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.

 

 

April 24, 2022: Drone Shots

Another week, another storm. It hasn’t been good weather for flying, and the satellites haven’t seen much of us either. But the low clouds parted enough to let Paul Leischow get his drone aloft this afternoon. For fun, he threw in a matching photo from one year ago today.

Clicking on this pair of pictures will take you to Paul’s latest drone panorama.

Cameron Island, then and now. Looking north, with Mackies Island on the left, the east end of Coney Island  at the right, and Keewatin Bridge in the distance.

The upper frame shows a lot of greyish ice, because this weekend’s rain washed away a lot of snow cover. I know, because I’ve been pumping it out of my basement.

Which would be good news, but the storm will end with a return to unseasonably cold weather. Overnight we can expect the temperature to drop to -7°C, and any further precipitation will be switching to snow. (We wouldn’t want to run out of snow.) Monday will be unusually cold, with a daytime high of -5°C and an overnight low of about -9°C.

That  -9°C will equal the record low for April 25, set in 2002.  For perspective, Environment Canada gives average temperatures for April 25th as a high of 12°C and a low of 1°.

We might see Mean Daily Temperatures rise above zero by Wednesday, giving us an Inflection Date of April 27th. That would be the worst in my records, edging out 2013, when temperatures rose and fell and we didn’t call inflection until April 26th. As far as wishing for some above-average temperatures this month, there’s not much hope. The 29th might come close, and then we might see more normal temperatures by around May 4th or 5th. That’s around the date when the lake is entirely ice-free most years.

All in all, it’s shaping up to be one of the latest thaws in recent history.

Most marinas are still ice-locked. Not that there’s anywhere to go boating to. However, Tom Taylor says he heard that at Clearwater Bay, “water is gushing in from the Rockeries Marina culvert, and that [water at] the marina is open all the way to the public boat launch.” Can anyone confirm this?

Update on Rockeries Marina, courtesy of Jeff Byckal, via the comments form. Thanks, Jeff.

Signs of spring: I saw fresh bear tracks on Tunnel Island today. Be bear aware.

Oh, and I spotted a Florida licence plate in town a day or so ago. I thought to myself: must not be an Ice Patrol follower.

 

 

April 18, 2022: Drone Panorama

Here’s the latest interactive drone panorama from Paul Leischow.

Click on the still picture below to load the interactive video. Once it’s running, you can use your mouse to stop it, pan around or zoom in. Clicking on one of the arrow markers will transfer you to the drone panorama taken from that location.

April 17, 2022.

Apart from the fact that it’s snowing, I think the most notable thing here is that grey ice without snow on it. That’s new ice, formed since the snowstorm.  It’s pretty thin, so it doesn’t represent a serious setback, but it’s not really what we want to see in April.

This area is one of the first parts of the lake to thaw. The fact that it’s still so icy is a bad sign.

Thanks, Paul!

April 10, 2022: Sunday Show & Tell

Today I offer some video files.

First up, Paul Leischow’s latest panoramic drone recording. Paul has added a new feature; on his drone flight today, he recorded panoramic views from three different hovering spots. You can see the view from near Keewatin Bridge, Yacht Club Island or Keewatin Channel, or all three.

A still frame from Paul’s drone panorama.

Click on the still picture above to load the interactive video.

You can scroll around, pan up and down and zoom in. The three viewpoints are marked with arrows, and clicking on one them will transfer you to the recording from that spot.

Paul also included a link to his drone panorama from April 10th of last year, so you can see the difference. Have a crying towel ready.

A still frame from Paul’s drone panorama from this date last year.

Same deal: click on the still picture to visit the interactive video file.

Next up, a two-minute video from my limnologist friend Hilary Dugan*. She’s at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and in this short feature, she explains what melts lake ice and how it transforms.

Title screen from Hilary Dugan’s two-minute video on melting lake ice.

*I have never actually met Hilary Dugan, but she’s been a great help with technical stuff and satellite imagery.

I did meet her parents yesterday when they attended Common Ground, a Storytelling Event.

I used part of my talk to explain some of the Ice Patrol graphs, and people commented on how helpful it was. My presentation was recorded on video, so I hope to one day provide a link.

Lastly, an interview with me, recorded by the folks at Standard Insurance for their Passionate People series. I talk to Matthew Schottroff about how Ice Patrol came to be a website.

Matthew Schottroff interviews Tim Armstrong.

Clicking on the still will take you to “Plan Your First Boat Trip of the Year with Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol” at Standard Insurance’s website.

 

April 4, 2022: A Drone Panorama

Paul Leischow has sent us another drone panorama. I say another because he sent one at roughly this time last year. 

But first let’s see the one from yesterday. It was taken from over Gourlay Island, and the 360° panning view shows nearby Yacht Club Island, as well as a good look at Safety Bay and Keewatin Channel.

Drone panoramic view by Paul Leischow.

If you click on the picture above, you’ll be taken to the video version, which pans slowly around. Better yet, you can control it with your mouse: you can swing around, pan up and down, and even zoom in.

I have to say, there’s not a lot of open water yet. 

I wanted to include a link to Paul’s comparable drone panorama from last year, but instead of taking me to the video from April 10th, it now connects to a version from April 24th, 2021.   Although that’s weeks later, I have to say the difference is dramatic. 

UPDATE:

Paul has sent me a fresh link to his drone panorama from early April of last year.

Taken on the same date from the same spot, the comparison to the panorama at the top of this entry is fascinating. Also, the weather was nicer, so it’s pretty.

Fortunately, we have warmer weather coming, and this week may finally see us reach the Inflection Point.

April 10, 2021: Satellite Saturday / Multiple Contributors

Okay, this is going to be a long post, because several people sent me stuff.

But first, the week’s big news.

Ontario has gone back into lockdown, and this time it includes a stay-at-home order.

Here’s the wording from the alert that popped up on my phone:

A stay-at-home order is in effect. Only leave home for essential purposes such as food, health care, vaccines, exercise or work. It’s the law. Stay home, save lives.

And here’s a link to some more detailed information.

I have not found any specific wording about visiting summer residences in the new order. I have enquired, but it may take a while to get a response. The old rules from the previous lockdown were that you could: A) visit your camp for up to 24 hours to perform necessary maintenance, in which case you cannot be in contact with anyone, or B) isolate for 14 days, so you’d have to bring gas and food with you to last for for two weeks before you could go shopping.

It gets more complicated if you are visiting from Manitoba, as you might also have to isolate for 14 days upon your return, but I’ve been told this needn’t apply as long as you adhere to the Ontario requirements while here.

Here’s an excerpt from the Manitoba government website that was updated on April 8:

As per the public health order, 14 days of self-isolation is required for people returning or coming to Manitoba from all jurisdictions.

Now back to a more comfortable topic: the weather. The NASA satellites got good images on April 6, and then it turned cloudy until today.

Here’s what things looked like on Tuesday the 6th.

If you click on this image, you’ll see a version with some landmarks tagged.

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image from April 6, 2021, in false colour.

Today’s images haven’t been uploaded yet.

In the meantime, I have a picture from Devon Ostir, whose dock cam on Hare Island looks out on the Manitou.

With the exception of the satellite imagery, you can click on today’s pictures to see a full-screen version that is zoomable.

Next up, a drone shot of Keewatin Channel, courtesy of Paul Leischow.

I chose this specific shot from over Crowe Island because it shows that the water is open all the way to Keewatin. Actually, there’s a whole 360° panorama, and you can view it here if you want to scope out Rat Portage Bay or the Tangle from this vantage point.

Now photos from Josh Broten, and they are very revealing.

Over Buffalo Bay looking east to Garden Island.

Looking east at the big ice patch between Garden, Big, and Oak Island.

Over Windfall Island looking north between Falcon Island and the Western Peninsula.

Looking SW over Bishop Bay with Shoal Lake in the distance.

Over Skeet Island looking NNE.

Over Yellow Girl Point looking SE down Long Bay.

Aside from the huge stretches of open water, the key point is that all over the south end of the lake, the ice has separated from the shore. It’s still in enormous sheets, but it will start to break apart into pans soon.

Further north, where there are more islands and less vast stretches of water, the progress does not look as dramatic, but it’s following a similar path.

In case you missed it, regular commenter Stu Everett pointed out the other day that when current through the lake is slow in  winter, the ice forms to a more even thickness all over the lake, and sets up a situation where the big slow-moving parts of the lake are melting almost as fast as the places that usually have more current.

Before I forget, special thanks to all the people who sent in pictures or messages today.

The first of today’s satellite images is available.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image for April 10, 2021, in false colour.

Pity about the cloud cover [low altitude cumulus clouds at the left, made of water vapour, high level cirrus clouds with more ice at the right] but you can see the same trend photographed by Josh.

UPDATE: Aqua’s image is up.

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image from April 10, 2021, in false colour.

Still some cloud, but it’s moved a little, revealing different parts of the lake.

The big question is: have we reached the tipping point? Once the ice breaks up, the end is very near, because wind action becomes a major factor. I think we’re almost there.

So naturally, the forecast is for some cool temperatures. The Weather Network has revised the fourteen day forecast since I last talked about it, and it now shows Monday as the coolest, with temps hovering around the freezing point all day. After that, daytime highs may run a little below normal for the next two weeks, while overnight lows are kind of 50/50.

Will the ice go? Your guess is as good as mine.

April 4, 2021: Shoal Lake to Kenora

Some new aerial photographs from Josh Broten, and also the first drone picture of the year, taken by George Dyker over Clytie Bay, a popular cottage area on Shoal Lake. All were taken Saturday.

Let’s start with Josh’s overview of Shoal.

You can click on these pictures to see them full screen and full size.

Northwest Angle, Shoal Lake.

Looking north from over the Northwest Angle towards Shoal Lake. Lots of water and only pan ice in the Angle. In the distance, the ice looks poor on Shoal.

Monument Bay, Shoal Lake.

Here’s a slightly closer look at Shoal, with the camera pointing north west over Monument Bay, so that Shoal Lakes large Dominique and Stevens Island appear side by side. Mason Lake and part of Reid Lake are a the right side of the frame.

Now George Dyker’s drone shot of Clytie Bay on Shoal. George operates a DJI drone.

Shoal Lake’s Clytie Bay.

This view looks south west, with the open water at Gateway Point in the foreground. That ice road that heads off onto the main body of the lake looks to be in one piece, but it’s riddled with cracks.

Now, back to our tour with Josh’s Cub, picking things up at the south end of the lake, where Josh is based.

Oak Island, Flag Island, Brush Island.

We’re back by the NW Angle, looking at the area by the international border. The open water is mainly by Flag Island, which has a webcam, by the way. You can find a link to it on the Lake of the Woods Links sidebar.*

*When viewed on a desktop or large tablet, Ice Patrol offers a number of features on a sidebar to the right of the main column. These include Recent Comments, a Search Tool, a Flag Counter, the Archive Tool, and an extensive list of links that may be of interest to lake dwellers and visitors.  However, if you’re in the habit of viewing Ice Patrol on a phone, or via the email subscriber list, you may not see the sidebar.

Also a link to my writing blog. Support me by buying my SF novel, AVIANS. It’s about girl power, alternative aviation, and volcanoes! E-book and trade paperbacks available. Averaging 4.5% stars last time I checked.

Oak Point, Big Narrows.

Looking south. The patch of open water in the foreground is right at Oak Point, and there’s open water almost all the way through Big Narrows. At the left, on the far side of Big Narrows Island and Tranquil Channel, there’s some open water through French Portage Narrows.

Chisholm Island, Cliff Island.

Looking north west, with Chisholm Island at the bottom of the frame, and Cliff Island at the left. The Alneau Peninsula is just off the picture to the left, and the Barrier Islands are near the upper right corner. Prominent pressure ridges show the strain on the ice.

Let’s finish Josh’s tour with a shot of the Kenora area.

Poplar Bay, Keewatin Channel, Rat Portage Bay.

Centered on Keewatin Channel, this picture looks north east towards Rat Portage Bay, Safety Bay and Kenora. Poplar Bay is in the lower left corner.

The ice is weakening, slowly but steadily. Warm temperatures all week, with daily highs in the double digits, should help.

In the meantime, a reminder. Ontario went back into a province-wide lockdown on Saturday, April 3rd, and is expected to stay that way for a four week “emergency brake.” Hairdressers are closed, restaurants are take-out only, and stores are restricted to half or quarter occupancy, depending on how essential they are. More details here.

 

 

May 7, 2020: Bigstone Bay

I’m going to start with two pictures that are a couple of days old, and then show how things are changing. Bigstone Bay is one of the last places on Lake of the Woods to have ice. I’m not sure why, but this is true year after year. Perhaps there’s not much current.

You can click on the pictures to see them full-screen. That version can be zoomed.

Except the satellite image. Kenora’s Round Lake is about the smallest thing the MODIS cameras can show you, and trying to zoom in will just make it worse.

The first two pictures are from Al Smith, operator of Smith Camps on Thunder Bay.

Looking west from Heenan Point.  Sultana Island on the right, Scotty Island on left.

Still a good extent of ice in this picture from sunset on Tuesday evening.

Looking east from Smith Camps on Thunder Bay towards Eagle Pass.

Eagle pass is the water route around the east end of Hay Island. Al says it looks to be ice free from Route Bay through to Moore Bay.

Now some drone photographs from today, with thanks to Michael Tomashowski.

This picture facing West shows Bigstone Bay with Heenan Point poking out into the ice.

Looking north east at Longbow Lake.

The west end of Longbow looks open, but zoom in to get a better look at the ice in the more distant east half of the lake.

Michael has operated a DJI Mavic Pro since 2017. Thanks, Michael.

NASA’s Terra Satellite got a clear view of Lake of the Woods today. Here’s the false-colour image.

The ice on Shoal Lake is still visible from space.

The bright blue patch at the left is ice on Shoal Lake; it’s shrinking day by day. Less easy to spot is the ice on Bigstone. Near the north end of Lake of the Woods, look for a sizeable island shaped like a battered battle-axe, chopping downward: that’s Hay Island. Just north of it, a dim patch of blue is the thin ice remaining on Bigstone. Longbow Lake is just north of that, but the ice there is not visible to the satellite’s camera. Too thin and waterlogged, I expect. If there’s any ice remaining south of the Barrier Islands, I can’t see it.

NOTES:

Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol has seen a sharp reduction in web visitors this spring, to about half of recent years. Fair enough. Many visitors won’t be able to come in the early part of spring. Also, my being laid off from my flying job for three months (because of the pandemic) has meant that there have been far fewer aerial photographs this year, and that some areas have had much less coverage. Sorry about that.

But there have been pluses: I’ve had a lot more guest contributors this year. Many have taken the time to email me photographs to share with you. Some have made multiple flights in their small planes, and for the first time, I’ve been able to feature drone photography.

Despite the problems, it’s been gratifying to be able to do this blog while grounded. I never dreamed I’d get this much help. Thank you all.

 

May 5, 2020: Remnants

We’re down to the last remnants of ice on Lake of the Woods now.

John Lunny sent this “before and after” pair of pictures taken from Lunny’s Island today as the ice cover changed dramatically. What a difference a day makes!

You can click on these pictures to see them full-screen.

The view is east down Bigstone Bay, with Kipling Island near the middle of the picture.

This morning

Late this afternoon

Fascinating to see the ice go dark in a matter of hours. John says the thermometer at his camp went as high as 22ºC this afternoon, although the official temperature at the Kenora airport never got higher than 14ºC.

An hour later, I got these pictures from Ted Main, also of Bigstone Bay, but from a different angle.

Kipling Island again, but looking west

The ice is totally candled.

Looking towards Northern Harbour from Heenan Point

 

Since we had mostly sunny weather today, I was hoping the satellite images would be clear. I was wondering about ice south of the Barrier Islands. Terra’s view was half obscured by cloud, but Aqua managed a mostly clear view.

The image is only 640 pixels square, but if you click on it, you’ll see a version overlaid  with tags for Kenora, Bigstone Bay, the Barrier Islands, and Shoal Lake.

Lake of the Woods, May 5, 2020. MODIS camera on NASA’s Aqua satellite. False-colour image.

The wispy blue is high cloud. Ice on the lake, specifically on Shoal Lake, and on Lake of the Woods south of the Barrier Islands, is a little more defined. Note that the ice is a very dark blue, indicating it is very thin and weak.

It will be gone soon.

Just before I uploaded this post, I got a couple of pictures from Matthew Belair. The Belairs have a place on Queer Island, not far from that ice by the Barrier Islands.

These are drone photos, taken this evening.

Looking east into Andrew Bay with the east end of Queer Island in the foreground.

No ice this way. But wait, there’s more.

Looking south at French Narrows. That’s the Eastern Peninsula at the left and East Allie Island at the right. 

These pictures aren’t very zoomable, but in the upper right corner, there’s ice down around Robertson Island.

So thanks to all of today’s contributors: John Lunny, Ted Main, and Matthew Belair.

Starting Wednesday night, the Weather Network says we may see a string of cold nights, with overnight lows of -5ºC for three nights in a row. I didn’t like that forecast, so I went to see what Environment Canada had to say… [Grits teeth] It’s worse! They’re saying minus seven on Thursday night. Really? It’s May. Would an afternoon on the deck be too much to ask?

Oh, well. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

April 23, 2020: Josh Broten / Kelly Belair

The first pictures were taken by Josh Broten at the south end of the lake on Wednesday, the 22nd. He flies a cub out of Rosseau, Minnesota. I lifted the captions straight from his email.

Looking SE over Muskeg Bay. You can see the ice is really weak around the shore by Springsteel Resort and Warroad.

Looking east over Garden island.

Looking east over little traverse.

 

Looking north through Tug and French portage. Open water is all through Tranquil and down past Kennedy and almost leading to Skeet as it hugs Horse Island. Hoping for some big changes over the weekend and into next week with possible rain and higher daytime ad overnight temps.

 

Now some drone pictures from Kelly Belair. These were taken on Thursday, April 23rd.

If I’m understanding Kelly’s email correctly, he put a boat in the water at the Recreation Centre and managed to make his way almost to Scotty Island, although he had to push through some rotten ice to do it. There he encountered solid ice and launched the drone to take pictures.

Scotty beach looking south. Can see the water at strawberry narrows and if you zoom in it’s all water from railroad to east tip of queer and south of queer is open all the way to the elbow.

The Manitou with Whiskey Island on the right. Can see lots of water on the left of the photo, that’s the Elbow.

Looking west over Holmstrom’s Marsh top right. Whiskey top left.

Thanks, Josh and thanks, Kelly.

Signs of spring: I saw a motorcyclist today for the first time in over a week. I put my summer tires on this afternoon, as the temperatures will (finally!) be warmer than 7ºC. We made it to 13º today, which is normal for this time of year. The Weather Network is forecasting  not-quite-normal temperatures for the next fourteen days.