March 25, 2023: Satellite Saturday

Hi! I’m not posting every day yet, as things are still pretty frozen.

For the same reason, I haven’t been pestering my pilot and drone operator friends for aerial views (yet).

However, I thought you might like to see for yourself what the satellites can show us.

Remember, you can click on these images to see them in full resolution. 

Here’s an image from the Sentinel 2 satellite from Thursday. I’ll start with the Highlight Optimized Natural Colour version, because it shows the outline of the lake best.

Sentinel 2 satellite image of Lake of the Woods from Thursday, March 23, 2023.

It’s pretty obvious from this picture that the lake is essentially frozen from shore to shore.

In the Shortwave Infrared version, a few patches of open water stand out.

Sentinel 2 satellite image of Lake of the Woods from Thursday March 23, 2023.

Showing up as black patches in the infrared view, open water can be seen near Kenora, at the headwaters of the Winnipeg River, and also out in Keewatin Channel and the adjacent Second Channel.

I was surprised that there wasn’t a similar patch of open water down by Big Narrows, so I zoomed in for a closer look at that area.

Sentinel 2 SWIR view of Big Narrows from Thursday, March 23, 2023.

There are a few tiny spots of open water visible here near the centre of the image.

Now, I’m not going to go over the entire lake with a magnifying glass, because it’s pretty obvious where we stand. However, if you’d like to check out a particular area of interest, here’s a link to the Sentinel Hub. This satellite provides very zoomable images, and there are lots of cool filters to play with. Knock yourself out.

The downside with Sentinel is that it only passes by every few days, and it’s field of view is narrow, so sometimes it gets the Whitefish Bay side, and sometimes it gets Shoal Lake, and sometimes it’s not even close. Throw in some cloudy days, and we can’t count on Sentinel 2 every week.

Which brings us to the MODIS satellites, Terra and Aqua. They’ve been passing over Lake of the Woods every day like clockwork–one in the morning and one in the afternoon–for decades*.

Of course there’s a catch. The MOD in MODIS stands for MODerate resolution. Lake of the Woods is just a tiny part of what the MODIS system sees, and you can’t zoom in to see much detail. Rabbit Lake is about the smallest thing you can make out.

You can’t zoom in on this image. If you click on it, you’ll see a version with some helpful place names overlaid on the picture.

Terra had good conditions for imaging Lake of the Woods yesterday.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, March 24, 2023, in false colour.

You can’t put too much trust in comparing a Terra image to a Sentinel one, because they use different filters and so on, but if anything, I’d say there might be less open water after another cold night.

*Terra was launched by NASA in 1999, and crosses the equator northbound when it’s morning in the Americas. Aqua launched in 2002, and crosses the equator southbound in the American afternoon.

Both satellites image the continental USA every day, and luckily for us, the pictures include all of Lake of the Woods and as far north into Canada as Big Sand Lake.

That’s the good news. Sadly, the MODIS satellites are reaching the end of their mission. After nearly quarter of a century, their orbits are beginning to drift off track and off schedule. NASA plans to de-orbit both Terra and Aqua this summer. This is the last spring we’ll have their help on Ice Patrol. I’ll be sad to see them go.

Last I heard, no comparable replacements are planned.

Milder weather is finally here, but you should make the most of it this weekend. Monday night is forecast to be cold again. -17ºC as I write this.

Naturally, I’ve been following the long-term forecasts, too. After a string of La Niña years, we’re switching to an El Niño pattern, and we may be in for a cool, dry spring.

Here’s a screengrab of a Weather Network graphic for the long-term spring outlook. You can click on it to see the fine print. I had hoped to post a link to the entire presentation, but I cannot find it today.

So we may not see an early inflection date* this year. Their 14-day outlook is not rosy, either.

*For review, Inflection Date is the term we give the day when the Mean Daily Temperature goes above freezing on  a lasting basis. Even after that appears to happen, sometimes we have to wait a week to see if the mild temperatures are sticking around.

Let’s finish with something a little more positive.

A number of people took the time to tell me their ice thickness measurements or estimates. Overall, the numbers ranged from 20 to 30 inches, with the majority falling in the 25 to 30 inch range. That’s not bad for late March, when we often see ice augers bottoming out at over three feet. Forty inches, or just over a meter, is not uncommon.

Ferg Devins reported that a large hole he was monitoring showed an increase in ice thickness overnight during our recent cold spell.

Signs of Spring:

The Goldeneye ducks are back. They’re hardy little critters, or lazy migrators, depending on how you look at it. They are a very early sign of spring.

I saw my first pair of Canada Geese just the other day. They’re not as eager as the Goldeneyes, so that’s a bit more hopeful.

I’ve been hearing more songbirds, and some of them have been pooping on my car. Umm… yay?

March 20, 2023: First Day of Spring

Well, it’s that time of year again. Is it though?

It’s cold: for the last several days, overnight lows have been around -15ºC, while the average for low for this date is on the mild side of -10ºC. Judging by my garden and the hiking trails, the snow is still deep, so even though there is some warmth in the afternoon sun, not much heat will be getting through to the ice.

Conditions like that mean the ice is still getting thicker. Any ice fishers that would like to let me know how thick the ice is can use the Ice Patrol contact form to pass on the information. I would also like to know the date and location where you measured the hole.

It’s too soon to say much about how the winter went. Sean Cockrem, our data and graph guy, said last week that the mild and cold spells were balancing each other out and that the net cumulative freezing index was pretty close to normal.

I’m going to talk about last summer’s lake levels for a few paragraphs, because they may have an influence on this spring. Now, one job I would never want is being on the Lake of the Woods Control Board. I bet nobody ever calls them to say the lake levels are just right. If the lake goes up, rocks you used to be able to see and avoid become reefs you can hit. If the lake goes down, reefs that used to be deep enough to boat over become reefs you can hit. But last year was much worse than that.

In the spring, a string of Colorado Lows dumped a massive amount of rain on the Lake of the Woods drainage basin. Water levels rose sharply, and moving ice wiped out both fixed and floating docks. Municipal docks went underwater. The lake got so high that many boathouses were half submerged, and there were all sorts of other problems, too.

The Lake of the Woods Control Board did what they could. But here’s the thing. Despite the name, the board does not actually control Lake of the Woods. What they control is the Norman Dam. By using it wisely, they can gradually influence the lake levels over a period of weeks. If it stops raining, that is. Also, the wisdom part is tricky. Because it takes so long to make a significant change, they have to start early. For instance, they usually lower the water level in the winter to make room for the spring runoff. But rainstorms are not forecast weeks in advance, so preparations cannot be made.

Last year’s extraordinary string of rainstorms simply overwhelmed everything. We’d have needed to open multiple Norman Dams to keep up, but there’s only one. And actually, there’s a significant bottleneck on the Winnipeg River upstream of the Norman Dam, around the narrows where the railway bridge on Tunnel Island is. Even if you completely removed the Norman Dam, you couldn’t increase the water flow much.

Also, let’s not lose sight of the fact that there are cottagers on the Winnipeg River, and they already deal with wild fluctuations in river levels.

So what’s all this got to do with the spring thaw?

A lot of pressure was put on the board to take the lake level even lower this winter, and they did. For a while there, lake levels were down at the 20th percentile*. If we get a wettish spring, this may help. If we get another deluge like last year, it won’t make much difference. It’s like trying to drain a bathtub while someone’s filling it with a firehose. On the flip side, if we get a dry spring, we’re going to have a hard time climbing on to those new–and higher–docks we built.

*Mathematicians and Statisticians have some different methods for working with percentiles, including ways where the 100th percentile is infinity.

The Lake of the Woods Control Board uses a fairly simple system. They compare the current level to those from the same time-span in previous years. Not ALL previous years; a block of thirty consecutive years in the not too distant past.

Then they round things off to the nearest five percent range. The most extreme values they announce are ‘below the 5th percentile’ or ‘above the 95th percentile’. In other words, above the 95th percentile means ‘as high as it gets.’ That’s where it sat for most of last summer. We came within inches of the record set in 1950.

Fun side-note. When the Norman Dam is wide open, and water levels are the same upstream and downstream of the dam, it cannot generate electricity. It was offline for months last year.

In summary, the lake is low, the current is slow, and the ice is still getting thicker. We could use some warm temperatures and a little rain.

Incidentally, I just checked back, and in previous years, I’ve always launched this blog between March 1st and 18th. This explains why WordPress is alerting me to sudden increases in traffic on the site. Also, if you were looking for me on Twitter, I closed my account there during all the upheaval. Apologies for the suspense, but it was hard to think about spring while I was still layering up my winter clothes just to walk the dog.

Late last week, the Weather Network was saying things would warm up to about zero by Monday (today). Now they’re saying we should get there later this week.

Any day now would be great. Show of hands? Yeah, I thought so.




October 24, 2022: Tragic News

Ice Patrol has lost one of its contributors to a fatal plane crash on Lake of the Woods.

I recently learned that the pilot who died in the vicinity of Shore Island in late September was Josh Broten.

Joshua D. Broten       May 18, 1982 ~ September 21, 2022 (age 40)

He was the sole occupant of the plane, his Arion Lightning.

Josh was an early and regular contributor to Ice Patrol, sharing many photos of the spring ice conditions taken on flights from his home base in Roseau, Minnesota. He was an enthusiastic and cheerful correspondent, and clearly loved our lake.

I’m sad that I never had the chance to meet him in person.

You can see his obituary here.

That’s all for now.


May 17, 2022: Aftercasting

We’re not forecasting any more, but Sean always finalizes his graphs to see how close the predictions came.

Short version: the thaw went better than expected.

Before we examine the final version, let’s go back and look at this spring’s first forecast, from late April.

You can click on these to see larger, sharper versions.

Early in the spring, Sean estimated that we’d need to reach a target thaw index of 190 points. That’s the horizontal yellow line. That value of 190 was based on the severity of the winter. Last winter’s freezing index was close to 1900 points, and a ratio of ten to one is his starting point for predicting the thaw.

April Thaw Forecast Graph.

The blue line is formed by plotting this year’s daily temperatures (Mean Daily Temperatures, to be specific). In the early spring, he sketches in the blue line using the weather forecasts, and then as time passes, he replaces the forecast line with actual data.

Now here’s the post-season analysis version.

Final Thaw Graph.

As you can see, the blue line plotted from actual weather reports rose more steeply than the early version based on weather forecasts.

Also, the ice melted at a slightly better rate than the base ratio of ten to one predicted, so the thaw was complete (marked with a yellow star) at a lower thaw index than the target of 190. It happens. Temperature is a big factor in the thaw, but it’s not the only one. Some of the other factors aren’t included in weather forecasts, especially long-term ones.

Perhaps you’d like to see how this spring’s temperature profile compares to other years in our records. Sean has a graph for that, too.

Spring Temperature Trend After Inflection.

In this graph, the timeline across the bottom is synchronized to each year’s Inflection Date, not the calendar date. Also, the lines for previous years continue to plot the rising cumulative index even after the ice is gone. We’re just comparing spring temperature trends, not trying to factor in ice thickness or anything like that.

This year’s data is shown in a dotted line, and it’s the second highest track on the graph. On both this graph and the previous one, that red line that we didn’t quite equal represents 2007, a very warm spring, so we did quite well this year. As Sean commented, once we finally got Mean Daily Temperatures above freezing*, they were often in double digits.

*When the Mean Daily Temperature goes above freezing and stays there, we call that the Inflection Date, and that’s what Sean bases his graphs on.

Lastly, the Shark-fin graph.

There’s really only one change to this. This year’s ice-out date of May 16 has been marked with a red dot, bringing the thaw phase to a close.

Shark-fin Graph.

Sean will continue to plot the summer numbers on here so that we can see how much summer heat we accumulate, which will affect water temperature and the inevitable freeze next winter.

In the meantime, here’s hoping that he can plot a summer fin that is tall and wide, because that would be the sign of a season that is both warm and long.

Signs of spring: The trees are leafing out, and I saw daffodils blooming in someone’s garden today!

Fun tidbit: Sean did some internet sleuthing, and as far as he can tell, Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol is the only website of its kind anywhere in the world.

I think that’s about if for this year. I’d like to thank everyone that helped.

Sean, of course, for the graphs and predictions.

The pilots and drone operators, and everyone who sent in photos. They made Ice Patrol possible this year.

The donors, who alleviated the stress of trying to do this on a shoestring budget. Having enough money to book flights meant I didn’t have to worry about going without aerial photos in the critical weeks.

The people who participated via email or the comments form. I received a lot of very helpful information from those sources, and it’s growing as a way to pool our knowledge.

And lastly, the followers and visitors. Ice Patrol had a busy spring this year, racking up nearly 75,000 views in under five months. Traffic peaked at over 2400 views a day. That keeps me going, and I’m tickled that people check in from all over the world.

Thank you all.

Ice Patrol will now go (mostly) dormant until next spring.

Talk to you then!


May 16, 2022: All Clear

There was still some ice on the south end of the lake yesterday, in the vicinity of Oak Island. It may have been wiped out later in the day, but I don’t know for sure, and it might not have been the only patch left, so I’m using May 16th as our official ice-free date for Lake of the Woods this year. I believe Shoal Lake is also clear.

So let’s see how that stacks up.

The 2022 Brick Graph.

This year’s brick goes in the previously empty May 16th-20th slot, and shows 2022 as the second latest thaw in my records. It certainly feels like it.

Now let’s see how it looks on the Pancake Graph.

You can click on these to see larger versions with sharper text.

2022 Pancake Graph.

The rapidity of this year’s thaw is not quite as exceptional as I thought. 2020 was two days faster, and 2013 was a match, at nineteen days from Inflection Date to Ice-free and just one day earlier. Something that turned out to be not so similar was 2014. I drew a lot of comparisons this spring between this years melt and the one in 2014, because the thaws then and now both started late, ran to cold weather and featured high water levels. Despite having all those things in common, the ice went much faster this year.

This may have been partly due to the wet weather. Something I learned from meteorologists this year is that high humidity has a powerful melting effect on ice.

I’m curious to see how Sean Cockrem’s graphs look this spring. They’re more sophisticated than mine, and will reveal how this year’s temperature profile compares to those other years. It’s worth mentioning that some of Sean’s earlier predictions turned out to be pessimistic, but that’s because they were modeled on weather forecasts that also turned out to be pessimistic. If you tell Sean it’s going to be cold, he’s bound to respond that it will be a later melt.

Now that the May Long weekend is not overshadowed by the possibility of ice on the lake, we’re all set to start our summers, right?

Not so fast.

As I write this, the weather forecast is calling for gloomy conditions, with cloud, rain and below-normal temperatures for the next week. We could see near-freezing temperatures Friday and Saturday night, and it doesn’t currently look like the long weekend’s Saturday will be warm at all.  The Weather Networks says a high of just 7°C with showers of rain, perhaps mixed with snow! and Environment Canada is just a little more optimistic, suggesting partly cloudy and 10°C. For Sunday, they trade positions, calling for 15 and 12 respectively. An average high for the 21st of May is close to 19°C.

Even the 14-day outlook doesn’t suggest any temperatures above 18°C before the end of May. Let’s hope they’re being pessimistic again.




May 15, 2022: Is it Gone?

Yesterday, there was still significant ice in the Manitou, but not much anywhere else, unless there was some down in the Big Traverse.

Devon Ostir has a dock cam with a view across the Manitou towards Whisky Island, with a smaller, nameless island in the foreground. Yesterday, he sent in a picture that showed quite a lot of ice clustered around his property, and he promised to send another when the ice was gone. He made that update at around suppertime last night.

Here are a pair of pictures that show the last ice going from his location on Hare Island.

Yes, you can click on them if you want to see a larger version.

Devon Ostir’s dock cam at 4:52pm on May 14.

Devon Ostir’s dock cam at 6:36pm on May 14.

Naturally, I checked the weather for that time frame, and saw that the wind, which had been from the south or southwest most of the afternoon, became westerly at 5:00pm.

This ice was part of the largest remnant in the northern half of the lake. Has the wind destroyed it or merely shifted it? I hope to find out today.

If you’re out boating in the Manitou today, drop me a line if you do encounter any ice. Same goes for any of my pilot friends. Please remember that even if the ice is gone, the high water will have resulted in lots of ‘deadheads’: floating logs or timbers. Also, some rocks that used to be visible will now be lurking as submerged reefs.

We missed Satellite Saturday yesterday, so here’s how things have been developing there.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 13, 2022, in false colour.

I’m fairly certain that the blue patch seen near the Northwest Angle on Friday is ice. There might be some showing on Shoal Lake, too. Cloud cover makes it hard to tell if there’s any ice in Buffalo Bay, as seen in Jared Cantor’s photos from Saturday morning.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 14, 2022, in false colour.

On Saturday we only got this partial view of Lake of the Woods from Terra, and Aqua’s view was worse. There might be some ice on the south end of the lake, but at least some of that blue is probably wisps of ice cloud.

The only debate now is whether ice-out was yesterday, or will be today or tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll be able to positively confirm it for yesterday, so it will likely go on the graph as the 15th or 16th, depending on what information I receive today.

The weather:

Some cool temperatures are coming in the next week, along with some more rain. The rainfall amounts could be in the 10mm range, which would be bad, as water levels are already very high. As for the temperatures, it might drop as low as 0°C on Friday night. As we start the long weekend, grr. I suppose the garden hose will have to stay in the basement a little longer. We might see a skin of ice on puddles, but certainly not on lakes.



May 14, 2022: Courtesy of MAG Canada

Early this morning, I received two photos from Jared Cantor. He took them yesterday morning from an airliner on the way from Toronto to Winnipeg. Jared was sitting on the left side of the plane, so his window seat looked south. Here’s what he saw from about 30,000 feet.

Click on these pictures to enlarge them.

Bigsby Island, Big Island and Big Traverse.

Everything’s big on this end of the lake. Above and left of centre are slender Pine Island and Sable Island,  Four Mile Bay, and the mouth of the Rainy River. The patch of ice is near Long Point.

Big Traverse, Buffalo Bay, Buffalo Point, Muskeg Bay, and Warroad, Minnesota.

In this second view from a minute or two later, the right side of the frame shows the view south across Buffalo Bay to Buffalo Point. Beyond that is Muskeg Bay and Warroad, Minnesota. The big patch of ‘land’ in the middle of the picture is actually another expanse of ice.

Thanks, Jared!

The photos above were omitted from the first version of this post. I meant to include them but lost track.

Knowing where we stood yesterday, I was very eager to go flying today. I knew there couldn’t be much ice left. I wanted to see what there was, to get the best idea of when the last of it will be gone.

So I called my old friends at MAG Canada to see if I could book a short flight. They wouldn’t take my money. They insisted on giving me a free flight for old time’s sake. I always knew that the company supported me and Ice Patrol on a local level, but I was touched to hear that this was supported by the head office. Thanks, Mark!

So I met up with Andy Zabloski at the hangar, and we went for a short tour. I wanted to head down towards Sioux Narrows, because I haven’t had any pictures from that direction recently.

You can click on these pictures to see a larger version.

Bigstone Bay. Sultana Island and Quarry Island are in the middle of the picture.

The first thing we noticed was that there was no ice at all left in Bigstone Bay. Sometimes Heenan Point or Needle point will trap some late ice, but not today. All the bays in this area are completely ice-free.

We had set off to look at Andrew Bay, Witch Bay and so on, but we couldn’t find any ice in that region at all, so we turned towards areas more likely to have late ice.

The first ice we did see was in the Manitou.

The Manitou. Bare Point in the foreground, Town Island in the middle.

There is ice here, but not very much. It’s hugging the shore of Wolf Island and Hare Island.

Here’s what it looks like from Devon Ostir’s dock cam on Hare Island.

He’s promised to send me an update when his shore is clear of ice. Thanks, Devon!

Now back to our flight. There’s usually late ice south of the Barrier Islands, but we didn’t see anything obvious, so we went further south to see if we could spot any at the south end of the lake.

Cliff Island and the Alneau Peninsula. Little Traverse is in the distance.

It was a long way away, and the patchy light from a broken cloud layer makes it hard to be certain, but I think there’s some ice down by Bay Island, in the Little Traverse.

Next we turned north to take a closer look at the Barrier Islands.

The Barrier Islands.

We had missed it at first glance, because it’s not a big sheet, but there’s some ice against the south shore of Shammis Island, very near the centre of this picture. Zoom in to see it, and the larger area of ice in the Manitou that we saw before.

The Manitou also has another ice remnant around Wolf Island.

Wolf Island, Welcome Channel, Thompson Island, Holmstrom’s Marsh.

There’s still some soft pan ice drifting in this area. In this picture, it’s right by the propeller blade, near Houghs Island, but it’s probably on the move.

We got a nice shot of the Scotty Island to Hay Island area.

Scotty Island, Middle Island, The Hades and Hay Island.

We found no ice at all in this area, and that also includes Slate Island, Railway Island, Queer Island and Square Island.

That concluded our look at the ice on Lake of the Woods. In short, we found almost none. If it’s not gone tonight, it certainly will be by Monday morning.

Here’s a picture from Kelly Belair, showing what some of the ice looks like when it piles up on a reef. This was taken near Rocky Point at about mid-day today. He says the picture doesn’t do it justice.

Ice pile by Rocky Point.

By the way, ice remnants are not the only boating hazard right now. Because of the high water levels, there are lots of deadheads and debris in the water. Parts from damaged docks and cribs have been reported.

All marinas should be operable now, but they’ll have a lot of catching up to do.

One last picture from our flight. As we were circling to return to the airport, we flew over Upper Black Sturgeon Lake. Water levels are up there, because the Winnipeg River is so high that it’s flowing into the Black Sturgeon Lakes, instead of the other way around. This was apparently an overstatement. River levels are high enough that the Black Sturgeon Lakes are not draining normally, but I heard recently that the rollers are still above water, so the river is not actually higher than the lakes. At least, not yet.

Beauty Bay Golf Course.

As just one example of how bad it is, the water is lapping at the clubhouse of the Beauty Bay Golf Course. The front parking lot and dock area (near the middle of this picture) are submerged.

So a special thanks to Andy and my old colleagues at MAG for this farewell flight. I got to ride one more time in GTWW, a plane I flew for thirty-two years and (checks logbook) over 5000 hours. Sad sniff.

Signs of spring:

My dog found a bee today.

Motorhomes and campers. Boat Trailers. Generally heavy traffic. Potholes with a capital P.

Ice Patrol will be wrapping up for the year soon. We’ll try to establish the actual date the ice was all gone, and we’ll update the graphs accordingly. I’m still hoping for a nice satellite image of an ice-free lake to round things off.

If you found Ice Patrol valuable this year, let me just mention that I did insert a donations form back in March. It uses the services of Stripe, and works in US dollars. Traffic is way up since March, so here’s a link to it, in case you missed it, and feel like it. The form is at the bottom of this post from March 16. Every donation is appreciated, but there’s no obligation. It’s entirely up to you.


May 13, 2022: Forecast Friday

Soon, the ice-out date will be history, and not a matter for forecasts.

But while we still have a little ice left, here’s Sean’s last take on it for this year.

Remember, you can click on this graph to see it large and sharp.

Lake of the Woods Thaw Forecast.

This year’s temperature profile (the blue line) runs parallel to the best case example from 2007 (the red line). Since last week, Sean has updated the path of the blue line to replace forecast temperatures with actual ones up to the present.

His conclusion? Based on temperatures, the lake should be entirely ice-free in the evening of May 17th.

Temperatures are not the only factor in play, though, so there’s still some wiggle room for wind and high humidity to get rid of the ice even faster. Certainly it is very windy today. I think it’s possible that the ice might be gone a day or so earlier than the temperatures suggest.

In the meantime, although there is still ice present, many people will be able to reach their cottages by boat already. For those who cannot, yet, it is only a matter of days.

Satellite imagery is a bit of a tease lately, because of cloud. Yesterday, Terra satellite was able to see only the south west corner of the lake. Today, Aqua got a look at only the east side. In both cases, there was no significant ice visible, but we’re reaching the stage where it would be hard to spot from space.

Lake levels continue to rise. Water is flowing into Lake of the Woods faster than it can be let out. Sean calculates that the surplus amounts to an olympic-sized swimming pool’s worth of water every second and a half. That would raise the lake by an inch and a quarter every day. If that continued for a week, it would come to another fifteen inches, but nobody knows exactly how long the inflow will remain so high.

As mentioned on Ice Patrol yesterday, the water level of the Winnipeg River is so high that it’s raising the water level in and around the Black Sturgeon Lakes. That’s washed out a number of roads, and resulted in an evacuation order for a lot of people that live north of the Kenora Bypass. The evacuees will have a narrow window to get out. The City of Kenora Works Department is attempting to re-open one route with heavy equipment, and they think they can keep that road passable for four hours this afternoon. After that, the floodwaters will close off all the ways out.

You can read more–and see a map of the affected area–at Kenora Online.




May 12, 2022: It’s All Going

I wasn’t expecting pictures today because of the heavy rainfall warning. But the weather has been better than expected so far, and I received three great sets.

Before we start with the pictures, the comments form is overflowing with people reporting that various places are open, or opening fast.

Let’s back those assertions up with some evidence. First up, aerial photos from James Hendy at River Air. He’s another of my former colleagues from decades ago.

You can click on these pictures to see larger versions that reveal more detail.

James started at Poplar Bay.

Poplar Bay.

It’s partly open, but there’s ice at the south end. Let’s take a closer look.

Poplar Bay, Welcome Channel, Wolf Island, Hare Island.

Next, James cruised out to the Manitou. The first view looks roughly south.


The Manitou. Whisky Island at the right, Barrier Islands in the distance.

Still ice here, and the ice roads haven’t broken apart yet. The Manitou is one of the last places to let go, but once things reach this stage of soft ice, it’s very vulnerable to wind.

Looking more to the south west shows the western stretch of the Manitou.

West Manitou. Crow Rock Island at the upper centre.

Then back towards Kenora. The ability to reach Scotty Island is a key milestone in boat access.


Scotty Island in the distance.

I’ve heard from BB Camps that Town Island is accessible, and it looks like you can make it to Scotty Island now. More about the beach there, later.

Thanks, James!

Our second set of photos come from contributor Scott Benson.

Over Sugar Bay looking east down Clearwater Bay. It’s open water west of here. Frozen east and south.

Scotty’s beach in foreground looking east over Bigstone Bay.

That beach is looking pretty waterlogged. I like the little cluster of ice-road fragments, though.

Looking north over Shammis Island where the main ice road crosses. This area of the lake is 90+% ice at this point.

I’ve said it before, but the ice roads are the last things to let go. This broken one shows how close we are to total ice-out.

Over Ash Bay looking east at the grouping of islands including S Island and north up Corkscrew Channel. Open around S island and frozen to the east towards Whiskey island.

There’s still quite a lot of ice out there, but it’s almost all candled. Basically it’s just fancy ice cubes (well, hexagons, actually) floating around and keeping each other company.

Just west of Victoria Island looking north at Mud Portage, and Woodchuck/Deception bays in the distance. Woodchuck and Deception are ice free.

Over the entrance to Echo bay looking east down Ptarmigan Bay, Zig Zag island in the center. Ice free north of Zig Zag island.

Looking south east at Echo Bay. About 1/2 open water.

West Hawk Lake. This ice has been pushed around by the wind for the past 3 days and won’t last long.

I have had at least one report that West Hawk Lake is wide open. Consider that if an observer was standing on the far shore, they would not be able to see this ice remnant on the west side.

Looking south over Shoal Lake. Some areas open (maybe 5-10%) ice in the middle looks white, the strongest ice I spotted today.

Oh, good. I just had someone asking about Shoal Lake. Typically, Shoal Lake’s ice lasts a few days longer than it does on Lake of the Woods. There’s a pretty big pan there, but I don’t think it will last through the weekend.

Scott was kind enough to write captions for his pictures, saving me a lot of work. Thanks, Scott!

But wait, there’s more.

Here’s a picture  of the ice at Clearwater Bay from Brendon Thiessen that came in while I was writing this post.

This was taken at 2pm today (12/05/2022). Looking Northwest from Big Duck Island toward Sugar Bay.

Brendon was using a drone to check on his docks, (they’re fine) and sent me this to show the ice. Thanks, Brendon!

I’ll finish with a set of aerial photos from MAG Canada’s Justin Martin.

We’ll start with Northern Harbour, because I’ve been curious about it for a  couple of days.

Pine Portage Bay, Sultana Island and Bald Indian Bay.

There’s water around the docks now, but before you phone Northern Harbour, take note that there’s not actually a clear route out of Pine Portage Bay yet.

From Bare Point, Looking west towards Treaty Island.

It looks as if you could take a boat out through Devil’s Gap now. There’s still a lot of pan ice, though, so you’d want to be careful not to get trapped.

Middle Island and Scotty Island.

The same applies if you try to go beyond Scotty Island. Large pans of ice, moving around because of wind and current. South of the Barrier Islands, those sheets are massive. We’ll take a closer look in a minute.

But first, Corkscrew Island, Ptarmigan Bay and Clearwater Bay.


Corkscrew Island, looking west towards Zigzag Island.

Now the Barrier Islands, and the huge ice sheet south of them.

East Allie Island and Allie Island, looking over those Barrier Islands at the ice to the south.

Most years, that ice covered area is the last to go. Small pans of this may survive for several more days.

Thanks for these, Justin!

This last shot from Justin is a little different.

Judging by the Kenora Airport in the background, this is the Essex Road. As you can see, a lengthy stretch of it is underwater.

This is not the only road in the region to be flooded or washed out. The problem in this location is that the Winnipeg River is now higher than the Black Sturgeon Lakes, causing their water levels to rise.

It’s raining as I write this, and we have another heavy rainfall warning, so water levels in the whole drainage basin of Lake of the Woods are sure to continue rising.

As far as the ice is concerned, it’s melting everywhere, and it’s melting fast. It won’t be long now.



May 12, 2022: Lost & Found

I don’t plan a full post today, but there are some minor things that I should mention.

John Dahl reports that the ice is gone from Laurenson’s Lake. In his words:

Today, May 11th, our lake was completely ice free. Second latest date we have over the past 30 or so years. Latest was in 1996 when it was ice free May 13th by our records.

From the comments form, Susan reports that there is still solid ice on Clearwater Bay, and says there’s lots of dock damage due to recent wind, high water and ice.

Which brings us to why this post is called Lost & Found.

When I’m hiking the trails on Tunnel Island, I usually pick up any lost items I come across and take them to the trail map at the parking lot. Mittens, mostly.

However, yesterday I spotted this on the Winnipeg River, and it was too big for that.


It’s a dock, and it still has rocks on it that were intended to weigh it down. So if you have a place on the river, not far below the Norman Dam, maybe check to see if something is missing from your waterfront.

The owner of the dock has been located. He has already secured it and will retrieve it soon.

Apologies to everyone who hoped that this might be theirs. It seems a number of people are missing docks from a range of places.