Q: When does Lake of the Woods thaw?

A: It varies from year to year. Most commonly, around the first week of May. That can shift by up to three weeks in either direction. Here’s a table that shows when the ice went out in recent years, broken down into 5-day periods during April and May.

Each year gets a “brick” and when the ice is entirely gone, I stack the brick in the corresponding five-day period of April or May. In 2018, the ice went on May 14, so I put the 2018 brick on top of 2013, in the May 11-15 period.

Q: How long does it take Lake of the Woods to thaw?

A: From the time the Mean Daily Temperature rises above freezing, it can take anywhere from three to eight weeks for the lake to be completely free of ice. Factors include ice thickness, temperature, and other weather conditions. Here’s a graph showing the time-span for some recent years. You can click on the graph to see it full-screen.

Inflection to Thaw 2020 Final

The Inflection to Thaw Calendar, also known as the Pancake Graph.

Q: Does the thaw follow a predictable pattern?

A: Yes. Areas with the strongest currents clear first, because the ice is thinnest there and erosion is fastest. Safety Bay goes first, followed by Keewatin Channel, then Devil’s Gap. Areas such as Bigstone Bay and the Manitou take much longer.

Q: The pictures are rather small. How can I see a higher-resolution version?

A: Clicking on any of the photographs will link you to the highest-resolution version. Your browser may shrink it to fit your screen, so try clicking again to zoom in for the best detail.

Q: I want to show Ice Patrol to a friend. What’s the easiest way to get there on his computer?

A: Type icepatrol.ca into his browser. You will be taken to the latest post.

Q: I’d like to see how this year compares to previous years. Are the old pictures available?

A: Yes. There’s an Archive Widget at the right that lets you look at the posts from 2014 to the present month by month. Before 2014, the Ice Patrol pictures were in albums at PhotoBucket, and links to those albums are just below the Archive Widget.

Q: Do the ice roads take longer to melt than the regular ice?

A: Yes. Ice roads hold out because they are strengthened by plowing and because they are routed through areas with minimal current in the first place.

Q: Why aren’t there any pictures of The Manitou / Barrier Islands / Alneau Peninsula yet?

A: To show the ice retreating, I aim my camera where the boundary between the water and ice is changing. I don’t photograph the areas where the ice is still solid. If I’m not taking pictures of your part of the lake yet, it’s likely because that area has not started to melt.

Q: Why don’t you take pictures every day, or at least on a regular schedule?

A: Sometimes the weather is bad. Sometimes I don’t have any flights. Sometimes there’s little change over several days of low temperatures and light winds.

Q: Who are you? Is this a one-man show?

A: My name is Tim Armstrong. I’m a captain for MAG Canada, an air taxi company based in Kenora. See the About page for a picture of one of our planes. I am grateful to a lot of people for their assistance with Ice Patrol. My colleagues at MAG Canada have all helped, as have a number of private pilots based in Kenora, Lac du Bonnet and Winnipeg. I occasionally get pictures from other local air operators and even from pilots with major airlines. When possible, I acknowledge contributors, and if you hover your cursor over any of the pictures, it should show both pilot and photographer credits.

Q: Could you photograph my camp / cottage / vacation property? Do you know anyone who could?

A: No. And Yes. Most of my pictures are taken from a King Air, a fast-moving turboprop twin. It allows me to cover lots of ground quickly, but it is not suitable for cottage portraits. Also, there are regulations about low flying. Duncan Carmichael Real Estate operates a fleet of drones for the specific purpose of photographing lake properties. Duncan tells me he would be willing to take calls from people seeking that kind of aerial photograph.

Q: Can I advertise on your website?

A: No, not really. I operate Ice Patrol as a public service. The site is hosted as a free WordPress blog, which requires it to be non-commercial in nature. Also, it would be a conflict of interest if I used my employer’s aircraft for personal profit. However, if your operation is of interest to Lake Dwellers, I could include a link to your business or organization on my web page. I would appreciate it if you would return the favour.

Q: Are there satellite photographs of Lake of the Woods? How can I see them?

A: The University of Wisconsin uses the MODIS cameras aboard the Aqua and Terra satellites to take pictures every day. The original pictures are public, and can be viewed on this university website. They cover a wide area, from Lake of the Woods to the Great Lakes. Don’t expect to see your island unless it’s at least a kilometer long. You will not see your cottage. Hint: scroll through the dates for a day that had cloudless skies, and look at the top left of the USA3 picture for Lake of the Woods.

Here’s a satellite shot from the spring of 2021 with some key landmarks identified.

Satellite Tags WHITE 05