Exercise Caution Around Water and Ice While Enjoying Nature This Winter

December 21, 2022, Toronto, Ontario — Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) reminds residents while enjoying recreation and time in nature to be safe and aware of the dangers that can exist near streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes at this time of year. We urge people to keep family members and pets away from the edges of all waterways.

While temperatures have been above seasonal so far this December, we can expect to experience frequent freeze-thaw cycles throughout the coming winter months. Fluctuations of temperature and precipitation types can increase runoff and contribute to higher water levels and faster flows in local watercourses.

ice-covered stream at Kortright Centre for Conservation
It’s great to get outdoors in the winter, but play it safe: keep away from the edges of water bodies, even if the surface appears to be ice-covered.

Once rivers and water bodies become ice-covered, periods of rainfall and snowmelt can result in the weakening, shifting, and melting of that ice cover, making it unsafe.

Other hazardous conditions, such as ice jams, can also be increased by frequent freeze-thaw cycles or a sudden warm-up causing significant ice and snowmelt. Additionally, slippery and unstable streambanks combined with extremely cold water temperatures can lead to dangerous conditions next to any type of water body during the winter months.

aerial view of an ice jam
Frequent freeze-thaw cycles or a sudden warm-up can increase the risk of hazardous ice jams.

Be safe this winter and remember the following:

  • Keep family members and pets away from riverbanks and edges of all water bodies, even if the surface appears to be ice-covered.
  • Do not attempt to drive or walk on iced-covered water bodies. Always obey any posted safety signage.
  • Avoid all recreational activities in or around water, especially near ice jams or ice-covered water bodies, unless at an officially designated municipal facility.
  • Stormwater ponds/facilities were not built for ice skating. Water levels on these ponds can change due to road salt, snowmelt and changing temperatures causing cracks and dangerously thin ice.
  • Beware of thin ice that may develop around dams. Dam operators often lower water levels in reservoirs during winter and spring.
  • Rescuing another person or a pet from ice is dangerous. If you see anyone who has fallen through the ice, call 911 for help immediately.
aerial view of Claireville Dam in the winter
Exercise caution around dams at all times.

As a reminder, TRCA does not monitor ice safety conditions. Tailor your winter outdoor activities to trails at TRCA conservation parks and lands or your local parks. Residents looking for opportunities for skating should confirm safe leisure options with their local municipality.

For more information visit trca.ca/winter-safety and trca.ca/Safetyarounddams.


For more information about regional water levels and seasonal changes, please contact your local conservation authority:


About Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA)

Since 1957, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), as enabled through the provincial Conservation Authorities Act, has taken action to enhance our region’s natural environment and protect our land, water, and communities from the impacts of flooding and increasingly extreme weather events – Ontario’s leading cause of public emergencies.

As the region’s first line of defence against natural hazards, TRCA maintains vital infrastructure and provides programs and services that promote public health and safety, protecting people and property.

TRCA mobilizes a science-based approach to provide sound policy advice, leveraging its position as a not-for-profit operating in the broader public sector to achieve collective impacts within our communities and across all levels of government.

TRCA’s jurisdiction includes nine watersheds and their Lake Ontario shorelines, spanning six upper-tier and fifteen lower-tier municipalities and representing almost five million people, approximately 10% of Canada’s population.

To learn more about TRCA, visit trca.ca.


Media Contact

Michael Tolensky
Chief Financial and Operating Officer
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA)