May 9, 2019: Going Fast

Good news is coming in from all over.

First,  Dave Debney sent me pictures yesterday that show Northern Harbour is starting to open. This one’s my favourite.

Dave didn’t add much commentary, but his pictures show the docks opening up and the ice candling out on Pine Portage Bay.

Today, Ian Bruce sent word that Bigstone Bay is starting to clear. That’s exciting, because Bigstone holds ice longer than almost anywhere else close to Kenora. Ian included this photograph.

Ian says: Looking south to Hay Island. Ice has retreated almost to the Boulder Islands. To the west, solid from east side of Copper towards Scotty’s.

Here’s another picture from Ian, taken this evening at around 6:30.

Ian says: Looking west to Kipling Island and the top end of The Hades, Smuggler’s etc.

Stu Everett sent me this update through the comment form:

A fair portion of the Manitou blew out overnight. However the area from Whisky Island west to Birch Island seems intact so you might not get through the centre channel at the east end of Crow Rock island. I did go out through the west channel, then over past Queen to catch the south track into Tranquil Channel. I could see that the Centre Section still has a fair amount of ice on it in the open area. This wind is really having a huge impact so it should not be long before the lake is open save say Shoal Lake, which always seems late. But the best news of all is fresh crappies for dinner!

Satellite imagery was partly blocked by cloud again today, but check out this image from the MODIS camera on NASA’s Terra satellite.

Water is black, Ice is bright blue, False colour images, From MODIS to you.

In brief, the ice on Big Traverse looks to be all but gone, and the two patches of ice that do show in this picture—Little Traverse lower down and north of the Alneau further up—seem to be shrinking and weakening fast.

You can’t see much of Shoal Lake, but it might have more open water now.

Other areas of interest, such as Clearwater, Ptarmigan and Bigstone Bays, are all obscured by cloud.

I don’t expect to be flying until after the weekend, but some of my friends likely will, and I’m hoping for some aerial photos to show the ice dwindling away. By Monday, I think we’ll be down to just traces. If that’s right, we’ll be almost a dead heat with last year.

May 8, 2019: Yesterday’s Satellite Images

I did fly today, but cloudy skies gave flat lighting that made it really hard to tell the difference between ice and water. Both just looked grey. I didn’t take any pictures.

I was so busy selecting and cropping photographs for the last two days that I didn’t have time to check on the satellite images. Both Aqua and Terra captured sharp images on May 7th. I’ve updated all the links under the SATELLITE PICTURES sidebar, but I’m going to show you the Aqua pictures here.

I’ll start with a labelled version to get you oriented.

Now the clean version so you can see the ice more clearly.

The lake has less than 50% ice cover now, with the strongest, brightest ice on the Little Traverse (where the letters OF THE appear on the labelled version.) Below that, Big Traverse has fractured ice, while above the Alneau Peninsula, there’s a wide expanse of ice as far north as the Barrier Islands. West of Lake of the Woods, it’s interesting to note that Shoal Lake still has plenty of ice, West Hawk Lake has weak ice, and Falcon Lake is open.

For comparison, here’s the natural colour version of the same image.

Although it’s harder to distinguish water from land, the white ice really stands out. Bigstone Bay is a good example, and so is Silver Lake. Subtler patches can be seen on Ptarmigan Bay, Clearwater Bay, and Andrew Bay.

Keep in mind that these images are from yesterday. There’s been some progress since then; I noticed today that ice on Lower Black Sturgeon has shrunk and drifted north with the current, and that’s just one place where I happened to get a good look.

In case you don’t read all the comments, here’s one from today by Stu Everett:

Was out in my boat today and managed to make it to Crow Rock. I did take a look out around the point and it seems clear down to Wiley Point. Can’t guarantee it is open to Wiley, it is sometimes hard to see the ice from water level, but it seems likely. The wind came up this afternoon so the trip back was less circuitous, some of the areas are quickly becoming ice free. You can see piles of ice up on the shore in many places, and where the ice is weak it is breaking up. It sure looks like some large areas are going to blow out today. I am confident that tomorrow will show many changes from the photos you took this AM. Here’s hoping!

I may not be flying again until Monday. By then I expect the ice to be nearly all gone.

 

 

 

May 7, 2019: Ding Dong, the Bridge is Gone

Caroline Armstrong texted me this morning to say the floating bridge to  Coney Island has been taken out. Here’s what it looked like from the Waterside dining room at the Clarion Inn.

This is a significant Sign of Spring, because the city removes the footbridge when the waterway is otherwise open from downtown Kenora through to Devil’s Gap.

This morning I departed from the Kenora airport without passengers, so I seized the opportunity to fly west to look at Clearwater Bay before turning on course.

You can click on any of today’s pictures to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

I’ll start with my standard shot of Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay.

The only ice visible anywhere near the Kenora Harbourfront is that little patch by Gun Club Island, seen here in the distance above the windshield wiper arm.

We climbed westward, following the Trans-Canada past Woodlake Marine.

In this photo, White Partridge Bay is tucked in by the aircraft nose and wiper. Above the centre of the picture is the ice of Clearwater Bay, with Shoal Lake on the horizon.

This is as far west as we went, with the aircraft coming up on Corkscrew Island. Clearwater, at the right, is mostly ice-covered, but the shorelines are opening up. Zoom in for a look at Deception Bay, near the blurred propeller blade, or Woodchuck Bay, beyond Deception; they’re both open. At the left, by the wipers, Ptarmigan Bay is frozen all the way to Copper Island and Victoria Island.

As we began our turn on course, we got our best look at Shoal Lake.

Off the nose of the King Air are Echo Bay and Rush Bay; both are open, but if you zoom in, you can see a little floating ice pan on Rush Bay. Shoal Lake is top centre, and the ice isn’t covering the whole lake any more. North of Cash Island, Shoal Lake is open. Clytie Bay is partly open. Zoom in and look for the three finger-like points on Clytie’s north west shore; there’s ice to the south of them, and also on Bag Bay, next door.

We turned east to look at the Barrier Islands.

In this picture, the nose of the plane is on the Western Peninsula, with the Barrier Islands leading left. The big patch of water has spread out from The Elbow, between Mather Island and Allie Island. However, in this northern part of Lake of the Woods, there’s still more ice than open water. Whisky Island is at the left, partly chopped off at the edge of the frame.

We didn’t travel towards Sioux Narrows, but I did aim the camera south east.

This picture is centred roughly between Shore Island (half surrounded by water) and Ferrier Island (iced in). Beyond them you can see Long Bay stretching off to the left. It’s mostly open, although Yellow Girl Bay is still full of ice. At the top centre is Whitefish Bay, which is almost all ice.

That covers it for this morning’s pictures. I did take a couple on the way home. Yesterday’s pictures of Dryden weren’t very clear, so here’s a better shot of Wabigoon Lake.

As we approached Kenora, I was on the lookout for any significant developments, but it had only been about ten hours, and there really wasn’t much change.

So I’ll finish where I started, in downtown Kenora. Here’s a picture of where the bridge is not seen.

As you can see, although there are some remnants of ice road floating in Rat Portage Bay, just above the wing tip, the water’s open all the way to Devil’s Gap now.

Let the boating begin. Don’t forget to check your safety equipment.

May 6, 2019: Photopalooza

I have a whole stack of photos today from multiple sources, so I’m going to post them with minimal commentary.

You can click on any of today’s pictures to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

First, since cloud has made it difficult to track what’s going on in the north part of Lake of the Woods lately, a pair of photographs taken from a passing Air Canada flight by Karen Boucha.

Karen says: The first shot shows north from Wiley Point.

The Alneau Peninsula is in the foreground, then huge Cliff Island, then a massive expanse of ice all the way north to the Barrier Islands. Just above the centre is the open water pushing through the Barrier Islands at The Elbow (and to a lesser extent, at French Narrows) I have more detailed shots coming up later, but the main take-away from this picture is there’s still lots of ice in the north part of Lake of the Woods.

Karen’s other photo looks almost straight down at an area south of Big Narrows.

Karen says: Open water south of Wiley Point to Outer and Portage bays and the south west end of Tranquil Channel.

Much less ice in this area.

Next I have a batch of pictures from my MAG Canada co-worker Tom Hutton. He flew past Minaki on his way to Kenora this afternoon.

Looking west at Big Sand Lake. Still frozen shore to shore, but ice looks rotten.

Little Sand Lake. Mostly open water with some large ice floes.

Gun Lake and  Minaki. Almost ice free with shrinking ice floes.

Looking south over Keewatin at Safety Bay and Keewatin Channel. Open water here.

Next are a batch of my photos. I came home via Dryden today, so I grabbed a shot over there.

This is a wide angle shot looking south at Wabigoon Lake. In the foreground, Rice Lake, north of the airport, is open. Ghost Lake and Thunder Lake, at the left, are frozen. Wabigoon is almost all white ice, but there’s open water at the west, near Downtown Dryden.

This is Vermillion Bay. Some ice near the Trans-Canada highway, and there’s more further south on Eagle Lake, but there’s a lot of open water, too.

Now on to Lake of the Woods. Photos first, with commentary for each beneath.

This is down towards Sioux Narrows, looking west. Whitefish Narrows is at the left, it’s open. Long Bay is open at the west and opening in the east, (not shown) but still has ice in between. Near the centre of the picture is Yellow Girl Bay. It’s icy, as is the big stretch of lake between the Alneau and the Barrier Islands, as seen in Karen’s first high-altitude shot.

This shot looks west along the Eastern Peninsula. Distinctive Bottle Bay is just left of centre. In the lower right, Witch Bay is open. Above that, Andrew Bay is still ice.

Let’s proceed west for a look at the water pouring through French Narrows and The Elbow that now reaches almost all the way to Middle Island. In the right foreground, that ice on Andrew Bay, but above that, Pipestone Bay is open. On the other side of Hay Island, Bigstone Bay is covered in ice, but I hear it’s weakening.

Closer look at Scotty Island, Middle Island (near centre) and The Hades. Railroad Island in the right foreground. I believe you could travel by boat from Kenora and make landfall on Scotty Island now, but not at the beach: that bay’s full of loose ice.

Here’s a close-up of Scotty Island to show what I mean.

A glance west at the Manitou and Whisky Island. Almost all ice here, but it’s breaking up.

Towards town now. This is Keewatin Channel, looking north east towards Rat Portage Bay. Still a little ice between Gun Club Island and Coney Island, but other than that, the downtown area is clear. Keewatin is in the distance at the left, Kenora at the right.

My last shot looks east over the Treaty Island area. Shragge’s Island in the foreground, Devil’s Gap in the distance, Rogers Island in between, where the ice road is keeping the ice together for now.

Josh Broten sent another picture from the American side of the lake this evening.

Josh says: This is just south of Garden Island looking north. You can see ice pretty much filling Little Traverse. Off in the distance you can also see a lot of ice still filling up the lake north of the Alneau.

It’s getting late and I have to fly tomorrow, so I’ll post this and get to bed. Good night.

 

 

May 5, 2019: Kevin Walsten

I’ve been trying to put together an update for the Minaki area for over a week now, but my flights north all seemed to detour east first.

Kevin Walsten went out in his Super Cub today, and sent me these pictures.

Kevin says: Picture taken May 5 Gunn Lake looking north at Little Sand and Big Sand lakes.

Digital cameras do weird things with propeller blades. Minaki can be seen between these two.

On his southbound return leg, he took this shot.

Kevin says: Looking south east at Big Sand and a bit of Rough Rock Lake.

Still some shore to shore ice in this area. Thanks, Kevin.

Cloudy weather continues to impede the satellites. Terra got a better look than Aqua today, but you can still only see the south end of the lake.

I’ve used the same selection frame of 800×800 pixels as usual, but all that’s visible are Muskeg Bay at the bottom left, and the mouth of the Rainy River to the right of that. As seen in Josh’s photos yesterday, there’s big change happening on that part of the lake.

Is the rest of Lake of the Woods melting as fast? I’m not sure: Big Traverse is very susceptible to windy conditions, but the more northerly parts of the lake are full of islands. There’s still wind movement, but not on the same scale. Also, if the satellite images are anything to go by, we’ve been having a lot less sunshine in the north.

Signs of spring: I saw my first loon today, on Rabbit Lake. No ice anywhere on Rabbit, by the way, not even a handful.  Some float planes are out: Kevin’s for one. Our Lilac hedge is starting to bud, so trees should finally start to turn green.

In the meantime, though, the weather will remain cold for another day before temperatures reluctantly creep up to the low double digits on Tuesday. A normal high this time of year is about 15ºC, and the Weather Network isn’t forecasting anything quite that warm in the next two weeks.

Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol is celebrating some growth this spring.

It’s been busy: I’ve written 47 blog posts in 49 days, reviewed over 600 photographs, and processed and posted about 175 of them.

Ice Patrol hit new highs for numbers of visits, shattering the old mark of 10,000 visits in a week by hitting 14,000 last week and topping 16,000 this week.

Comments have increased too, offering more reports and fresh insights.

I had more help this spring. As always, my coworkers at MAG Canada pitched in, and this year over a dozen guest contributors sent in waterfront pictures or aerial photos. This helped immensely, allowing Ice Patrol to cover more of the lake and filling gaps in my flight schedule.

Thanks, everyone!

May 5, 2019: Catching Up

I received a lot of photographs yesterday. Thanks, everyone!

Because I was away from home for most of the day, I couldn’t process them all last night, so today I’m catching up.

I want to start with this, because it’s so pretty. This is from Josh Broten.

Josh was flying his Legend Cub around Warroad. This ice is just north of Rocky Point, which is at the east end of Muskeg Bay. The camera points north west, with open water in distant Buffalo Bay.

Here’s a shot with definite landmarks.

This shot looks north east over Springsteel Island in the left foreground, past Buffalo Point at the upper left, to the ice on Big Traverse.

This shot looks west across Muskeg Bay towards Warroad. That might be Willow Creek at the lower left. Ice is well away from the shore on the south end of the lake.

Thanks Josh.

There was another evening submission that I didn’t get to last night.

Richard Kroeker sent me this picture of Route Bay.

Richard says: This picture was taken Saturday but Route bay was ice free Friday evening.

Thanks Richard.

Looks like the ice is going fast, mainly because of stiff winds.

 

 

May 4, 2019: Josh Broten

It’s been a crazy day here in the Ice Patrol headquarters. If you’re picturing that as a busy newsroom with bustling staff, downsize that to a desk in a home office with one frazzled guy and a husky that would like to go to bed.

I got some fresh aerial photos from a fellow called Josh Broten, who flies a Legend Cub.

These pictures are from the area around the Northwest Angle where the US/Canada border takes an unusual turn or two.

Josh says: Over Oak Island looking northwest. You can see Shoal Lake in the upper left hand corner of the picture.

Oak Island is right in the corner of the US/Canada border, southwest of Big Narrows, or north of Big Traverse. I can’t believe how much water has opened up in this area.

Josh’s second picture was taken in almost the same area, but looks more northeast.

Josh says: Above Cyclone Island looking north northeast towards French Portage.

Water. Water everywhere. Despite cool temperatures, the ice seems to be in full retreat. The little patches of shoreline ice in these pictures won’t last long- probably not 24 hours. Off in the distance, I see larger sheets of ice near the horizon, probably north of the Alneau Peninsula. That might be more persistent.