First, this notice from the City of Kenora, issued March 4th:
On Monday, March 9th the winter road access on Coney Island will be closed for the season.
Residents with vehicles on the island should consider moving [them] before the chain across the road is locked preventing vehicles from returning to mainland.
Thank you for your cooperation.
This marks the beginning of the end for the ice roads. If this seems early, don’t be too surprised: the Lake of the Woods Control Board has been warning of thin and unreliable ice on the Winnipeg River all winter. That’s because high flow through the Norman Dam has meant strong currents on the river, and poor ice formation.
Likewise, those parts of Lake of the Woods that have significant water flow are also likely to have weak ice. That includes Safety Bay, one of the first areas to open up because of the water flowing out of the lake and into the river.
My ice-fishing friends report that ice is generally thinner than usual, and very thin in some places. It’s common in March for the ice to be about a meter thick, so that three-foot augers sometimes cannot penetrate without an extension. This year, I hear that the ice is somewhere between two and three feet thick, except where it isn’t. One friend was drilling a handful of holes and was shocked to find that in one spot, the drill popped through ice that was only a few inches thick. Probably there had been a little patch of open water there that had only frozen over during the most recent cold snap. Then fresh snow made it look just like the solid ice all around.
Other pilots and I are observing large areas of slushy ice, and snowmobilers have confirmed this.
Sean Cockrem is working on his graphs, so we’ll soon be able to visually compare this winter to other recent ones. We expect this will confirm our feeling that this winter was pretty mild.
Regular reports on Ice Patrol will commence soon, as we are probably approaching this year’s Inflection Date, the day when temperatures start to average above freezing. More precisely, the date when the Mean Daily Temperatures begin to consistently exceed 0°C. That’s when the thaw starts in earnest.
Lastly, if you’d like to meet me in person, I’ll be talking at this year’s Common Ground, where storytellers share their special stories about their connection to Lake of the Woods.
This year there are eight featured speakers. The event is on Saturday, April 4th, from 9 am to 2:30 pm, at the Seven Generations Conference Centre, 240 Veterans Drive.
I believe tickets are $30 in advance or $35 at the door. Advance tickets are available at Kenora Public Libraries and the Lake of the Woods Museum. There’s a morning break and a lunch break.
I’ll be speaking just after 9:00, right after the opening remarks. I’ll be showing pictures and talking about how Ice Patrol began and evolved, and what I’ve learned from all those years observing the ice-out. There will be a few minutes for questions.