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.



April 16, 2019: Aerial Photographs

Yesterday’s post with Sean’s graphs has been updated, to show a thaw index closer to last year’s actual result instead of last year’s forecast. Also the graphs have titles now. You may need to hit refresh to see the changes.

Now six pictures from around 10:00 this morning.

I’ll start with the Winnipeg River, because we were arriving from the north.This is looking west at the Big Straight, with Minaki at the right hand edge of the picture. Although the river has quite a lot of open water, the lakes are a different story.

You can click on any of these pictures to see them full-screen, and click on that larger image to zoom to the full resolution.

A little closer to town, around Dufresne Island, facing south west.Downtown Kenora is at the left, Keewatin is above the centre of the frame, with Darlington Bay extending to the right.

Here’s a nice shot of the whole Kenora harbourfront.Kenora Bay and the LOW hospital campus are at the lower left. Keewatin is at the right. If you drive over the Keewatin Bridge, you see a lot of open water, but there’s  ice out by Yacht Club Island. Coney Island is still surrounded by ice and Rat Portage Bay is pretty solid.

This next picture shows the condition of the lake as a whole: white ice as far as the eye can see.Zoom in to look at the open water in The Tangle. Left of centre, you can see the ice does look a little discoloured out between Town Island and Scotty Island now.

Lastly, a look at Pine Portage Bay, Long Point and Longbow Lake.Sorry, but there’s no sign of any melting in this area.

I talked to someone that went ice fishing in the Storm Bay last weekend. They said there was still three feet of solid ice, with only an inch or two of softer refrozen slush on top.

This is why I’ve been pointing my camera at the river and harbourfront; there’s not much going on anywhere else. When I get a chance, I’ll try to swing by Sioux Narrows and the Barrier Islands because satellite imagery suggests there’s some water showing there, but that’s a fairly significant detour, so I’m saving that for when there’s more to see.

Satellite images were good today, especially the ones from Terra. Links updated.

March 25, 2019: Winnipeg River

If you’re a regular here, you know that I take my pictures where the ice is melting. There’s no point taking pictures far out on the lake, it’s all unbroken ice at present. Where the water is opening up right now is the Winnipeg River and it’s headwaters near downtown Kenora.

So let’s take a little cruise from Minaki to Kenora.

Remember, you can click on any of these pictures to see them full-screen, and click on that larger version to zoom them to full resolution.

This first picture shows the south end of Sand Lake, with Minaki above and left of center. The lake behind it that looks like a fried egg is Gun Lake. Anyway, there’s some slush visible, but not much in the way of water.

Next up, the Big Straight.

Mostly slushy conditions in the Big Straight, a few modest patches of water.

Then The Dalles.

The Dalles is always early to open up. Like Safety Bay in Kenora, it has a strong current. These two sites are where water bomber pilots come to do their spring training.

Approaching town.

Still looking south as we approach Dufresne Island.

Then the area around the Kenora Bypass.

Quite a lot of open water in this area.


Keewatin’s iconic bridge and the water reaching out from Safety Bay towards the Yacht Club. It’s not hooked up to the water in Keewatin Channel yet, but that will be a milestone in the next week or so.

A quick shot out the side window (looking west) to take in Darlington Bay.

That big building near the bottom of the picture is the Keewatin Rec Center.

A closer look at the Keewatin Channel.

Not much change to the amount of open water, but I think the slush zone has expanded.

Devil’s Gap.

This looks east over Golf Course Bay. You can see the Kenora airport at the upper left corner because we’re lining up to land. I took this one to show that open water is expanding south (upcurrent) from Devil’s Gap past Treaty Point.

I’ve updated the satellite picture links. On today’s False Colour image from the Aqua satellite, you can see some stretches of open water on the Winnipeg River. It shows as black against the bright blue ice, and it corresponds well to what I saw from the plane today. There are patches of water as far north as Whitedog.

My next flight should be on Wednesday, a day that’s forecast (for now, anyway) to be warm with a chance of showers. Rain showers don’t make for good photography, but they’re great for removing snow cover. We’ll see.



March 23, 2019: Satellite Saturday

I don’t often fly on Saturdays, so this is a great chance to catch up on the Satellite pictures.

The MODIS camera on NASA’s Terra satellite got a nice sharp picture yesterday.

Liam Gumley, Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The first thing you’ll notice is that this picture looks like it’s in black and white. It’s not. There just isn’t a lot of sparkling blue water or green leaves at this time of year.

Need a little help getting oriented? You won’t find your house on this picture: the smallest identifiable features are lakes about the size of Kenora’s Rabbit Lake, Round Lake and Laurenson’s Lake. All three are inside the little red circle.

Gives you an idea of the size of Lake of the Woods, doesn’t it? No, you can’t zoom in to see more detail. This is the highest resolution shot the MODIS camera gives us.

Here’s an old picture of the lake with more features marked.

Satellite Tags 01

The picture above is also on the FAQ page, if you’d like to refer to it later in the season.

It won’t always work out that a clear satellite picture shows up just in time for a Saturday Ice Patrol post. Sometimes it’s too cloudy, sometimes the pictures are blurred.

But I try to update the links at the right after a clear day. Each link shows the date, so you don’t have to click on it if it’s old news. Here’s a picture of what to look for, but the picture does not have live links.

If you can’t find this block of links, it may be because you’re looking at an email instead of the website, or it may be because the mobile version moves the links to the bottom instead of the side. Once you visit the satellite pictures at their own websites, it’s not too hard to change the dates.

I’ll have another new weekly feature starting tomorrow, and I should be flying on Monday, so I hope take some fresh pictures then.


May 9, 2018: Minaki

John Sweeney and Andy Zabloski flew today and returned from the north in the afternoon, so they helped me out with some pictures of the Minaki area.

Big Sand Lake, north of Minaki. Wind has driven the last of the ice to the shore.

You can click on any of these pictures to see a high-resolution, zoomable version.

The south end of Big Sand Lake and all of Sand Lake, with Minaki visible near the left side.

Sand Lake, with Minaki closer to the center of the picture. That white streak near the horizon is ice on Shoal Lake.

Winnipeg River, with Kenora in the distance, above the center of the photograph. The narrow lake near the top left corner is Lower Black Sturgeon, and the white patch at the top right corner is ice on the south part of Lake of the Woods.

In other news, the footbridge to Coney Island came out this morning. That’s scheduled when the waterway from downtown Kenora is otherwise open all the way to Devil’s Gap.

A quick glance at the start of my own flight at twilight revealed that there are some boats in the water at Northern Harbour. We didn’t look at more distant parts of the lake, because there wasn’t enough light to distinguish ice from water.

Satellite images from the last two days have not been good. I’d like to see what’s going on with ice on the southern parts of Lake of the Woods, but cameras on both Aqua and Terra satellites have been thwarted by cloud cover. Some parts of the lake can be glimpsed through gaps in the cloud, and do show the ice darkening, but we haven’t had a really clear image since May 7th.

Tomorrow I’m scheduled for a training flight, so I hope to get a better look around.


March 27, 2018: River Cruise

Today’s flight brought us to Kenora from the north, so Garrett and I cruised up the Winnipeg River from Minaki to Kenora. We had pretty good timing; skies were just clearing after a dull morning. You’ll notice a lot of haze in these pictures – that’s residual moisture from the clouds that just dissipated or blew away.

First, Minaki.

I was startled to see how much more open water there was in the area around the Minaki bridge since the last time I looked. The Minaki townsite is just about dead center in this view looking west, and open water stretches from the left edge most of the way across the picture. The river channel is fairly narrow here, so there’s good current.

Click on the picture to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

Further south, the Big Stretch is wider, slower and frozener. There was no open water to be seen until we approached Cache Point, where the river narrows again.

At the left of this photo, you can see where the river bends at The Dalles, and there’s a good stretch of open water all along there.

Looking south from Little Dalles, with open water reaching Boudreau Island. If you zoom in, you can see Laurenson’s Island and The Powderpuff. It doesn’t look like the channel is open yet to go downstream from Powderpuff to Boudreau.

This shot is centered on Fiddler’s Island. My chart doesn’t name many of the other islands, so I apologize for being vague.

Here’s the area where the power line crosses the river.

Lastly, downtown Kenora.

Looking south west, with Tunnel Island at the wingtip and the hospital bridge at the left edge. Safety Bay has opened up quite a bit, but it’s hard to tell what the ice is like under all that fresh snow.

Afternoon temperatures have been warm enough to melt most of that recent snowfall on land, but it will be more persistent on the ice. The Weather Network is still forecasting below-normal temperatures for the end of the week, with some overnight lows around -16°C and daytime highs as cool as -8°C.

I have a couple more days of flying this week, so I hope to get out over the lake for some pictures before the Easter weekend.

Then on Monday, I’m going out on the lake with my co-workers to get a first-hand look at the ice conditions. They’ll be the outdoorsy types with ice augers and fishing rods. I’ll be the nerd with the tape measure and notebook.

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.