May 14, 2023: All Clear

I haven’t had any reports of ice in two days, and although the satellite images are not crisp, there’s no sign of ice anywhere near where it was last seen. I’m pretty sure the last of it is gone.

The only question in my mind is whether to say our ice-out date was yesterday or today. I’m leaning towards yesterday, May 13th.

You might be wondering how accurate our predictions were. I looked them up for you, and I’ll summarize them here. I’ll include both the first estimate from early April and the revised estimate in late April when we learned there was a winter storm coming.

I work in five day periods because, like this year, we don’t always know the exact date the last speck of ice melted. Sean Cockrem and Stu Everett picked specific dates, but I’ll spot them two days leeway either side to make it fair.

I work from aerial photos and satellite images. In early April, there wasn’t much open water to judge by, so I made my first guess a very vague one, based on reports of thinner ice than usual. I initially said I thought we’d be ice free in the first ten days of May. That was off, and on April 20,  when the winter storm was imminent (and we had more meaningful aerial photos and satellite images) I revised it to May 11-15.  That worked out to be a good guess.

Sean Cockrem uses winter temperature records and spring forecasts. As the spring weather unfolds, he replaces forecast temperatures with actual ones, and revises his graphs. His first graph called for us to hit his proposed thaw index on May 10. Two days grace puts him covering anywhere from May 8 to May 12, so his first estimate was pretty close. He waited until April 28 to factor in the unexpectedly bad weather, and revised his estimate to May 14, giving him a May 12 to May 16 bracket, and bang on.

Stu Everett goes by snow cover. He’s been watching the thaw for a long time, and he goes by the average time-span from when the snow melts to when the ice melts. He initially predicted May 10, so we’ll expand that to May 8 to May 12 to give him the same margin of error as Sean and I. That didn’t quite work out, and that late April snowstorm threw a serious wrench in his calculations by giving us days more with snow cover. He revised his estimate to May 15. So I’ll expand that to May 13 to 17, and he got a hit, too.

So in summary, once the thaw is well underway, we all managed to make a reasonable estimate two or three weeks in advance. Our predictions five or six weeks in advance were less accurate, of course.

So thanks for tuning in, and even warmer thanks to everyone who sent photos, submitted reports, made comments, or asked insightful questions. The true strength of Ice Patrol comes from pooling our knowledge.

Ice Patrol will now wind down for another season. I’m still hoping for a good satellite shot of Lake of the Woods, and I’m keeping an eye out for one of the Red Lake/Trout Lake area, too.

Oh, let’s finish with a photo that Guy Belluz submitted as a sign of spring.

Painted turtle.

He found a painted turtle hatchling near the water’s edge in the French Narrows area. He made sure it got to the water.





May 12, 2023: Are we there yet?

Almost. Soon.

This morning there was still a sheet of ice between Warroad and Springsteel Point, according to George Marvin.  This afternoon the Marvin Windows pilots reported that some ice in the middle of Big Traverse Bay looked like enough to last another day.

Here’s what it looked like to Aqua:

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite, May 12, 2023, in false colour.

There appears to be a patch of ice near Buffalo Bay, and perhaps something east of it in Big Traverse. There’s some cloud, too, so the extent is not clear.

The pale blue streaks over the north part of the lake cover both water and land, so they’re probably high altitude ice clouds.

Up at the north end, no one I’ve heard from has encountered any ice in the last few days. John Wallis made it out to his place on Ptarmigan yesterday, while Sean Cockrem reported that it was iceless all the way from Sugar Bay across Clearwater to Ward Island, south of Corkscrew.

In the end, the Brick Graph will look like this:

That will put us in the ‘later than average’ category, but not by much. The stack for the first five days of May used to dominate this graph, but now things are distributed more evenly. I don’t think that’s a trend, I think it’s simply a consequence of having accumulated more data.

Signs of spring:

  • Little leaves are sprouting on trees
  • I put my comfy chairs out and had coffee on the deck this morning.


May 11, 2023: Shoal Lake Update

Just a quick bulletin today.

Kingsley Bowles sent me this picture of Shoal Lake this afternoon. He neatly captured a shot of the ice in the southern half of the lake in the late morning.

You can click on it to zoom in.

Shoal Lake.

Substantial sheets of ice are still present in the south part of Shoal Lake.  However, the ice north of Dominique Island and Stevens Islands that was evident yesterday is rapidly disappearing today. Falcon Lake and West Hawk Lake are visible in the upper left corner. Thanks, Kingsley.

Let’s take a quick gander at one of the MODIS images. Here’s Terra‘s view from this morning.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 11, 2023, in false colour.

The ice on Shoal Lake is still visible from space. It looks like there’s some in the middle of Little Traverse Bay on Lake of the Woods, too. I’m not sure what that pale streak is down in Buffalo Bay. Could be dissipating ice, but it seems to continue on land, so perhaps it’s cloud or smoke.

I thought I’d overrule my usual preference for the false colour infra-red images and switch to true colour visible light version to see if it becomes more clear.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 11, 2023, in TRUE colour.

You can see why I usually stick to the false colour ones, but to my eye, the white streaks in the lower part of the image do look more like cloud by natural light. Only the stuff on Shoal Lake shows the clear cracking pattern of ice.

Signs of spring:

  • Saw my first garter snake yesterday
  • And my first dandelions.
  • And a lovely little pale blue butterfly.


May 10: West and South

At this time of year, Ice Patrol shifts it’s focus from trying to find open water to chasing down the surviving ice.

There’s more of that than you’d think.

I’ve been disappointed that I couldn’t find out how things were on Shoal Lake. So I was happy to get this photo that Ian Bruce took yesterday from a Citation on the way to Winnipeg at about 35,000 feet.

Due to haze and cloud shadows, you’ll need to zoom in to make out the shoreline. Click on the picture to see it full screen.

Shoal Lake.

Looking south with Shoal Lake in the foreground, and there’s still a large ice sheet in the southern part, and smaller, weaker sheets north of Dominique and Stevens Islands. Further back, that’s Big Traverse Bay on Lake of the Woods ahead of the wingtip.

Here’s one that shows more of that area.

Big Traverse, Big Island, Little Traverse.

In this southward looking image, The big patch of ice sprawls from the west half of Little Traverse Bay to the west part of Big Traverse Bay. Big Island is near the centre of the frame. Thanks Ian.

Now some lower altitude shots of the Big Traverse Bay area courtesy of Kim Beach, who was out flying in Josh Broten’s Super Cub, also yesterday.

Four Mile Bay and Currys Island.

This looks north from the mouth of the Rainy River. There’s lots of open water here, but further north, towards Garden Island and Big Island, there’s a large sheet of soft ice.

Looking north west from Morris Point to Long Point.

Turning the camera more to the north west shows where the ice sheet meets the shore at Long Point.

Lastly, here’s a shot looking north over Warroad.

Warroad and Muskeg Bay.

This gives a good overview of Warroad, with Springsteel Point at the left and Buffalo Point beyond it.  This part of the lake is still almost entirely iced over. Thanks Kim.

Even though these ice sheets are big, I don’t think they’ll last long, because weather forecasts are calling for mostly seasonal or better temperatures for Warroad, Morson, and Kenora. Saturday could be the exception, with cooler, wetter weather, but high humidity takes a toll on ice, too.


May 9, 2023: Warroad

There’s definitely still ice in Warroad.

Here’s a photo from Gordy Streiff, taken yesterday evening at the mouth of the Warroad River, when the fog had lifted enough to see as far as Springsteel Point.


Muskeg Bay with Springsteel Point in the distance.

That was taken at around 6:45 Monday evening. Thanks, Gordy.

Here’s a photo of the same general area from George Marvin, taken twelve hours later.

Mouth of the Warroad River.

That one’s from 6:15 this morning, when the fog was back. Mood.

These photos left me wondering how extensive the ice is, so I waited until this afternoon, so that clearing skies might give NASA’s Aqua satellite a look at the lake.

While I was getting that ready, George Marvin sent an update with these aerial photos.


Firstly, this is obviously not just a little ice jam at the mouth of the Warroad River. There’s a sheet of ice out there that measures many miles across.

Muskeg Bay looking east towards Rocky Point.

Muskeg Bay is pretty much ice-filled from shore to shore.

Looking north with Buffalo Point in the distance at the left.

Thanks for these, George.

One question I’m not sure I have the answer to: is this all loose ice that blew in from Big Traverse Bay, or is it still the original ice sheet, still intact?

Well, let’s move on to the satellite images for a little more context. Although I was expecting only Aqua to get a shot, (because it passes overhead in the afternoon), when I checked, I found out that Terra managed to get an image this morning.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 9, 2023, in false colour.

The north half of the lake is covered in cloud, but it’s fairly clear the ice still covers much more than Muskeg Bay. It looks like about half of Big Traverse is icy, and a good portion of Little Traverse, too.

Aqua‘s afternoon image shows little change.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite, May 9, 2023, in false colour.

Neither of these shots is very sharp, perhaps because of thin fog near the surface.

Here’s a matching image from May 4th. It’s nice and sharp, it might help you get oriented better, and it gives an idea of what an amazing amount of thaw happened in just five days.


MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 4, 2023, in false colour.

Today’s satellite images also leave a question unanswered. What about Shoal Lake? It couldn’t be seen by either MODIS satellite today, but I expect we’ll find out in a day or two.

Meanwhile, in Kenora, the floating bridge to Coney Island was removed on schedule today, so the waterway is clear from downtown Kenora all the way through Devil’s Gap to Bigstone Bay and beyond.

That counts as a sign of spring, by the way.

The Kenora weather forecast is for highs of around 20ºC for the rest of this week, except for Saturday, because that’s a weekend, and so it will be cooler and rainy. Sunday looks better, though.



May 8, 2023: Ice Update

Lots of people took the time to let me know what the ice was doing in different places. Here they are in approximately south to north order.

  • Gordy Streiff and George Marvin checked in separately from Warroad: both reported that Muskeg Bay is full of dark wet ice, but that fog makes it hard to see how much. George thought it looked pretty thick and would take more than a day to melt.
  • Allison says that Taylor Bay, east of Bigsby Island, has been clear since May 5th, and Big Traverse was clear as far as they could see as of yesterday evening.
  • According to Michelle, the Morson Facebook page called ice-out there on May 5th.
  • I checked the Flag Island Webcam this evening and could not see any ice.
  • Bob Lemnus said the Young’s Bay boat ramp cam at the Northwest Angle had shown open water for two or three days, but then candled ice and some slabs blew in in the early afternoon today. He didn’t think it could be too much, as boats had been able to arrive and depart.
  • Kelly Belair didn’t go flying yesterday, but one of his friends did, and reported that in the area of Queer Island, he didn’t find any ice anywhere.
  • Geoff Stevenson visited Clearwater Bay. “We were at Clearwater Bay yesterday to view the new docks [and] boardwalk being put in at Pye’s Landing.  As far as we could see down Clearwater bay, Deception bay and around the Rockeries was clear.”
  • Craig Holmstrom is a year-round resident of Stull Island on Shoal Lake. He says: “Lots of ice here still. It’s melting along the south shore of our island but to the north all I can see is ice. It usually opens on the south end of the lake but the Center remains frozen for another 3-5 days before we can access civilization.

I did get a couple of pictures, too. Here’s Dave Kerr’s image from his dock cam on Wolf Island, looking out at Whisky Island on the Manitou.

Wolf Island dock cam image of the Manitou from this afternoon.

You can tell from the flag which way any ice would have went.

Dwight Nick also sent some pictures.

He first tried to get to camp on the east side of Scotty Island on Saturday, but turned back due to heavy ice.

Ice on Bigstone Bay near Scotty Island on Saturday, May 6.

Ice between Scotty Island and Middle Island prevented them from getting through there, nor could they enter the Hades. They had no luck going around the west end of Scotty, either.

He tried again on Sunday, and the situation was completely different.

View into Bigstone Bay from the east end of Scotty Island on Sunday, May 7.

I think that might be Kipling Island in the middle of the picture, but I’m just guessing from the map.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who wrote in. For brevity, I paraphrased some of the comments. I hope I didn’t alter the meaning of what anyone said.

So in summary, most of the lake is clear except for some wind-driven loose ice in western bays such as Muskeg Bay by Warroad, and at the Northwest Angle. Shoal Lake still has ice, but it’s not unusual for ice there to last two or three days longer than on Lake of the Woods.

Naturally, all this wet weather is also raising lake levels. While things are much more reasonable than last year, the Lake of the Woods Control Board is increasing flow through the Norman Dam to try and bring things down to ‘preferred levels’ for this time of year. From the link above you can navigate to their Notice Board for the full details.

May 8, 2023: What’s Left?

Boaters may have abruptly gone from wondering, “Where can I get to?” to “Where’s the ice?”

Wet windy weather has wiped out huge amounts of ice, including not just exposed expanses, but also sheltered areas.

For instance: the ice road between Treaty Island and Rogers Island that triggered the first forays of Ice Patrol decades ago has melted away. Keith and Linda Nelson were able to reach their camp yesterday, reporting that they  found only a little remnant of ice in a quiet corner of a little back bay. They went through Devil’s Gap after going the long way around Coney Island because the floating bridge is still in place. Last I heard, it was slated to come out tomorrow.

But what really blew me away was a comment from Minnie Thompson that ‘LOW was clear.’ I emailed her to ask what part of the lake she had seen, and her reply was:

Looking from the south shore by Morris Point
we can see water as far as we can see. 
There is also a North wind.

That’s pretty stunning news. Morris Point is close to the southernmost part of Lake of the Woods, and it should offer an unimpeded view of Big Traverse Bay. That north wind would be significant, too, as it would likely push the any loose floating ice ashore on Morris Point and the surrounding areas. Minnie didn’t mention seeing any of it. Could it all have melted, or gone somewhere else?

I wasn’t able to look at yesterday’s weather for Warroad, but the Weather Network does have ‘last 24 hours’ data for Morson. Their wind was mostly east yesterday, occasionally backing to north east, so the ice might have been pushed into Muskeg Bay, by Warroad.

Today’s weather will rule out satellite imagery, and it won’t be very nice for flying, either.



Can you see any any ice today? What does it look like?

Don’t worry, your comment will be public, but your email address will only be seen by me. You cannot send a picture using the comments form, but if you have one, say so in the message box, and I’ll get back to you.

If you have news from other parts of the lake, you’re welcome to comment, too.

While we’re waiting for the internet to work its magic, here are a couple of pictures from Byron Byron who watched the ice go out in Poplar Bay.

Candled ice on Poplar Bay, May 6, 2023.

Byron didn’t mention it, but if you’re that close, the sound of candled ice crystals clinking and tinkling against each other is amazing, something like wind chimes.

The very next morning, yesterday, it was all gone.

Poplar Bay, May 7, 2023.

Thanks, Byron.

Signs of spring:

  • Not one, but two float-planes have appeared at the Kenora seaplane base.
  • Grass is now green.
  • More of out-of-province licence plates can be seen. (Welcome back!)



May 7, 2023: Melting Everywhere

Reports flooded in yesterday evening.

Chuck Tyrell reached Scotty Island.

The beach on Scotty Island.

Chuck reports that he could not get to the far side of the island; ice still blocked his attempts. Thanks, Chuck.

Kurt Skakum sent two pictures showing the ice-out on Pine Portage Bay.

Pine Portage Bay at 6:45 on Friday evening.

Pine Portage Bay at 5:30 on Saturday afternoon.

There’s still a little ice visible in the distance, but Kurt reports that a boat ran the length of Pine Portage Bay on Saturday. Thanks Kurt.

Aaron Bosma sent this picture an hour or so later, showing Pine Portage Bay all open.

Pine Portage Bay fully open.

Thanks, Aaron.

Craig Dunn sent this picture of Echo Bay.

Echo Bay from the west end.

Craig says the ice was candled, but still covered about half the bay when he took this picture. Thanks, Craig.

Meanwhile, the Manitou was also breaking up. Here’s a shot from Dave Kerr’s dock cam on Wolf Island.

The Manitou from Wolf Island at 6:53 pm on Saturday.

Thanks Dave.

I started with all these shoreline pictures because they give an idea of just how fast things are changing.

Now I’d like to switch to aerial photos from Kelly Belair to show the bigger picture. You can click on these to see them at full resolution.

Looking north across the Manitou.

See where the ice road bends? That’s where it passes around the east end of Whisky Island. The island in the middle of the picture is Palisade. So there’s lots of ice in the Manitou, but it’s poor, and it’s melting along the island shorelines.

Let’s follow that ice road south to twelve mile portage.

Looking north over Twelve Mile Portage.

Lots of open water around Shammis Island and Crow Rock Island now, and also in Micrometer Bay, at the upper left.

How is it to the south of the Barrier Islands?

Cintiss Island and Crescent Island.

Well, pretty icy.  But this part of the lake is where ice often persists until the very end.

From here, Kelly flew a little to the east.

Ferrier Island.

This shot looks north towards the eastern part of the Barrier Islands: East Allie Island and the Eastern Peninsula. Here, too, there’s open water along the shorelines. Most of the dark patches are just cloud shadows, though.

After this, Kelly headed over towards Yellow Girl Bay.

Red Cliff Bay and Yellow Girl Bay.

This shot is taken from near Shore Island, looking south east over Red Cliff Bay, with Yellow Girl in the distance.

Next, over to Andrew Bay.

Andrew Bay and Witch Bay.

This is from about half way down Andrew Bay, looking east. Witch Bay is in the upper right part of the picture.

Bigstone Bay.

Here’s a look down Bigstone Bay. That’s Heenan Point just above the centre, and below that is the mouth of Pine Portage Bay. The land in the bottom half of the frame is two parts of Sultana Island.

Pine Portage Bay.

This shot looks out of Pine Portage Bay, with Bigstone Bay spanning the frame in the distance. These pictures were taken in the afternoon, and that ice in the foreground was all gone by suppertime.

Looking south west from Bald Indian Bay towards the Manitou.

I had to pore over the map for a while to sort these islands out, so I tagged them. Anyway, it’s about half ice in the foreground, but more than that in the distance.

Now a Sunday morning update from Devon Ostir. Here’s the latest on the Manitou from his dock cam on Hare Island.

Hare Island dock cam image of the Manitou.

Alternative view from Hare Island.

Thanks, Devon.

Okay, I think this post has gone on long enough. I’ve still got pictures coming in, but I’ll save them for the next report.

The weather forecast is for rain until Tuesday and then things heat up mid-week before returning to near normal. Humidity and heat are both very good at melting ice.

Most lake-dwellers with places near Kenora will be able to reach their camps in the next day or two, and the entire lake should be ice free by next weekend.










May 6, 2023: Satellite Saturday

I’ll get to the satellite stuff in a minute, but first you have to see this picture from Joe Laurin.

This doe is going with the floe.

I would not have thought that ice could support a deer. Apparently there were some tense moments, but after a two mile rafting trip, the ice floe bumped into the shore, and the deer made it onto solid ground. This took place yesterday, somewhere around the Northwest Angle.

Joe also sent some aerial photos of that part of the lake.

Looking north west towards Northwest Angle Inlet from near Oak Island.

Looking east down Sturgeon Channel.

It looks as if the ice around Moose Bay and Little Traverse is getting weaker by the day.

Thanks, Joe!

It was cloudy this morning, so it doesn’t look like we’re going to get a fresh satellite image today.

But we can compare the most recent shot to the archives. The idea is to look at old images to see which years have similar amounts of ice in early May. We check the records to see how long it took to melt the ice then, and we might update our notion of how long it will take this year.

We’ll use the false-colour MODIS images from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites for this.

May 3, 2023

This is how things looked three days ago.

May 5, 2022.

And this is how things looked in early May last year. Clearly, we’re doing much better this year. That’s encouraging, because for several weeks it looked as if we were going to match last year’s miserable spring. Ice-free date in 2022 was May 16. We’ll beat that this year.

We’ll skip 2021, because the ice was all gone by late April that year. Can’t win ’em all.

May 5, 2020.

2020 was thawing faster than this year, too. The ice was nearly gone by now, and the lake was all clear by May 9th.

May 4, 2019.

2019 was in our ballpark, with thinning ice by early May. It was all gone by May 14th.

May 6, 2018.

2018 was similar, but perhaps a little worse. The ice vanished by May 14th that year, too.

I would say we’re on track to do a little better than May 14th, if we get similar weather.

I didn’t make many weather notes in those two years, but I did find this remark in an old Ice Patrol Post: “2018 was a late, cold spring that turned really warm at the end of April. 2019 was a slow, cool spring with few warm days.”

Our forecast right now is for a stretch of cool wet days with milder than usual nights, and then perhaps a spike to 21ºC on Thursday the 11th. If that comes true, that could be the day. Or maybe the rain and humidity will do it first.

Let’s finish with a photo of Woodchuck Bay, from Andrew Ross.

Woodchuck Bay.

Oh, look, over on the left, there’s just enough ice to fill a cooler!

May 5, 2023: Going Fast

There are several signs that the ice is going fast today.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s a couple grand worth from Devon Ostir’s dock cam on Hare Island.

This is what the Manitou looked like late this morning.

Hare Island dock cam image from 11:38 this morning.

And here’s what the same camera saw just four hours later.

Hare Island dock cam image from 3:35 this afternoon.

The ice was breaking up rapidly. Thanks for the pictures, Devon!

You can be sure this is not just a Manitou thing. All over the region, today’s warm temperatures and stiff winds will be wreaking havoc on weak ice.

Here’s a comment from Stu Everett. If you’re visiting the Ice Patrol website, you may have already seen it, but if you generally just read the emails, the comments aren’t usually included.

Accelerating change is right! This morning I was out at Williard Lake and the part of the lake I was on was ice covered shore to shore with black ice. By early afternoon, the wind has blown it clear.

Also, I was out at Clearwater Bay moments ago. Deception Bay is now ice free up to McCallum Point. The main stretch of Clearwater is still ice covered (as far as I could see from shore) but there are open areas even there. My guess is it will be ice free in a few days if not earlier.

Stu Everett

A few hours later, I received these timely pictures of Clearwater Bay and Deception Bay from Mike B.

The first one is looking from McCallum point to the north across Deception Bay towards the Rockeries.

Deception Bay.

No ice visible in this shot at all. But in case you’re starting to feel sentimental about ice, Mike’s second shot Looks south across Clearwater Bay towards Zigzag Island.

Looking towards Zigzag Island.

That’s not the kind of ice you skate on! Thanks, Mike!

Signs of spring:

  • Poplars and lilacs are starting to bud.
  • Found a tick on my dog yesterday. Because of the prevalence of tick-borne Lyme Disease here, Ebony is on preventative pills. See your vet.

TECHNICAL NOTE: if you reply to one of the Ice Patrol’s mass emails, it’s not like replying to a normal email from a friend.

As it says at the bottom of each email:

         You can also reply to this email to leave a comment.

Because the email subscription is an add-on to the Ice Patrol website, WordPress will convert your message to a public comment on the Ice Patrol blog. That’s great if you’re reporting on ice conditions or sending a short thank-you note, but it’s best not to include things like phone numbers.

Also, this means you cannot send a photo by replying to those email bulletins. Once your email reply is converted to a comment, all attachments and pictures are lost.

To send a picture, email

The long-term weather forecast is anticipating a week of very warm weather starting on about May 9th.  That will probably deliver the coup de grâce.