April 25, 2020: Jason Duguay / Satellite Saturday

Jason Duguay is a paramedic with ORNGE, the people with the medevac helicopter. This morning one of his trips was cancelled en route, so he was free to take some pictures on the way back to base.

You can click on these pictures to see them full-screen, and those images can be zoomed to full resolution.

Queer Island dominates the foreground of this shot that looks  ENE. Bigstone Bay is near the top left corner of the frame, Andrew Bay at the right. Quite a lot of open water bending around Queer Island and Railroad Island.

Scotty Island is in the centre of this photo, with Middle Island to the right of it. Slate Island in the foreground, partly cut off at the right edge. The ice roads are holding together, but much of this ice looks weak. At the upper left is open water near Town Island.

Thompson Island and Holmstrom’s Marsh are near the middle of this picture, and here you can see that water flowing past Town Island and through Keewatin Channel.

Keewatin Channel from the other end. I think the Keewatin Bridge is just obscured by the window frame at the lower right. Anyway, Cameron Island is near the middle of the picture, and next to it, with a streak of window reflection across it, is Mackies Island. Lots of water, here, with the nearby exception of Rat Portage Bay, at the left side of the frame.

Here’s a better look at Rat Portage Bay, with Gun Club Island surrounded by ice. That happens every spring, there’s not a lot of current through there, so the ice persists. In the foreground are the western parts of Coney Island. Still lots of ice further out on the lake.

Thanks for the great pictures, Jason!

Let’s take a look at some recent satellite imagery.

These shots are from April 23rd, because April 24th’s pictures were blurred, and today’s aren’t available yet.

If you click on this picture, you’ll see a similar photo  with some key landmarks on the lake labelled to help you get oriented. It’s an old picture from 2018: it’s just for reference.

This is the natural colour version, and near the middle of the picture you can see that open water from Jason’s first photo above. A little south west of that, there’s open water running through Big Narrows. At the south end of the lake, the Rainy River has cleared most of the ice from Fourmile Bay, and towards the top of the picture, it looks like the Winnipeg River is almost entirely open as far as Minaki.

Here’s the false-colour version of the same image. It’s a bit easier to tell the difference between cloud and ice. Thicker ice is pale blue, thinner ice is darker blue, and open water is nearly black.

Okay, that’s it for today. I know it’s frustrating for all the Ice Patrol followers that cannot come to the lake right now. Please be patient, and keep in mind that when travel does become possible, large gatherings won’t be part of the lake-life picture.

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.


April 20, 2020: Bruce White

This picture is a couple of days old. Bruce White, from Air Canada, took it on the 18th. We had some trouble getting the picture to me yesterday, but we got it sorted out today. In any case, it’s barely been above freezing since it was taken, so the date doesn’t matter much.

You can click on this picture to see a full-screen version that can be zoomed to full resolution.

This image looks north from the south end of Lake of the Woods. Big Island is in the foreground, and the large landmass in the centre is the Alneau Peninsula. Big Narrows is behind the closer hinge fairing. (the tapered shape sticking out behind the wing) In the middle of the more northerly expanse of ice, you can see the Barrier Islands, and beyond that is Kenora and Upper and Lower Black Sturgeon Lakes.

Anyway, it’s almost all ice. On the bright side, the snow cover is mostly gone, so if we could just get some normal temperatures for a day or two…

Thanks, Bruce!


April 18, 2020: Cold April / Josh Broten / Satellite Saturday

It’s been quite cool since I last posted an update, with some recent overnight lows dipping to the -12 to -16ºC range. Those were the worst nights, but daytime highs have rarely reached seasonal norms.

On Tunnel Island, fresh ice formed on the duck pond every night, and retreated each afternoon. It hasn’t been ice-free yet.

Over the last weeks, typical temperatures for this time of year would be highs of about 9ºC paired with lows just below freezing. In the later weeks of April, those average highs rise a few degrees.

Friday was supposed to be the warmest day in a while, and it still fell short of normal.

As for the rest of the month, there aren’t any warm spells forecast, just a string of almost normal temperatures.

Signs of spring: gnats are out. I inhaled one today. But it’s still not warm enough to take the winter tires off.

Here are some aerial photos from regular contributor Josh Broten. He’s based out of Rosseau, MN, so he takes pictures at the south west corner of the lake.

This one shows the condition of the ice at the south end of the lake. You can see it’s rotten, candling, and has patches of surface water.

You can click on Josh’s pictures to see them full-screen and zoomable to full resolution.

This is the Northwest Angle, looking north with Shoal Lake in the background. Josh says he doesn’t see any water on Shoal yet.

Here’s Josh’s look north east at Big Narrows, Tranquil Channel and French Portage Narrows.  Most of what you see in this picture is Falcon Island. The bay in the foreground with the island that looks like a fidget spinner is Deepwater Bay.

Thanks, Josh.

There haven’t been many good satellite images recently. There were cloudy days and some of the good days had blurred pictures for our area. Here’s one from yesterday.

The satellite images are not zoomable: the resolution is one pixel for a quarter of a square kilometer. If you click on it (if I did it right) you’ll see an archive image with  some features of the lake marked to help you get oriented.

This is from the MODIS camera on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Despite the focus being a bit soft, you can make out the open water at Big Narrows, and you can see that although the ice is still widespread, the condition of it is weakening.

Aside from the cool temperatures, there are other impediments to lake life this season.

This quote from FOCA, the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations, regarding marinas:

…as reported by our colleagues at Boating Ontario, many marinas are currently not allowing any launches or mooring, and/or are on restricted access for service or repair. While marinas are listed among Ontario’s “essential services” the posting notes “only to the extent that the marina is necessary to enable individuals to access their primary place of residence.” See an April 10, 2020 letter to Boating Ontario from MTO. For links to several postings, visit: https://www.facebook.com/BoatingOntario.ca/

Retail businesses are also transformed. You can only buy limited quantities of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bleach, and other items in high demand. People wearing masks are becoming a more common sight.

Wal-Mart, Safeway, and the LCBO and others are restricting the number of shoppers in the store, and are doing the one-way traffic thing in the aisles with floor arrows. Many other outlets, such as Canadian Tire and Home Hardware, only allow telephone ordering and pickup.

Kenora has its first confirmed case of Covid-19. The person is said to acquired the virus out of province, and is now self-isolating, having had few contacts.

Sorry to harp on it, but inessential travel is not recommended.

Health authorities say, “Covid season is not cottage season.”

April 7, 2020: Three Contributors

Even though I’m grounded, the pictures are rolling in.

First, a couple of aerial photos from Andy Zabloski. He’s the friend who my employer—MAG Canada—kept on while business is down to almost nothing. He offered to take pictures if he got any trips, and today he came through.

This is centered on Keewatin, and looks south east down Bigstone Bay. Click on it to see it full screen, and zoom that image to full resolution by clicking on it again.

What this picture shows:

In the lower left corner of the frame, there’s open water on the Winnipeg River from the headwaters to well north of the bypass.

Darlington Bay, which runs from the center of the picture to the right edge, is still frozen.

There’s quite a lot of open water from Safety Bay out towards Keewatin Channel. It’s interrupted by ice around the Yacht Club, but it is improving.

I have another picture from Andy, but first let’s compare his aerial shot to what you see if you walk along the waterfront. Here’s a picture from Graham Gork.

At first glance, you might think there’s hardly any ice left. I’ve had emails at this time of year saying things like, “Hey, I drove through Kenora and the lake was open!” But as you can see in the first photo, the vast majority of the lake is still iced over.

What would Graham have seen if he rose up a few thousand feet? Let’s get back to Andy’s second shot.

This is a look south at the Keewatin Channel. The west end of Treaty Island is at the lower left. Town Island is left of center. Scotty Island is just above the middle of the frame, with Middle Island and Hay Island behind it to the left. The main thing this photo shows is that the current is eroding the ice between Scotty and Shragge’s Island and Channel Island.

This is a pretty typical pattern. I looked back at my archives to see how this area looked at this time last year, and the ice was more solid on April 10th last year than now. So that’s the good news.

The bad news is we’re in for several days of near-freezing temperatures. The current forecast calls for nothing above 4ºC this coming weekend, and even chillier conditions next week. So I don’t expect much progress.

Our third contributor today is Josh Broten. He had his Cub aloft from Rosseau, Minnesota.

This is Buffalo Bay, and Josh took the picture to show how the snow cover is gone from Big Traverse and the southern part of the lake.

Pointing his camera north, he got this picture of the Northwest Angle Inlet and Shoal Lake.

Although the ice is quite bare, there’s no significant open water here.

Josh’s third photo shows Oak Island from the south. The border between the USA and Canada runs across this picture.

That patch of water between Windfall Island, in the center of the frame, and Falcon Island, at the right edge, is on the Canadian side. Oak Island, in the center foreground, is on the American side. Shoal Lake is visible in the distance, at the upper left.

Thanks to Andy and Quinn, Graham, and Josh.


April 6, 2020: More from Matthew Belair

After the cold weather on Friday and Saturday, things have warmed up again. We staggered up to 6ºC Sunday, and Monday’s forecast high is 11ºC.

Matthew Belair caught a ride in a ski-plane yesterday.  The Cessna 180 belongs to Moncrief Construction Limited, and was flown by Rob Perchuck.

Matthews dad Kelly had this to say about the ice: It’s starting to go now, lots of points and narrows are opening up. There’s still about two feet where we were fishing yesterday, but the ice was starting to candle and not as solid. The auger rips through it fast.

These pictures were taken on Sunday, April 5th.  Some were taken using the camera on Matthew’s drone, and the uploaded versions are not very zoomable. Others were taken with an iPhone, and are much higher resolution.

Water flowing out of Devil’s Gap into Rat Portage Bay with Kenora in the distance. That’s Gun Club Island at the left edge of the frame.

A closer look at Devil’s Gap, with the iced-in Marina visible at the left. The swirling tracks in the foreground were apparently made by a wind-boat. (Air driven boats are known by several names: ice boat is common here, air boat in the Florida Everglades, and in northern Saskatchewan, they’re called rice boats because they’re used to harvest wild rice.)

This is the ice road through Holmstrom’s Marsh. Water closing in on both sides now.

Scotty Island, looking west down the Manitou towards Whiskey Island. Nothing but ice out here.

Looking north towards town from the same area. Copeland Island, home to Camp Stevens, is at the right. The two islands above and left of center are Anchor Island and Wildcat Island, and the ice looks rotten all the way to Billy Goat Island at the upper right hand corner.

Turning the camera to the east, Matthew took this shot down Bigstone Bay.xNanton’s Island is left of center, with Bell’s Island and Lunny’s Island beyond it. On the right, that’s Finches Point at the north end of Scotty Island, then Mazies Island and Heap’s Point at the northern the tip of Middle Island. Bigstone Bay is typically late to thaw.

Heartfelt thanks to Matthew, Rob and Kelly.



April 5, 2020: Matthew Belair

Here are some drone photos of The Elbow from yesterday, April 4, taken by Matthew Belair. Matthew used a DJI Spark to capture these images.

The Elbow is important because it’s one of the major water passages through the Barrier Islands. It thaws early, and the current flowing north from here influences the break-up in a large area.

I believe this shot looks north east, with Allie Island on the right and Mather Island at the left. I adjusted this photo to make it brighter, so the snow and ice can be seen more clearly.

These pictures are not very large, so although clicking on them will take you to a full-screen version, it won’t be high resolution.

The remaining pictures are not retouched. Here are two from above Queer Island.

This one looks south west towards The Elbow.

Looking west toward the sunset with green buoy E21 in a little open water. E21 is at the west end of Queer Island.

Lastly, my favourite, a close-up of the buoy.


I also like that you can see where recent cold calm conditions made some fresh ice.

Thanks Matthew!

April 4, 2020: Satellite Saturday

Kenora caught the tail end of Manitoba’s big storm. Before dawn on Friday, we had freezing rain, and then it turned to snow sometime around sunrise.

Friday stayed nasty all day, and when the skies cleared overnight the temperature dropped to -16ºC. There was no wind, so ice formed on quiet waters.

Here’s a picture taken from the highway between Keewatin and Norman.


See that shiny surface beyond the fresh layer of snow? That’s new ice. The open water is in the distance, where the ripples are. You can click on this picture to see it in high resolution.

For Satellite Saturday, since it’s too early to really see open water from space, I thought I’d put up photos from before and after the winter storm.

You cannot enlarge these pictures; they are at the maximum resolution available.

For a comparable satellite picture with some landmarks labelled, visit the FAQ page and scroll down.

This is the before pic, from March 31st. Notice that the forest is starting to look green.

Naturally, it was too cloudy to take pictures during the storm, but the skies cleared today.

Same camera, same satellite, April 4th. You can see that Shoal Lake, at the left, looks much whiter with its new layer of snow. The same is true of the Clearwater Bay and Ptarmigan Bay area east of Shoal, and also Buffalo Bay and Muskeg Bay, in the south west corner of the lake. The forested areas look less green, probably because of snow on the ground. A cloudy patch hid the Winnipeg River today.

I’ll finish with a couple of bonus pictures.

This is Piper checking out the geese and ducks last week on Tunnel Island.

And this is what our walk looked like this morning.

Stay well. Don’t forget to wipe down your smart phone.

April 1, 2020: Fresh pictures

I didn’t expect to be flying this week, but I did get a trip this evening. I grabbed a couple of quick photos of the downtown area as we departed.

Remember, you can click on most of these pictures to see the full resolution, zoomable version.

This picture looks west, with Treaty Island in the middle of the frame. Just to the right of it, you can see a small patch of open water downstream of Devil’s Gap near Goat Island and Johnson Island.  Beyond Treaty Island, the sun glints off the water in Keewatin Channel, near Anglican Island.

This second picture, taken just moments later, is centred on downtown Kenora. At the left, it shows Devil’s Gap more clearly. There is extensive open water in Safety Bay, and at the headwaters of the Winnipeg River.

I tried to take more pictures on my return, but the light was fading, and the contrast was too poor.

Now for a couple of contributor pictures taken earlier.

Graham Gork took these pictures of Norman Bay just before noon today.

From downtown Kenora, it looks like vast stretches of the lake are open.

Remember, there are strong currents all along the Keewatin to Kenora shoreline, and this area opens up while the rest of the lake is still frozen.

Now some pictures from yesterday.

John Wallis writes:  “I took these yesterday about 11:30 AM [Tuesday]. The first is Western Ptarmigan Bay with Copper Island in the background. A bit of slush on the ice as can be seen with these darker areas. The road surface is in the immediate foreground and was nice and solid.
“Second is the road at Rush Bay Landing. Ice is okay, but developing potholes just before the ramp.”

So that gives us some idea of  conditions at the west end of the lake.

Josh Broten checked in again from the south. He says there hasn’t been much change, but he did take his Cub down lower for this look at the water between Falcon Island and Windfall Island.

Lastly, graph guy Sean Cockrem has been studying the data, and he says:

“I would say we hit our inflection date on March 26th this year. The forecast does show that it cools off a bit down the road but for now I’d feel safe saying we are there.

“Looking at the final freezing index, this was the warmest winter we’ve had since I started doing this type of analysis, starting in the spring of 2018 if I recall correctly. And this is one of the earliest inflection dates as well.

“All that is to say, that as long as we just see average temps, there shouldn’t be ice on the lake for the long weekend and in fact, possibly even by May 1st the lake will be open.”

I’d like to thank all today’s contributors. I’d always hoped that Ice Patrol could become a place where we could share our information, and it seems to be happening.

March 31, 2020: Slush

Yesterday was our warmest day yet, with a high of 11ºC. This produced slush on the lake. In some places, a lot of slush. Here are two pictures from Gerry Rummery, who was out taking down trail markers for the Sunset Trail Riders. Trail L106 runs from Clearwater Bay down to the North West Angle. This first photo was taken on Monument Bay, which is south east of Big Narrows.

Gerry reports that the slush was 12 to 18 inches deep!

You can’t enlarge these pictures because Gerry kept them small in order to email them to me. But you get the idea.

The more northerly parts of the trail were not so bad. One or two inches of slush.

With another day of warm temperatures, this will probably get worse.

Now I need to talk to you about the Covid-19 Pandemic. Kenora’s Lake of the Woods District Hospital is in trouble. Five of our local doctors are  quarantined. We are always short of doctors here, and use visiting doctors from elsewhere in Ontario to make up about 20-30% of the  shifts. Those locum Doctors aren’t coming. They cannot. Many are needed to staff emergency wards in their home cities. Others are in quarantine. Overall, Kenora is down to about half of the doctors we usually have, and quarantine has meant a shortage of nurses as well. Here’s a link to an news story about it from CBC Manitoba.

The LoW District Hospital has only four ICU beds, and no advanced care. Ordinarily, patients who need surgery could be transferred to Winnipeg, especially if they were from Manitoba. Right now there are Manitoban patients who are quarantined because of their travel history: they cannot be returned to Manitoba.

Dr. Sean Moore is the chief of emergency services at Lake of the Woods District Hospital. He urges Manitobans to stay where their doctor is. He’s not alone. Dr. Brent Roussin, chief of Manitoba’s provincial public health office, says travel to areas with small hospitals could overwhelm them. And the Manitoba government is advising cottage owners not to go to their summer properties during the pandemic, in or out of Manitoba.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on the Kenora Online Covid-19 page. It’s kept up to date. Some stories there: City of Kenora has declared a state of emergency, Manitoba requires self isolation for people entering the province, Ontario Provincial Police can fine people for violating an emergency order.

Please keep yourselves safe. Going to the cottage is not essential travel. I never thought I’d say this on Ice Patrol, but please stay home until things are better.