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.