May 10, 2022: It’s Going Fast

Yesterday, Ice Patrol and I took a day off, as poor weather meant I had no pictures to share. I felt a warm spell and then wind and wet weather should have made a big difference, but I had no way to see how much, and I didn’t want to speculate.

But today the sun came out, and we got some answers. Both Aqua and Terra satellites got good shots with their MODIS equipment today.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Aqua satellite, May 10, 2022, in false colour.

There are big changes visible in the few hours between Aqua’s pass and Terra‘s.

MODIS image of Lake of the Woods from Terra satellite, May 10, 2022, in false colour.

It looks as if the lake has lost about half of its ice. Normally, I’d say things should go fast from this point, but they already are!

The nice weather brought out the pilots, too, and I received a lot of pictures today. Tom Hutton had a chance to take a great series of pictures of the east side of the lake as he flew from Fort Frances to Kenora in sunny (but very bumpy) conditions.

You can click on Tom’s pictures to see larger, zoomable versions with more detail.

Nestor Falls.

Tom’s route brought him to Lake of the Woods at roughly Nestor Falls. Lots of water here now.

Then Whitefish Bay, which we seldom get pictures of.

Whitefish Bay.

In this shot, it looks like Whitefish Bay has entirely melted. But we need to take a closer look at the northern part of the bay.

Northern part of Whitefish Bay. Sioux Narrows is visible at the right, below the propeller blade tip.

Turns out there’s still extensive ice on the north half of Whitefish.

Whitefish Narrows.

Whitefish Narrows is just below the blade tip. These narrows are actually early to thaw, but this year it has taken some time for that open water to spread into Whitefish Bay.

West end of Long Bay and Yellow Girl Bay.

Still ice in Yellow Girl Bay. And plenty more to the north west.

The Barrier Islands and the Eastern Peninsula.

This shows almost the full stretch of the Barrier Islands. The Elbow is at the left, and French Narrows are near the middle. Lots of ice south of the Barrier Islands, which is typical. The distant ice is the Manitou.

West Manitou.

In the picture above, Birch Island is above the centre, and part of Whisky Island is at the right edge. Almost all ice here, as this is another late-thawing area.


East Manitou.

We’re getting closer to Kenora now. The curved beach at Scotty Island is just at the right edge of the frame.

Wildcat Island and Anchor Island.

Wildcat is in the centre. The foreground ice touches Hough Island and sticks to the shore of Thompson Island at the left. Holmstrom’s Marsh still looks icy.

Treaty Island.

Treaty Island dominates this picture, with Shragge’s Island just by the propeller spinner.* Notice how the ice roads are holding on between Treaty Island and Rogers Island, just above the engine nacelle.** Further left, by the tip of the propeller blade, the ice roads around Gun Club Island in Rat Portage Bay are breaking up and moving around. That’s significant, because Gun Club Island is usually late to break free.

*The shiny cover at the centre of the propeller is called the spinner. It’s like a hubcap, but very firmly attached.

**The streamlined fairings that cover the engines on a twin-engined airplane are the nacelles. On this King Air, the nacelles are painted white.

I wanted to see Pine Portage Bay, because Barb Enders sent me two pictures of Northern Harbour on the weekend. The first was taken just before noon on Friday. The second was taken on Sunday morning, just 46 hours later, and there was a spectacular change in the condition of the ice.

Pine Portage Bay.

Looks like the ice is still holding on there. At the right of the photo, you can see that Bigstone Bay is still ice-covered, too. Slow currents mean that Bigstone usually lags behind.

Our last shot from Tom shows the downtown Kenora waterfront and part of Coney Island. Thanks, Tom!

Coney Island.

There are still sizeable pans of ice south of Coney, around Goat Island and Johnson Island in Rat Portage Bay. Most years, once those were gone, the Coney Island footbridge would be removed to facilitate boat traffic. But not this year.

The Coney Island footbridge was damaged by wind and ice on Monday evening. You can read about it on Kenora Online.

So that’s one sign of spring we’ll have to do without this year, but there are others.

The first floatplane docked on the Kenora harbourfront today. River Air’s Caravan will be followed by more of their planes tomorrow. The pilots who brought it down from Minaki, Jamie Clemmens and Robyn Warken, took some pictures for me, but there were technical issues, and I’m still working on that.

Josh Broten took some pictures today, too, and they’ll round out the lake coverage with photos of the south west portion. It’s getting late, so I’ll put them up tomorrow morning.

Thanks everyone!

The weather outlook for the next while is a mixed bag, with more cloud and some showers. Temperatures will be mostly back to near normal, but with cooler conditions as the weekend arrives, naturally. Things should recover a bit a few days later.

April 28, 2022: Aerial Photos

My old friend Tom Hutton went flying on over the lake yesterday, and took a whole set of pictures for us.

You can still count the open patches of water on Lake of the Woods on your fingers, but let’s go have a look at some of them.

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

Kenora, with Rat Portage Bay in the middle and Safety Bay to the right.

Okay, everybody in town knows there’s open water on Safety Bay.

Here’s a closer look at what’s open in Keewatin Channel and Second Channel.

Keewatin Channel and Second Channel. White Partridge Bay in the distance.

We’ve covered this key area in more detail with Paul Leischow’s drone panoramas, but here’s an overview that puts it in perspective.

What about further south than this. Is the ice letting go around Town Island yet?

Town Island at the lower right, Thompson Island in the middle and Wolf Island up and to the left.

It’s starting to look pretty rotten here, where the current flows into Keewatin Channel. But there’s still a whole lot of snow-covered ice out in the Manitou, and well, everywhere. That’s Shoal Lake way off in the distance.

Now a look at the Barrier Islands, because this is the next closest place to Kenora where we can expect to see open water in the early stages of the thaw.

Looking West from the Eastern Peninsula along the Barrier Islands. Square Island* is at the lower right.

There’s a fair-sized expanse of water at the Elbow. French Narrows, at the western tip of the Eastern Peninsula has just a tiny patch. You’ll have to zoom in to see it well. It’s just left of centre in this picture.

*Square Island is not square in shape. It is shaped like a carpenter’s square.

How about down at the south end of the lake?

Looking south from near the Northwest Angle. Birch Island, Oak Island and Flag Island span the picture at the edge of the Big Traverse.

Big Traverse is still ice-covered, but the photo above shows quite a lot of open water along the west side of Falcon Island.

Big Narrows is always worth checking on.

Looking east over Big Narrows.

We saw some low-altitude views of this area from Scott Benson yesterday. In some of those pictures, the slanting evening light made some of the ice resemble water. Here’s how it looks from a higher viewpoint, and the daylight makes the extent of the water very clear.

Lastly, as Tom headed back towards the airport, he took a look at Devil’s Gap.

Devil’s Gap.

This wasn’t clearly visible in the first photo, but you can see that there’s only small penetration of water into Rat Portage Bay, and everything out towards Bigstone Bay is pretty solid.

Thanks, Tom!

Signs of spring: pre-season training for the water-bomber pilots.

Tanker practicing on Safety bay, as seen from Norman Beach.

You might recall that a recent photo showed no open water on Wabigoon Lake, close to Dryden’s big Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources base. Every spring, tanker crews come to Kenora to train on either Safety Bay or the Winnipeg River.

April 30, 2016: Going…

With help from some friends, I can offer an update this weekend after all. First, the satellite overview. If you compare today’s picture with the ones from three days ago, you can see that the areas of ice are much reduced. The  mostly gray patch at the upper left is Shoal Lake. The streaky gray bit at the upper middle is Clearwater Bay, and the faint pale streak to the right of that is Bigstone Bay.  Below that is a scribble of bright white ice, and that’s closer to Sioux Narrows.


Lake of the Woods, April 30, 2016.

Second, I received a fabulous picture of Pine Portage Bay through Twitter today. Joe Wedge tweeted me these:


This version isn’t zoomable, but it clearly shows that Pine Portage Bay is wide open, while much ice lurks out in Bigstone Bay. Thanks, Joe! I hope it’s okay that I cropped it.

As soon as I replied, he sent three more:


Brown’s Island, Ptarmigan Bay


Ptarmigan Bay, Ash Rapids


Clytie Bay, Shoal Lake

These all show areas I haven’t been able to cover this spring. Thanks again!

I got a great set of pictures from guest contributors Garry Hawryluk and Barry Mallin today, and they were just what I needed. These were taken Saturday morning.

Click on the pictures to see a larger version, and click on that to zoom right in.

I’ll start  near town, and work my way west. Garry was actually flying towards town, but through the magic of the internet, let’s pretend we can back him up.

Welcome Channel Poplar Bay Crop

Poplar Bay, Welcome Channel, Hare Island, Wolf Island

This shot looks east, with Welcome Channel and Hare Island close to the center. Poplar Bay is a little further back and to the left, and way off toward the horizon on the left is Kenora. All that ice at the right is the Manitou.

Whisky Island

Whisky Island, Slate Islands

Looking south east over Whisky Island. Did I mention that there’s still lots of ice in the Manitou? It may not look like much on the satellite picture, but the northern portions of Lake of the Woods still have extensive stretches of ice.

Birch Island

Birch Island, Ptarmigan Bay

Looking west from the Manitou  over Brulé Point towards Ptarmigan Bay, things look a little better.

Here’s one for the Clearwater crowd.

ZigZag Island Crop

Deception Bay, Woodchuck Bay, ZigZag Island

Looking East again. Deception Bay, at the left, is pretty open, but there’s still quite a lot of ice further out from the landing.

Heartfelt thanks to Garry and Barry for today’s pictures . It’s always tricky at the end of the thaw, because things suddenly start to change very fast, and it gets hard for me to keep up.

Today, I drove to Winnipeg and back. Naturally, I looked at the lakes as I went by. When I went west, at around 11:00AM, Clearwater Bay had lots of ice, much like what you can see in the picture above. Falcon Lake looked to be 50-60% ice-covered.

On my return, at around 7:00PM, things had changed a lot. Strong north winds had pushed the ice on Falcon against the south shore, and it looked from the highway as if there was only 15-20% ice cover. This is where aircraft come in so handy- they give a better overall perspective. But although it’s hard to judge accurately from just driving by, I think there was big change in eight hours.

Ice also retreated visibly from Clearwater Landing. I’d guess it had been pushed back almost to McCallum Point, but remember, I was driving by in my nice warm car, not freezing my face off in a boat for a proper look.

Overall, Lake of the Woods looks like it’s down to 10-12% ice cover. In the area just south of Kenora, it might still be close to 50%, but the ice is weakening fast. The forecast for next week is calling for warm temperatures on Monday and Friday, but cooler conditions during the week.

I’m looking forward to taking some pictures on Monday.