We conducted a population-based study of drownings in Minnesota from 1980 through 1985. Five hundred and forty-one drownings (2.1 per 100,000 person-years) were identified from death certificates and from incident reports filed with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Most drownings (334,62 percent) occurred during summer months (May-August) and involved boating (42 percent) and swimming (35 percent) events. However, 62 drownings (11 percent) occurred during winter months (December-February) and primarily involved snowmobiles and motor vehicles (71 percent) breaking through ice on lakes and waterways. The risk of drowning, estimated by the ratio of drownings to number of water-related activities, was highest during March and April, when the ice on lakes and waterway surfaces is melting, and during October and November, when lake and waterway surfaces are starting to freeze. Drowning rates were highest for males (3.7 per 100,000 person-years), persons 15 to 25 years of age (3.3 per 100,000 person-years), and children less than 5 years of age (2.5 per 100,000 person-years). These data can be used to target prevention strategies, particularly in northern climates.