind, which kept the water body open.

But cold temperatures the past few days coupled with calm nights froze it from stem to stern. On Sunday, the lake was only about half froze over.

The Park Service typically warns people about ice conditions on the lake - it has hidden springs and upwellings that soften the ice in sports. Right now, the ice is so clear you can see the bottom of the lake in many locations.

February set local records for snowfall. The National Weather in Missoula said that February was the snowiest ever in Kalispell, with 33.2 inches of snow at the Glacier Park International Airport.

Polebridge saw some very cold temperatures in the past few days. On March 3 it dropped down to 38 below zero. On March 4 it was 31 below zero. East of the divide, St. Mary dropped down to 36 below zero March 3. Kalispell also set a new record with a 21 below zero reading March 4.

Overall it was the second-coldest February on record for Kalispell, with an average of 12.6 degrees. The record was set in 1936 with an average of 4.9 degrees.

Feb. 27 saw the mercury drop to 11 below zero, but in 1960, it was 19 below zero - the record for that date. The coldest ever recorded in February was 36 below on Feb. 1, 1950.

The average snowfall for February is 7.9 inches. The February snowfall brought the Kalispell total for the season to 59.8 inches. The normal amount is 47.3.

The Flathead River Basin snowpack, however, still lags behind a normal year at 90 percent of average, as December and January saw well below average snowfall.

This week temperatures should moderate a bit, with highs in the 30s and a chance of snow through at least Saturday.