April 9, 2017: Rabbit Lake

I was out for my morning walk today, and stopped at the Gazebo on Rabbit Lake to look at the ice. Rabbit Lake is completely candled. Candling is when the solid structure of the ice starts to fracture into separate crystals.

Rabbit Lake.

Later, I stopped at a dock and plunged my hand into the water to pull out a fist sized cluster of those crystals. They’re only loosely stuck together, because water has penetrated the fissures between the crystals.

Candled ice: crystal cluster.

It was holding together, so I lifted it up and dropped it a few inches. SPLINK.

Candled ice: individual crystals.

This is the last stage of how lake ice melts, so it means the ice on Rabbit Lake is rotten and weak. Rabbit Lake will let go in the next few days, quite possibly this afternoon, but if not, early next week.

Today would be a great day to take your kids to the park by the rowing club, or Rabbit Lake beach, because the candled ice will now float up and down with every wave. If wind and waves get the crystals rubbing together and breaking apart, you will be able to hear the tinkling sounds.  If conditions are right, it will sound like a billion tiny chimes. Science!

Do not let your kids walk on the ice. It won’t support anything, and that water is cold.

April 8, 2017: Marcus Hainstock

I don’t often get to update you on the weekend, but Marcus Hainstock sent me this picture of the American side of Lake of the Woods today.

Big Traverse to the North West Angle.

This is taken looking south towards Baudette, MN from a westbound jet: the North West Angle is under the wing, close to the plane. Those three islands close to the bottom of the window are Brush, Flag and Oak. The skinny one further away is Garden Island, and Big Island is in the distance at the left edge. Looks like the ice is rotting and the first patches of water are breaking open.

Thanks, Marcus!

Today, the hit counter rolled over 250,000.  Quarter of a million hits, and Ice Patrol is still a week shy of it’s third anniversary. (The first post was April 13th, 2014.)

I see we’re also closing in on 10,000 hits this week.

Thank you all.

April 7, 2017: River Run

Bill and Kerry recently asked for an update on the Winnipeg River, which worked out well. My flight brought me back to Kenora from the north today, and Andy and I were able to swing slightly west of Kenora to set up for runway 08. That took us right down the river as we descended from our cruising altitude.

To be clear, I cannot usually accommodate requests. Walsten Air works hard at supporting my hobby, often assigning me trips or training flights that work in Ice Patrol’s favour, but at the end of the day, I go where I’m paid to go, give or take some discretion about how I approach the airport.

We began taking pictures at the south end of Big Sand Lake, which is still mostly frozen.

Minaki and Gun Lake.

Click on these pictures to zoom see a larger version. Click on that to zoom in.

Tunnel Bay, The Big Stretch.

Don’t let this picture fool you; the afternoon sun is shining on ripples in the water, and it resembles white ice. Look closer. In the foreground, there’s ice in Tunnel Bay, but the whole Big Stretch is open water.

The Dalles, Locke Bay.

The pattern is pretty clear. Wherever the water is flowing, the ice is melting. Quiet bays are still frozen.

Dufresne Island.

My marine chart of the river doesn’t provide names for all the islands in the picture above. Fiddler’s Island is right under the nose of the King Air. Darlington Bay and Keewatin are visible in the middle distance. Kenora is at the extreme left, by the windshield wiper.

Norman, Safety Bay, Coney Island.

We got one last picture just before we made our turn over Kenora to approach the airport. Wind and warm temperatures are working hard to expand the areas of open water near town. On the other hand, further out, in places where the ice cover is unbroken, it’s only weakening slowly.

We now have more open water than we had on this date in 2016 or 2015. In fact, this time last year we were having a cold snap, with wind chills equivalent to -21ºC, and actual temperatures stubbornly sitting below freezing.  Even so, we saw the lake completely clear of ice on May 4th. You can use the Archive Widget to see my April reports from 2014, 2015, or 2016. (That’s assuming you’re looking at the full website, not an email bulletin or a mobile version.)

Barring a really cold snap, we should see the ice go rapidly over the next ten or fifteen days. A couple of weeks ago, I would have said Lake of the Woods might be ice free around May 7th. Looking at the forecast today, I would guess closer to May 1st, perhaps earlier if our luck holds.

April 6, 2017: Steady Progress

We came home in afternoon sunlight today, and approached Kenora from the south east.

Dogtooth Lake and area

This picture looks north, with Silver Lake in the distance. It’s all ice out that way.

Click on these pictures to see a larger, high-res version that is zoomable.

We didn’t go over Sioux Narrows, but we got close enough to see Whitefish Bay.

Whitefish Bay, Long Bay, Yellow Girl Bay.

If you click on this picture and zoom in, you can make out a little open water at Whitefish Narrows. Off in the distance, the Big Traverse is still frozen.

Now that we’ve established that there are vast expanses of ice, let’s get back to my preference for taking pictures where the water is.

The Elbow.

This picture looks west at the open water at the Elbow. East Allie Island is in front of the wing, then Allie Island, and beyond the water are Mathis Island and Shammis Island.

The biggest expanse of open water is still Keewatin Channel.

Keewatin Channel.

The picture above was taken from over Middle Island. Scotty Island and the distinctive Scotty’s Beach are at the lower left. Just above that, you can see that water is lapping at Anchor Island now.

Last, a closer look at the passage through Devil’s Gap.

Devil’s Gap.

Kenora is in the distance at the left in this shot that looks north. You still couldn’t really go very far through the Gap by boat, but you could make it to Nickerson Island, and Galt will be reachable soon.

That’s about it for my photos today, but Matthew Render snapped a few shots from his Air Canada A320 as he flew by at 37,000 feet.

Shoal Lake.

These are not zoomable. Matthew probably sent them straight from his smartphone.

First, Shoal Lake. All ice, except a little patch at the left edge.

This shot looks east, so you can see Clearwater Bay, Ptarmigan Bay and that area in the background.


Big Traverse.

The North West Angle.








Looks like there’s some water at the North West Angle. Thanks, Matthew.

That’s it for today.


April 5, 2017: Garry Hawryluk

I had a long day at work today, and didn’t get back to Kenora until the sun was going down. So all I got was a nice picture of the sunset as we landed.

Sunset on Runway 26

But, by happy chance, Garry Hawryluk was on a WestJet flight from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay today, and got some pretty good photographs as he flew over Lake of the Woods. Garry has contributed before, and he sent these to me so I could share them with you. You can click on his photos to zoom in.

The higher altitude of the plane means a bit more haze, so you have to look a little closer to distinguish dark islands from dark open water, but here goes:

Barrier Islands to Kenora.

This first shot looks north from over the Barrier Islands. Shammis Island and Mather Island are at the bottom. Notice the large patch of open water flowing from the Elbow at the lower right. Scotty and Middle Islands are to the right of center, and Kenora is in the middle distance above and to the left of them. Open water reaches all the way from downtown to Town Island and Copeland Island now.

Hay Island.

This second photo is centered on Hay Island. Bigstone Bay and Longbow Lake are visible above it. Mostly ice out that way. But look at the lower left corner, that’s open water reaching out from French Narrows to Bald Island.

It’s hard for me to roam as far west of Kenora as Clearwater Bay, so I was really happy that Garry snapped this picture.

Clearwater, Zig Zag Island and Deception Bay.

Still pretty frozen out that way.

I’m going to try again to take some pictures tomorrow, and the weather should be good. We’re supposed to have above normal temperatures right through the weekend, so I think we’ll see steady change.

It’s getting late and I have an early flight tomorrow, so that’s all for now. Thanks, Garry!

April 3, 2017: Boats

Friday didn’t have good weather for photography, and I didn’t fly on the weekend, so it’s time for an update. Maybe I can make your Monday a little brighter.

First picture: Northern Harbour and Bigstone Bay.

Pine Portage Bay, Bigstone Bay.

As you can plainly see, there’s still plenty of ice out there. I’ve included this picture because when I select pictures that all show open water, people get the impression that everything is melting. Not so.  This image has been digitally edited to remove an intrusive propeller blade near Northern Harbour. You can still click on it to zoom in, but you may see some blurry patches around Fantasy Island.

Next stop, Keewatin Channel. Figure of speech: we didn’t actually stop. We were making a quick circle over the part of the lake near town before landing.

Town Island, Keewatin Channel.

In the picture above, Town Island is at the left, with Galt Island straggling across to the right. Behind those are Keewatin Channel and Channel Island. Notice how, in the shadow near the center of the picture, the ice road past the Tangle goes over some very rotten ice now.

We saw a few boats in this area. One is visible in the photo of Keewatin Channel below, between Shragge’s Island and Channel Island.

Remember, you can click on these pictures to see a larger version, and click again to zoom in on that one, too.

Channel Island, Keewatin Channel, Shragge’s Island.

Next, a closer look at the area around the Keewatin Bridge.

Keewatin, Safety Bay.

The Keewatin Bridge is close to the upper left corner of this picture. As you drive across the bridge, there’s open water almost as far as the eye can see. Which is why you need me to give you an aerial view and burst your bubble.

After that, we turned east to head for the airport.

Coney Island, looking east towards Kenora with Safety Bay on the left and Rat Portage Bay on the right.

Safety Bay is clearing out nicely. Rat Portage Bay, not so much, but at the upper right corner of this picture, you can see water reaching out from Devil’s Gap towards Gun Club Island.

Another shot of that from a different angle. I always like to keep tabs on Devil’s Gap, because it’s such a major route to the lake for so many boaters.

Golf Course Bay, Devil’s Gap.

In the picture above, which looks south, Golf Course Bay is right at the wingtip. Above that, you can see Rat Portage Marina and Devil’s Gap with the open water falling short of Roger’s Island.

And lastly, one for old times sake. I’ve been taking pictures of Treaty Island since at least the spring of 2003, and giving verbal reports since long before that.

Shragge’s Island, Treaty Island, Roger’s Island.

Photographing the Biggar’s camp there was what got the whole Ice Patrol started, in the days before I had a digital camera. You can thank Linda next time you see her.

The temperature hit a balmy 14ºC today. The forecast says we’ll see more typical temperatures for a few days, and then hit double digits again for the weekend. I’m not scheduled to fly Tuesday, but I’ll try and take pictures later this week.

I’ve updated the Recent Satellite Photograph link to one of today’s pictures. The ice has darkened dramatically.

March 30, 2017: Middle Island

I’m cheating a little bit. This first picture is one of the ones Tom Hutton took yesterday. Technical problems delayed its arrival by email yesterday, so today I transferred it from his Apple phone to a memory stick, and brought it home.

Scotty Island on the left, Middle Island near the umm, middle.

Yes, there’s still a lot of ice when you get a few kilometers south of Kenora. That’s because we have very strong currents near town, and the ice goes early along the Harbourfront and Safety Bay. Take heart, though, all over the lake the ice is darkening rapidly. That means its getting softer and weaker, and it will erode faster now.

Let’s move on to today. My flight today was a flight test for Garrett Shingoose, one of my Walsten colleagues, for which I took the co-pilot role. Professional pilots like Garrett and myself do at least one flight test every year. That means he and I were very busy with simulated emergencies, so it wasn’t the time to distract ourselves with too much photography. This is the best picture I got on the route he needed to fly.

South end of Winnipeg River, looking south east.

Fiddler’s Island is at the left edge of this shot, and Dufresne Island is near the top. It looks to me as if the water is expanding day by day.

We’ve got more warm weather coming, with a week or so of daytime highs of around 10°C and overnight lows just around freezing. That’s typical for mid-April, but we’re getting it a couple of weeks early, so I think we’ll see some good progress. I’ve been checking my archive photos, and I’d say that although this year’s thaw was lagging behind in early March, the recent warm weather has allowed us to catch up. The pictures I pulled up from late March in 2016 and 2015 look comparable to what we have now.

In other news, probably only a handful of Ice Patrol followers know that I am also an author, writing under the pen name Timothy Gwyn.

AVIANS, my science fiction novel for young adults, will be released on August 1st. If you think that might be your kind of summer reading, you can learn more about it by clicking on this cover illustration. That will take you to the website of Five Rivers Publishing, where you can see the book description, author profile and an interview.

The book is available for pre-order through Five Rivers, Kobo or Kindle (worldwide). Those last two offer previews of the first chapter.

If this comes as a surprise, you can visit Timothy Gwyn Writes, my other blog, to learn about my writing life.

March 29, 2017: French Narrows

This is just a quick mini-update. Two of my Walsten Air colleagues took some pictures for us today. John Sweeney and Tom Hutton were able to swing by French Narrows and the Elbow late this afternoon.

French Narrows first. Not a lot of water here, where the Eastern Peninsula reaches out towards the Barrier Islands. It’s hard to be sure with the cloud shadows darkening patches of the ice, but it looks as if the ice quality is deteriorating.

French Narrows, with the Eastern Peninsula at the lower right and East Allie Island in the center.

A moment later, they captured this shot of the Elbow.

The Elbow. East Allie Island, Allie Island and Shammis Island run up the left half of the picture.

The lake doesn’t melt much in a single day, even a warm one, but I think the ice has darkened and softened. More mild temperatures are on the way, so I expect to see more of this type of change.

March 28, 2017: New Pictures

I have pictures from two flights today.

The first batch are taken from a Walsten Air plane this afternoon. I was able to take some shots of the Winnipeg River and Kenora’s Harbourfront as I brought one of our King Airs in from the north .

The second batch were taken by Bill Scribilo from the Kenora Flying Club plane at the same time. Bill was out taking some pictures for Century 21 Reynard Real Estate, and he ranged further afield, reaching as far as Clearwater Bay and Crow Rock.

I’ll start with mine.

You can click on these pictures to see a larger, zoomable version.

This first photo shows the way water has come to dominate the Harbourfront and the headwaters.

Looking south at Safety Bay with Tunnel Island in the foreground.

As you can see, the water along Safety Bay now connects to the open water in Keewatin Channel. Let’s take a closer look.

Devil’s Gap on the left, Keewatin Channel at the right. Gun Club Island at the lower right.

There’s significant progress at both Devil’s Gap and the Keewatin Channel. Patches of open water reaching out from Keewatin Channel towards Scotty Island have grown a lot in the last week.

I’ll just back up a bit for the River Dwellers. I got a good look at the river from Minaki to Kenora. Big Sand Lake and Gunn Lake are still frozen, but the river is opening. The Big Stretch has water from end to end, at least down the middle of the river. The shorelines are still icy.

The Big Stretch on the Winnipeg River. Looking south west with Shoal Lake near the Horizon.

In case you’re more interested in the more southerly part of the river, here’s a shot taken closer to Kenora.

Winnipeg River, looking south. The pale line across the middle is a power line clearing.  The bridges of Highway 17A (the Kenora Bypass) are visible closer to town.

Okay, that’s it for my shots. Now let’s take a look at Bill Scribilo’s. He forwarded them to me at full resolution, so you can click on them to see the large, zoomable version.

Bill flew as far west as Clearwater Bay, but it’s all ice, so I’m not including those pictures. More change is visible in photographs such as this one taken around Crow Rock.

Crow Rock Channel, looking south with Crow Rock Island to the left of the open water and the Western Peninsula to the right. Queen Island nearly spans the picture in the middle distance.

From there, he moved on to the Barrier Islands to capture this update on the Devil’s Elbow.

Looking north at the Devil’s Elbow between Allie Island and East Allie Island.

There’s a lot more water in the Elbow that when I photographed it just a few days ago.

Then, as he flew north, Bill pointed his camera east down Andrew Bay.

Andrew Bay

There are two important things to consider when you look at today’s photographs: First, the lake is still has about 95% ice cover. Second, that ice is getting thinner every day.

We have several days of mild weather coming, with overnight lows expected to be at or above the freezing point.

Remember, we had a great thaw in February that stripped off all the snow cover. Then early March was very cold, and we made ice, putting us behind an average year. Now we might be catching up again. Geese and seagulls have begun to arrive.

March 23, 2017: More Water

It was only a few days ago that I took a look at the ice, but today I had just a couple of minutes to circle over the lake before landing, so I snapped some fresh pictures. Cloudy skies and haze don’t make for the greatest clarity, so I have increased the contrast.

You can still click on the pictures to zoom in and get a better look.

We came in over Lower Black Sturgeon. It’s frozen. Actually, all the smaller lakes near Lake of the Woods are looking pretty solid: Longbow, Hilly, Silver… all frozen.

Ice on the Winnipeg River continues to give way, though. Here’s a look at the stretch of the river up around the Dalles. The water is gaining ground, so to speak.


Looking west at the Winnipeg River around the Dalles.

Next, we swung the plane towards Keewatin. The photo below shows the south end of the Winnipeg River, and in the distance you can see Safety Bay has open water from Norman almost to Keewatin now.


Winnipeg River headwaters. Kenora is at the left edge of the photo, which looks south west.

To size up the amount of open water on Safety Bay, we kept going south west for a minute. In the picture below, notice how the water is reaching out towards Yacht Club Island.


Looking south west over Keewatin.

The Keewatin Channel is melting further out past Shragge’s Island and The Tangle. We spotted two vehicles on the ice road. To me, they looked uncomfortably close to open water. Patches of water are breaking out quite close to Scotty Island now.


Keewatin Channel and the Tangle, facing south west. Shragge’s Island near the center, Scotty Island at the top left of the picture.

Last, I managed a shot of Devil’s Gap as we set up to enter the circuit for the runway.


Devil’s Gap, looking north west with downtown Kenora at the right.

That’s it for today. In summary, smaller lakes are holding fast, but although temperatures haven’t been that warm, the current  is eroding ice on Lake of the Woods steadily. I expect the ice road landings to deteriorate soon, especially if we get some sunshine.