May 12, 2022: It’s All Going

I wasn’t expecting pictures today because of the heavy rainfall warning. But the weather has been better than expected so far, and I received three great sets.

Before we start with the pictures, the comments form is overflowing with people reporting that various places are open, or opening fast.

Let’s back those assertions up with some evidence. First up, aerial photos from James Hendy at River Air. He’s another of my former colleagues from decades ago.

You can click on these pictures to see larger versions that reveal more detail.

James started at Poplar Bay.

Poplar Bay.

It’s partly open, but there’s ice at the south end. Let’s take a closer look.

Poplar Bay, Welcome Channel, Wolf Island, Hare Island.

Next, James cruised out to the Manitou. The first view looks roughly south.

 

The Manitou. Whisky Island at the right, Barrier Islands in the distance.

Still ice here, and the ice roads haven’t broken apart yet. The Manitou is one of the last places to let go, but once things reach this stage of soft ice, it’s very vulnerable to wind.

Looking more to the south west shows the western stretch of the Manitou.

West Manitou. Crow Rock Island at the upper centre.

Then back towards Kenora. The ability to reach Scotty Island is a key milestone in boat access.

 

Scotty Island in the distance.

I’ve heard from BB Camps that Town Island is accessible, and it looks like you can make it to Scotty Island now. More about the beach there, later.

Thanks, James!

Our second set of photos come from contributor Scott Benson.

Over Sugar Bay looking east down Clearwater Bay. It’s open water west of here. Frozen east and south.

Scotty’s beach in foreground looking east over Bigstone Bay.

That beach is looking pretty waterlogged. I like the little cluster of ice-road fragments, though.

Looking north over Shammis Island where the main ice road crosses. This area of the lake is 90+% ice at this point.

I’ve said it before, but the ice roads are the last things to let go. This broken one shows how close we are to total ice-out.

Over Ash Bay looking east at the grouping of islands including S Island and north up Corkscrew Channel. Open around S island and frozen to the east towards Whiskey island.

There’s still quite a lot of ice out there, but it’s almost all candled. Basically it’s just fancy ice cubes (well, hexagons, actually) floating around and keeping each other company.

Just west of Victoria Island looking north at Mud Portage, and Woodchuck/Deception bays in the distance. Woodchuck and Deception are ice free.

Over the entrance to Echo bay looking east down Ptarmigan Bay, Zig Zag island in the center. Ice free north of Zig Zag island.

Looking south east at Echo Bay. About 1/2 open water.

West Hawk Lake. This ice has been pushed around by the wind for the past 3 days and won’t last long.

I have had at least one report that West Hawk Lake is wide open. Consider that if an observer was standing on the far shore, they would not be able to see this ice remnant on the west side.

Looking south over Shoal Lake. Some areas open (maybe 5-10%) ice in the middle looks white, the strongest ice I spotted today.

Oh, good. I just had someone asking about Shoal Lake. Typically, Shoal Lake’s ice lasts a few days longer than it does on Lake of the Woods. There’s a pretty big pan there, but I don’t think it will last through the weekend.

Scott was kind enough to write captions for his pictures, saving me a lot of work. Thanks, Scott!

But wait, there’s more.

Here’s a picture  of the ice at Clearwater Bay from Brendon Thiessen that came in while I was writing this post.

This was taken at 2pm today (12/05/2022). Looking Northwest from Big Duck Island toward Sugar Bay.

Brendon was using a drone to check on his docks, (they’re fine) and sent me this to show the ice. Thanks, Brendon!

I’ll finish with a set of aerial photos from MAG Canada’s Justin Martin.

We’ll start with Northern Harbour, because I’ve been curious about it for a  couple of days.

Pine Portage Bay, Sultana Island and Bald Indian Bay.

There’s water around the docks now, but before you phone Northern Harbour, take note that there’s not actually a clear route out of Pine Portage Bay yet.

From Bare Point, Looking west towards Treaty Island.

It looks as if you could take a boat out through Devil’s Gap now. There’s still a lot of pan ice, though, so you’d want to be careful not to get trapped.

Middle Island and Scotty Island.

The same applies if you try to go beyond Scotty Island. Large pans of ice, moving around because of wind and current. South of the Barrier Islands, those sheets are massive. We’ll take a closer look in a minute.

But first, Corkscrew Island, Ptarmigan Bay and Clearwater Bay.

 

Corkscrew Island, looking west towards Zigzag Island.

Now the Barrier Islands, and the huge ice sheet south of them.

East Allie Island and Allie Island, looking over those Barrier Islands at the ice to the south.

Most years, that ice covered area is the last to go. Small pans of this may survive for several more days.

Thanks for these, Justin!

This last shot from Justin is a little different.

Judging by the Kenora Airport in the background, this is the Essex Road. As you can see, a lengthy stretch of it is underwater.

This is not the only road in the region to be flooded or washed out. The problem in this location is that the Winnipeg River is now higher than the Black Sturgeon Lakes, causing their water levels to rise.

It’s raining as I write this, and we have another heavy rainfall warning, so water levels in the whole drainage basin of Lake of the Woods are sure to continue rising.

As far as the ice is concerned, it’s melting everywhere, and it’s melting fast. It won’t be long now.

 

 

May 3, 2022: Signs of Progress

Well okay. The thaw has finally started.

Thanks to the wet weather, the snow in town is mostly gone. Some of the larger snowbanks persist, but streets and sidewalks are basically dry.

So what about the lake? Justin Martin was out flying at around midday today, and sent me some pictures.

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

We’ll start the tour at Northern Harbour on Pine Portage Bay.

Pine Portage Bay, looking west over Bald Indian Bay.

The docks at Northern Harbour are at the lower right corner of the picture, and they’re completely ice-locked.

The next picture moves forwards and swings a little to the left to show Scotty Island and Middle Island.

In an Ice Patrol post almost a week ago, there were signs of weak ice to the south of Keewatin Channel. Wet weather since then should have made a difference. And it has.

Needle Point, the northern tip of Hay Island, is in the foreground. Behind it are Middle Island and Scotty Island. To the right are Nanton’s Island and Lunny’s Island, and Town Island is at the right edge.

Now we can see open water extending past Town Island, and reaching as close to Scotty Island as Anchor Island.

Time to check on the Barrier Islands.

Looking west over Square Island at the Barrier Islands.

The most notable thing in this view is the large patch of open water at The Elbow.  There’s more water at Queer Island, and I think that’s a new development. At the left of the picture, French Narrows isn’t showing much change yet, but all the ice in the foreground looks soft.

There’s progress down at Big Narrows, too.

Tranquil Channel and Big Narrows.

Lots of water here. Donald Duck Island is at the lower right, and this view makes it obvious how it got its name. The ice in this area looks fairly sound.

Next up, Ptarmigan Bay.

Ptarmigan Bay, with Clearwater and Deception in the distance.

The photo above shows most of Ptarmigan Bay and Clearwater Bay. By and large, it’s all frozen.

There’s one exception.

Open water at Ash Rapids.

That’s our round-up for today. Thanks, Justin!

Generally speaking, the ice is softening in areas with current, and areas of open water are expanding slowly.

Warmer weather is on the way, so we can hope for more progress in the days to come.

Today’s clear skies meant that Terra got a good look at us.

If you click on this satellite image, you’ll see a version with some landmarks tagged.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 3, 2022, in false colour.

There are more patches of black, representing open water, and the land seems to have a lot less snow.

Here’s how it looked one week ago, if you want to see the change.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite, April 26, 2022, in false colour.

Seeing the images together also reveals how the quality of the ice has changed in a week. Notice how much darker the ice looks in the upper image. That indicates that it has grown weaker.

It’s not very helpful to look back on May 3rd of previous years. Often the lake was open by now, or nearly so. The one year that would be worth a look was 2014, another notoriously late year. I checked the archives at the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s website, and the pictures from early May of 2014 are mostly cloudy. From what I can see, the lake looked about the same. That year, Lake of the Woods wasn’t ice-free until May 21.

Signs of spring: the pelicans are back.

I think it’s time to mount my summer tires. We might actually see temperatures as high as 16°C this week. That’s a whole degree above average.

April 22, 2021: Even Less Ice

This morning’s satellite shot is a little blurry, but you can still make out some ice on Shoal Lake.

Click on this to see a version with landmarks tagged.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image for April 22, 2021, in false colour.

Justin Martin sent me another batch of aerial photos today.

You can click on these to see a larger version with more detail.

Scotty Island.

This is Scotty Island as seen from the Manitou, looking north east towards town. Minor patches of ice at the lower left, by Slate Island, and at the right side by Strawberry Island.

Cat Island. Strawberry Island.

The view west from over Middle Island, which is partially visible at the bottom of the frame. The double patch of ice by Strawberry Island is the same one as in the previous photo, but with better lighting.

Next we’ll take a closer look at those ice pans in the distance.

The Manitou.

Further westward, this is the view down the Manitou, with the Slate Islands* in the middle and Whiskey Island to their right. At the bottom of the frame is the south west tip of Scotty. Still isolated patches of ice here, too.

*Slate Island (singular) is near Scotty Island. The Slate Islands (plural, a chain) are just slightly further west in the middle of the Manitou.

There are also two Galt Islands. One is near Devil’s Gap on Lake of the Woods, and the other is on Shoal Lake, near Martinique Island, which is quite separate from the similarly named island in the Caribbean.

Thompson Island, Poplar Bay, The Tangle.

Looking north, with Keewatin visible in the distance if you zoom in. That patch by Hough’s Island is about as weak as a sheet of ice can get and still hold together.

Quarry Island, Queen Bee Island, Sultana Island.

Here we’re looking east into Bald Indian Bay at the left, and Pine Portage Bay at the right. That’s Heaps Point at the bottom of the picture. A lonely and desperate pan of ice clings to Kipling Island. It’s doomed.

Now down to the Barrier Islands.

The Elbow.

Looking south over the Elbow, so we have Allie Island at the left and Shammis Island at the right. Oliver Island is just left of center. It looks like most of the pans in this area have shrunk, but survived another day.

We’ve done better than expected today, reaching 16°C this afternoon.  Let’s hope we can beat the odds tomorrow, too, because there’s talk of snow during the day and an overnight low of -5° Friday night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 16, 2021: Today’s Photos / News

These aerial photographs were taken just before noon today, by MAG Canada‘s Justin Martin.

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

Hay Island.

Looking north west along Hay Island towards Middle Island and Scotty Island. Needle Point is at the lower right corner.

Pine Portage Bay, Sultana Island, Bald Indian Bay.

This same pan of ice was photographed yesterday afternoon by Quinn Wilson. It looks thinner now. It also shrank noticeably in the span of twenty hours, and lost some of the smaller pans that surrounded it.

Pine Portage Bay, including Northern Harbour.

I waited a bit to see if I got any late arriving photos, or if one of the satellites managed to catch a break in the cloud cover, but it looks like that’s it for today.

Oh. No it’s not. I forgot to check the news today. This Covid-19 update about provincial border checkpoints from CBC News. 

We’re just days away from full ice-out now, and some popular areas of the lake are already reachable.

For the rest, a lot may depend on our weekend weather. As if to keep the suspense going, it’s a mixed bag. The Weather Network says we’re looking at a crisp -7°C tonight, but temperatures should rebound to 10° by Saturday afternoon.

 

March 19, 2021: Jason Duguay

Our guest contributor today is Jason Duguay. He’s a paramedic with ORNGE, and when there’s not a patient on the helicopter, he sometimes has time to snap some low-level photos near Kenora, usually in the vicinity of the LotW District Hospital or the Kenora airport. Here’s a couple from a recent flight.

You can click on these images to see them full screen, and then zoom in.

Longbow Lake

I left this picture full-size because I like the rotor blade.

 

Longbow Lake, Pine Portage Bay, Bigstone Bay.

This one, I cropped to letterbox proportions, because there was a lot of sky, and it saves on upload time and storage space.

In addition to his job as a paramedic, Jason also explores the lake on his ATV. Here’s what he said about a recent outing: “I was all the way down to Calendar Island on my ATV on Wednesday. The ice is still tight and solid. But there is little to no snow on top of the ice. Only a few slushy areas around Narrows or ice ridges. The Landings seem to be holding up for now as well.”

Thanks for the report and pix, Jason!

 Some technical notes and stuff.

The numbers of visitors to Ice Patrol are running around the same as last year, which is to say about half what they were before the pandemic. Notably, hits from the US have dropped from about a third of the total to about a fifth or less. This makes sense. US visitors cannot look forward to visiting Canada yet, and the number of Canadian snowbirds wintering in the US is drastically reduced.

Bizarre stuff from Flag Counter: I have recently had visitors from Tunisia and Martinique. Umm, hi! Welcome to the frozen north.

So far, my regular contributors are popping up in my inbox like old friends, and I haven’t even emailed them to nag! Naturally, some are absent, as pilots have been laid off by the thousands. I recently heard that my own lay-off has been extended to the end of June, so it’s unlikely that I will be flying or taking any aerial photos myself this year. Luckily, a couple of my colleagues are keeping MAG Canada’s home fires burning, and are taking pictures for me when they can.

I have added a search tool to the sidebar of the website. This makes it possible to search the blog for posts about your favourite place or contributor.

NOTE: The search box won’t work all that well after I archive most of the previous years on a separate site (I’m running out of storage here) but I’ll provide links, and the archive site will also have a search tool.

Remember, if you view most of your Ice Patrol content via an email subscription, or on a mobile device, you’re missing out on some of the features of the full website. Stop by for a visit now and then. The easiest way is to type icepatrol.ca into your browser.

The weather continues to improve. Today we hit 10°C for several hours, and the Weather Network is forecasting a high of 11°C for tomorrow. After the weekend, we’re probably looking at cooling off a bit, with daytime highs in the low single digits next week, and overnight lows ranging from -4°C to as low as -7°C. Don’t be too disappointed; normal temps this time of year are more like highs of merely 2°C and lows of about -8°C, and we’re still doing better than that.

 

March 29, 2018: It’s Turned Cold

We took a very quick turn over the lake this afternoon. There’s good news and bad news. We’d better start with the good news. Wednesday morning, we had rain, and it took a toll on the snow covering the lake ice.

This is Pine Portage Bay, home of Northern Harbour.

This view is to the north. That weird greenish shape like a giant blade of grass is just a digital distortion of one of the propeller blades. If you look closely—or better yet, click and zoom in—you can see lots of little gray patches where the snow cover is very scant.

Next, a shot of Bald Indian Bay. The clouds were pretty today, so I included a bit more sky than usual.

Looking north west, with downtown Kenora in the distance, just right of center. More evidence of thinning snow cover, but the ice roads look pretty sturdy.

A peek at the Town Island area before we turn back to the airport.

Town Island is to the lower left, Shragge’s Island is closest to the center, and the open water in Keewatin Channel and Back Channel has made little or no progress. That brings us to the bad news.

The temperature plummeted Wednesday, and will remain below freezing for Easter weekend and all of next week. Tonight’s low is forecast to hit -20°C! Ten or more consecutive freezing days is going to comprise a serious setback. Already, the open water near between Coney Island and the Clarion is skinning over with fresh ice.

Until now, we’ve been seeing an amount of open water comparable to a typical year, which is to say, one that sees LotW completely ice free in the first five days of May. But I’ve been making allowances for that ice being stronger and thicker than usual, and thinking the thaw might not keep up a normal pace. If we now suffer a setback of over a week, that could push things back to more like mid-May.

I won’t be flying over the Easter holiday weekend, but I will be out on the lake on Monday, checking the ice thickness and quality with my ice-fishing friends from work.

Ominous footnote: two weeks ago, we were concerned that the landings of the ice roads might disintegrate to slush and surface water if the weather stayed mild, making an April 2nd excursion onto the lake tricky or even hazardous. I’m sorry to say this, but we needn’t have worried.

April 20, 2017: Tipping Point

It’s been a whole week since I could upload pictures, so I’m very glad I could take some new ones today. A lot has changed.

We have reached the tipping point. In the early spring, I take pictures of patches of water surrounded by ice. When we reach the halfway point, my pictures start to be of the ice/water boundary areas.

Okay, let’s go.

Longbow Lake, Pine Portage Bay, Bigstone Bay.

This first shot looks south west. Longbow Lake is at the left, Pine Portage Bay is more to the right, and the big patch of ice is Bigstone Bay. Note that Longbow is completely open. In Pine Portage Bay, Northern Harbour has some water to work with, but you cannot yet sail out of the bay onto the rest of the lake.

You can click on these pictures to see a larger version that’s zoomable to full resolution. That’s especially handy if you want to see something in the distance.

Next, we moved straight ahead to get closer to Hay Island.

Bigstone Bay, Hay Island.

Thunder Bay, home of Smith Camps, is at the left, with Long Point separating it from Pine Portage Bay, but Northern Harbour is just out of sight under the plane’s nose. There’s open water in those small bays, but as usual, ice in Bigstone Bay is holding out, making it tough to reach the area around Middle Island and Hay Island.

We went a little further to get a good look at Middle Island and Scotty Island.

Middle Island, Scotty Island.

The water’s wide open all the way to Scotty Island now, although a little pan ice is clinging to the north shore. Middle Island is mostly open, but it would be tricky to reach it from the east side. In the distance, you can see that Andrew Bay is open, but  there’s still lots of ice south of the Barrier Islands. Also notice that the Manitou is only open as far as Whiskey Island. Beyond that, the ice looks quite strong.

This next shot shifts the view to the right, looking more directly west.

Whiskey Island, Wolf Island, Thompson Island.

Town Island is just to the right of the aircraft’s nose in the picture above with just a little ice trapped around Galt Island. Roger’s Island and Treaty Island are open.

Let’s take a closer look at that area.

Treaty Island, Coney Island, Kenora.

We’ve climbed quite high now, so this shot shows the whole area from Galt Island at the lower left corner, past Treaty Island near the center, to downtown Kenora at the right. Devil’s Gap is clear, and the ice is all gone in  Rat Portage Bay, with Gun Club Island wide open.

Next, a different view of the Pine Portage Bay and Longbow Lake area.

Bald Indian Bay, Pine Portage Bay, Longbow Lake, Bigstone Bay.

This time we’re looking south east, so you can see all of Pine Portage Bay and Longbow Lake, and the far end of Bigstone Bay. The ice on Bigstone still looks pretty sturdy.

This last shot covers downtown again, but I’m including it because it looks west and offers a better view of Darlington Bay, and in the distance, Clearwater Bay and Shoal Lake.

Rat Portage Bay, Safety Bay, Darlington Bay, Winnipeg River.

We didn’t have time to fly further west, so Garrett snapped this shot from the pilot’s side while I took the controls for a moment. Darlington Bay is open. In the distance, Clearwater still has quite a bit of ice, and from the looks of it, Shoal Lake is still mostly frozen, at least the south part.

At the time I took these pictures, the pedestrian footbridge to Coney Island was still in place. You can just make it out behind the wing if you zoom in on this shot. But now that the ice is not an obstacle to boat traffic, the bridge will be coming out.

As we left town behind, we got rather too high to get good pictures, but we noticed that both Upper and Lower Black Sturgeon are open, while Silver Lake still has ice. Even further north, in my old float-plane stomping grounds, Maynard Lake and Oak Lake are about half open.

What does all this mean, in terms of how long until all the ice is gone on Lake of the Woods? With huge stretches of the lake open, the wind is able to really drive the ice and break it up.

I looked at some past years, and hunted for pictures with about the same amount of ice remaining. I would say we are now about ten days ahead of 2015 and 2016. That suggests that we have only a few days to go. Under ideal conditions, we could see the ice disappear this weekend. But. The weekend forecast is for single-digit highs, and overnight lows below freezing. Let’s just say within a week, and cross our fingers.