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 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: 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 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.


May 4, 2023: Steady Change

Lots of stuff to talk about today.

First off, we have a fresh batch of Aerial photos taken by my friend Tom Hutton at MAG Canada.

You can click on these pictures to see a larger version that you can zoom in on.

I’ve tagged some key landmarks to help you get oriented.

Tom approached the lake from the east, so we’ll start there.

Bigstone Bay.

I didn’t tag it because I didn’t want to put text on the ice, but Bigstone Bay is the big one at the right. The first thing you’ll notice is that there’s still lots of ice out there. But take a closer look at the shorelines; even in this icy area, they’re melting.

More of Bigstone Bay.

In the second shot, we’ve moved a little further north west, to look at the next batch of bays closer to Kenora.


Pine Portage Bay, Bald Indian Bay.

I didn’t tag this one, but that’s Northern Harbour in the foreground.

Town Island and the Manitou.

I’ve been talking about the water between Town Island and Scotty Island recently. Here you can see that there’s been more progress in the last twenty four hours.

Treaty Island and Rat Portage Bay.

The ice on Rat Portage Bay, at the right of centre in this image, is dwindling fast. It looks as if you could boat to at least one corner of Gun Club Island now.

Thanks, Tom!

Now, people have been asking if I’m still thinking we can melt all this ice in less than two weeks. Let me explain why I think we can.

Here are a pair of photos from Devon Ostir’s dock cams on Hare Island. They look south over the Manitou towards Whisky Island.

Here’s today’s pic.


Hare Island dock cam image from May 4, 2023.

And here’s one from exactly one year ago.

Hare Island dock cam image from May 4, 2022.

The Manitou is usually reluctant to thaw, lagging behind most other parts of Lake of the Woods. As you can see from the pair of pictures above, last year was far icier and snowier than this year, and we still said goodbye to the last of the ice on May 16th.

Think about that. All that ice and snow vanished in twelve days. We got this.

In which case, we better start talking about boating facilities. I took a drive around Kenora’s marinas today. No disrespect to people who enjoy the lake from Sioux Narrows, Morson, or Warroad, but Kenora is where I live and can motor around easily. And we do have more open water than most other areas.

Starting at the west end, here’s what I know. MARINA REPORT:

Clearwater Bay and Deception Bay are still frozen, meaning Deception Bay Marina and The Rockeries are essentially ice-bound, so I did not drive that far.

Keewatin Bay is still frozen, so Two Bears Marina is iced in. For now. The ice appears candled by the docks, but the rest of the bay may need a little time.

Perch Bay is open, and Perch Bay Resort has water access. They were working on dock upgrades when I was there.

At Cameron Bay, Tall Pines Marina had their gates closed. There was one boat in the water, but there was candled ice around the slips and passage under the highway to the lake.

In Norman Bay, I saw boats in the water at Lake of the Woods Marina, Change of Latitude and the Anchor Inn docks. Not sure if there’s a ramp there.

The Matheson Street dock is clear. I don’t know who administers the little boat ramp next to it.

The boat ramp at the Kenora Recreation Centre was wide open, and so was Laurenson’s Creek, with open water all the way to Keewatin and beyond.

The Ministry of Natural Resources landing in Lakeside has open water, with some ice nearby.

Golf Course Bay is still mostly covered in rotten ice, so the Anicinabe Park boat ramp was not useable today.

Devil’s Gap Marina was open, but quiet. The marina is not pumping fuel at the docks yet, but the adjacent gas station is open for anyone with portable tanks. Ice still limits how far you can travel from there.

On Pine Portage Bay, Northern Harbour is still ice-locked. See photo above. I did not drive out there.

That’s all the ones I could think of. My apologies if I missed any, or if my hasty visual inspection caused me to misrepresent the status of any of these places. Updates from operators are welcome.

On to other topics. I made a minor mistake on yesterday’s post. The satellite images from Sentinel 2 were incorrectly dated as May 3, 2023. They became available on the 3rd, but  were taken one day earlier, on May 2nd. Photo captions and commentary have been corrected on the Ice Patrol website, but the email bulletin went out before I spotted the error.

Signs of spring:

  • grass is gradually growing greener.
  • I saw a lawn-mower in action today.
  • I spotted a robin in Keewatin this morning.


May 1, 2023: New Photos

Luke Burak sent a couple of pictures from yesterday. He’s a regular contributor, and he’s back at Air Canada now, after working for a smaller company during the pandemic. These are from 36,000 feet, so of course there’s some haze.

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

North end of Lake of the Woods.

I like that this photo shows how the open water flowing through the Barrier Islands at the left is reaching out to the water close to Kenora.

Here’s a nice shot of Clearwater Bay.

Clearwater Bay to Kenora.

There’s some prismatic coloration at the lower edge, but in the very bottom right corner you can see part of Scotty Island.

My overall impression is that the areas of open water have all expanded markedly, probably due in part to the recent strong winds.

Thanks, Luke!

Now a  shoreline shot to give an idea what some of the ice looks like close up.

This one’s from Jonathan Lange, and it shows the ice near Sioux Narrows, right by Regina bay.

Sioux Narrows Area.

That ice looks really rotten; ready to go fast. Thanks Jon!

Even out on the Manitou, the ice is starting to look poor. Here’s a shot from Dave Kerr’s place on Wolf Island, looking across the Manitou towards Whisky Island, taken on April 29th.

The Manitou.

Thanks, Dave!

And here’s one from the next island over, and a day later.  Devon Ostir’s dock cam is on Hare Island, and also faces the Manitou and Whisky Island.

The Manitou.

The Manitou is worth watching because it is usually a late thaw. Thanks Devon!

Signs of spring:

  • Kenora Bay has cleared completely, and the shoreline is ice-free all the way from Husky the Musky to the Clarion Hotel.
  • Small songbirds are making noise at sunup.

April 30, 2023: Aerial Photos

In case you were wondering, Satellite Saturday was a bust this week. Several days in the preceding week had cloud at the time of day when satellites were passing overhead. On the clear days, Sentinel passed over Lake Nipigon, or Lake Winnipeg, but not Lake of the Woods, and on one day when Terra would have had a shot, the data for our zone was missing, leaving only a swath of blank white.

However, yesterday a couple of old friends at MAG Canada were out on a training flight. Those flights are almost always conducted over the lake, because there’s not much air traffic there. The crew have considerable freedom of movement for an hour or so, so Tom Hutton and Howard Olafson took advantage of that to roam around the north half of the lake and take some pictures.

You can click on these images to see them full-screen, and then you can zoom in, too. I’ve taken the liberty of tagging the photos with some place names, and I’ve tried to put the text where it doesn’t block the view too much. This is an experimental feature. It takes a lot of time to do, so I won’t always be able to it when things get busy.

I don’t get enough photos from around Sioux Narrows, so we’ll start with one that includes part of Whitefish Bay. Before you get too excited by all the dark patches, most of them are cloud shadows. If you zoom in, you’ll have better luck telling the difference between shadows and patches of open water. Even then, the colour is very similar. Sometimes you can spot ice ridges or cracks, so then you know it’s ice in shadow, not water. So far, you should only expect to find water in narrows and other areas where currents are known to be strong.

Looking north west from near Whitefish Bay.

Still plenty of ice in this area, but it seems that the ice is weakening fastest in the north east sector of the lake.

North of the Alneau Peninsula looking north west.

Cliff Island and the Alneau.

Looking north west towards Big Narrows.

South of Crow Rock, looking north west.

The Barrier Islands, looking north.

The Manitou, looking north.

Looking north east over Poplar Bay towards Kenora.

White Partridge Bay, looking north west towards Clearwater Bay in the distance at the upper left.

Devil’s Gap, looking south east towards Bigstone Bay.

Thanks, Tom and Howard!

In summary, we have expanding patches of open water in all the usual places: most of the narrow channels, and the Safety Bay area adjacent to Kenora. Elsewhere, the ice is changing colour as it weakens.

Strong winds like today’s are great for destroying ice when the lake is about 50% ice covered, because the loose ice can be blown around and smashed up. With most of the lake still iced over, today was probably too early for wind to have spectacular effects, but it will have enlarged the open areas we do have.

One nice thing in the long-term forecast: although daytime highs will be near or a bit below average for another week, overnight lows are likely to be a degree or two above normal. Averages this time of year are highs of 14ºC and lows of 3ºC. In the second week of May, we might see warmer than average temperatures.

Signs of spring:

  • Many more hikers and dog walkers on the Tunnel Island trails.
  • Those trails are bare of snow now, barring a few isolated patches.
  • I put my summer tires on today. That’s a week earlier than last year.


April 28, 2023: New Graph

Sean Cockrem has revised his forecast graph, updating the track to display the recent actual weather and to adjust the projection based on how the weather forecast has been updated.

You can click on this graph to see it full-screen. You’ll probably be able to zoom in on that version as the original is large enough to make all that fine print easily legible.

For clarity, Sean has shown this year’s blue line as solid where it depicts actual weather to this date, and dashed where it’s a projection based on long-term forecasts or seasonal averages. Note that the part of April when the temperatures hovered around freezing for ten or twelve days shows clearly as a roughly horizontal delay in this year’s warming. That stretch of unseasonable cold wasn’t in the forecast when Sean made his initial prediction.

He has also added a line to show last year. This is helpful, because in many ways, we’re having a similar thaw this time around. Putting 2022 on the graph as a dark blue line shows that we’re doing rather better this spring. If the forecasts hold true, we’ll beat last year’s ice-free date by a few days, and if early May’s temperatures match up to last year, the blue line would rise even more steeply than projected here, paralleling the dark line from 2022.

Remember that the horizontal yellow line represents this year’s estimated thaw index, which is not the same as last year’s, so don’t interpret this graph to mean that the lake cleared on May 14th last year. Last year’s ice-free date was May 16th.

In conclusion, this projection suggests we should be all clear of ice by mid-May, if not sooner.

Thanks, Sean!

Signs of spring:

  • More motorcycles.  Give them room, riders have to contend with potholes and patches of slippery sand.
  • Both birds and bird-watchers are returning to the trails. You can identify them by the binoculars around their neck. (The birders, not the birds.)
  • Some boat traffic on the lake. See  yesterday’s post for proof.
  • It’s warm enough for fish remnants to rot in the sun now. So naturally my dog found some and rolled in them.