May 16, 2018: Shoal Lake

Just a handful of icy loose ends remain to tidy up. Cloud layers in the Sioux Lookout area prevented me (and the satellites) from seeing Lac Seoul today, but skies were mainly clear when I returned to Kenora this afternoon. I took a look at Shoal Lake from a distance, and I couldn’t see any tell-tale whiteness. Satellite pictures also show it entirely dark now, so I don’t think there’s any ice left. Here’s the false-colour image from Terra Satellite.

The turquoise blur south of the Alneau Peninsula is just thin cloud. Shoal Lake is the vaguely heart-shaped lake in the upper left quarter of the picture.

In the meantime, I’d like to warn you that from the air, I’m seeing extensive “beaches,” not just on Lake of the Woods, but on all the lakes, a sure sign of very low water levels across the region. Please be careful with your boat, I’m already hearing that the marina mechanics are seeing a lot of bottom-end damage coming in. Approach reefs and shorelines, even at your own property, with extra caution this year.

Time for my annual reminder that float planes have the right of way over boats when landing or taking off. Be especially alert around Kenora’s Safety Bay, which is a licenced water aerodrome. Eyes on the skies, please, and check over your shoulder- float planes are fast!

Tomorrow I’ll be flying into Red Lake, so I’ll take a look at Red and Trout Lakes. I expect Red to be clear of ice, but Trout might still have some left. That’ll be about it for the region. Have a great summer!



May 8, 2018: Good News!

I didn’t go flying today, but my co-workers at MAG Aerospace did. They had a long day, arriving home just in time to catch some pictures in the evening light.

First home were John Sweeney and Andy Zabloski. Andy flew, John took pictures.

Blindfold Lake shines in the foreground of this picture looking west at Bigstone Bay with Hay Island in the distance. To the left, Andrew Bay looks open, but south of the Barrier Islands looks like there’s a huge area of ice remaining. Click on these pictures to see the high resolution version that you can zoom in on.

In this second shot, the plane has moved closer to Route Bay. Bigstone Bay is almost entirely open. The most ice is between Hay Island’s Needle Point and the mainland’s Heenan Point, and it’s just soft pan ice.

Hay Island, Moore Bay, Bigstone Bay. More water than ice now.

Scotty Island is just above the aircraft’s nose, and beyond that is the Manitou. Whiskey Island is still ice-locked, but all the ice looks soft and ready to disintegrate. Ptarmigan Bay and Clearwater look open, and I had a comment from scowtan2015 this morning to say that Clearwater’s ice blew out last night.

Town Island in front of the King Air’s nose this time, and everything is open around Treaty Island, Rogers Island and Galt Island now.

The next batch of pictures came from airline pilot Matthew Render, a regular guest contributor. He supplies me with pictures of Shoal Lake.

Matthew took these at six o’clock this evening; the pictures look north. The first one shows the west shore of Shoal Lake: everything is clear north of Twin Points including Rice Bay, Snowshoe Bay and Indian Bay. I’m not so sure about the north shore: cloud cover makes it hard to see if there’s ice or not.

Matthew’s second photo has Dominique Island in the foreground, and there’s still plenty of ice in view, but Matthew says it retreated a lot in the twelve hours between his morning flight and his evening flight today.

Caroline talked to a guy from the Sioux Narrows area this morning, and he said Long Bay cleared out last night.

Summary: vast areas of Lake of the Woods are open now, and the remaining ice is weak and floating loose, but cloud cover blocked the satellite cameras today, so we can’t get an overview of the whole lake.

More pictures are coming from my co-workers. Two other MAG Aero crews landed after Andy and John did. They’ll send me pictures this evening, and if their photographs cover different areas I’ll get them up late tonight or early tomorrow morning.

Thanks to everyone who pitched in to help with Ice Patrol today!

May 2, 2018: Scenic Tour

We had a training flight today that covered a fair bit of the lake.

I’ll lead off with another look at Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay.

The ice is letting go on Laurenson’s Lake, just right of center in this picture, and further away, the ice on Rat Portage Bay looks weaker, too.

Our second picture looks south east from Bare Point. Lunney’s Island is toward the left, and beyond it is Scotty Island. At the right side of the frame is Town Island.

If you zoom in, you’ll see little patches of water all over the place, but you can’t help but notice there’s a lot of ice out there still.

We went further in this direction, so our third picture is The Manitou.

That’s the western tip of Scotty Island at the lower left corner, and Whiskey Island is the isolated island in the white expanse that is the Manitou. Not so many holes out here; this part of the lake melts late.

Next we swung around to look at the Devil’s Elbow, the biggest patch of water near the Barrier Islands. Mather Island is at the right, Allie Island is near the middle of the picture.

Further south east, it’s all ice from Oliver Island, past Ferrier Island and pretty much all the way to Yellow Girl Bay.

We flew to Sioux Narrows.

This is taken from over Long Point Island, looking at Regina Bay. Mostly ice here.

For our next training exercise, we needed blue sky, so we turned west and headed for this gigantic “sucker hole” in the clouds.

That took us down the western end of Long Bay, so here’s a look at Whitefish Narrows. There are some promising patches of water there.

We climbed up higher, and caught this view as we turned north to stay in our patch of blue sky.

The distinctive island in the foreground is Cintiss Island, with Crescent Island behind it.  Beyond that, the span of the Barrier Islands, stretching from Crow Rock Island at the left to East Allie Island at the right.

There is open water at each narrows, but there’s also a lot of ice on the lake.

From our higher vantage point, we could clearly see Shoal Lake to our west.

The little lakes on the Western Peninsula are opening up, but Shoal Lake is deep and shows only tentative signs of opening up along the shores of Carl Bay, near the middle of this picture.

I thought you might like to see some real water, so here’s Big Narrows.

You’re looking east, with Ferris Island at the lower right. There’s open water all the way to Oak Bay, just above the middle of the picture, but Wiley Bay, to the left of it, is all ice.

Here’s a closer look at Wiley.

From here, the only water we see is on the shallow lakes of the Western Peninsula and along its shorelines.

On the home stretch back to Kenora and the airport, we caught this view of Poplar Bay. It’s mostly frozen; the dark patches are cloud shadows. The Tangle is open though.

Chasing patches of blue sky and steering away from aircraft inbound to Kenora set us roaming around today. I don’t often cover so much territory that I need to dig out four or five different marine charts, so I hope you enjoyed the tour.

If you’re in Kenora, it’s easy to form the impression that everything is melting fast, but there’s seventy-odd miles of lake you can’t see from town, and it’s mostly ice. It isn’t all going to melt this weekend.

We are making good progress, so our very late thaw can be upgraded to rather late.

April 23, 2017: Joe Wedge

Joe Wedge took these pictures Friday evening, and forwarded them to my Twitter account (@timothygwyn) today.

This first one is Ptarmigan Bay. Joe says it’s completely ice-free there.

Ptarmigan Bay

Joe tells me this is Ady Island. The photo looks north, so that must be Copper Island in the background.

The second shot is of Shoal Lake, looking south towards Spike Point.

Shoal Lake.

That places the photo at the east end of Shoal Lake, by Carl Bay. Keep in mind that these pictures were taken two days ago.

I don’t have a picture from her, but Ashley Kolisnik went flying today and sent me a text update through the comment form. In case you missed it, she says Lake of the Woods is 99% ice free as of Sunday afternoon. She found only a little patch of ice south of French Narrows, down by Butterfly Island, and she estimates it as half a mile long and about as wide.

Thanks, Joe and Ashley!

It has been wonderful to see so many people contributing to the Ice Patrol this year.

I’m supposed to go flying tomorrow, and I hope to be able to get a look at the lake then. However, there is a forecast for a significant snowfall starting Monday and worsening through the afternoon and evening, so the weather may not cooperate.


April 6, 2017: Steady Progress

We came home in afternoon sunlight today, and approached Kenora from the south east.

Dogtooth Lake and area

This picture looks north, with Silver Lake in the distance. It’s all ice out that way.

Click on these pictures to see a larger, high-res version that is zoomable.

We didn’t go over Sioux Narrows, but we got close enough to see Whitefish Bay.

Whitefish Bay, Long Bay, Yellow Girl Bay.

If you click on this picture and zoom in, you can make out a little open water at Whitefish Narrows. Off in the distance, the Big Traverse is still frozen.

Now that we’ve established that there are vast expanses of ice, let’s get back to my preference for taking pictures where the water is.

The Elbow.

This picture looks west at the open water at the Elbow. East Allie Island is in front of the wing, then Allie Island, and beyond the water are Mathis Island and Shammis Island.

The biggest expanse of open water is still Keewatin Channel.

Keewatin Channel.

The picture above was taken from over Middle Island. Scotty Island and the distinctive Scotty’s Beach are at the lower left. Just above that, you can see that water is lapping at Anchor Island now.

Last, a closer look at the passage through Devil’s Gap.

Devil’s Gap.

Kenora is in the distance at the left in this shot that looks north. You still couldn’t really go very far through the Gap by boat, but you could make it to Nickerson Island, and Galt will be reachable soon.

That’s about it for my photos today, but Matthew Render snapped a few shots from his Air Canada A320 as he flew by at 37,000 feet.

Shoal Lake.

These are not zoomable. Matthew probably sent them straight from his smartphone.

First, Shoal Lake. All ice, except a little patch at the left edge.

This shot looks east, so you can see Clearwater Bay, Ptarmigan Bay and that area in the background.


Big Traverse.

The North West Angle.








Looks like there’s some water at the North West Angle. Thanks, Matthew.

That’s it for today.


March 14, 2017: Hard March

I’ve been holding off on really starting work on the Ice Patrol this year because Kenora has been very cold for the last week or so. The ice has been getting thicker, not thinner. But hey, it’s the middle of March, so when the opportunity to fly over Lake of the Woods came up today, I grabbed some pictures.

Don’t get your hopes up. There’s a lot of ice out there. In fact, I had to look hard to find any open water at all.

The picture above looks north from a position over Anchor Island. Town Island is just above the wingtip, and above that you can make out Kenora’s downtown. Don’t forget, you can click on these pictures to see a larger version.

At the left of this photo, you can see a little open water in the Keewatin Channel, but it doesn’t connect to anything yet.

It’s common to find a stretch of open water near the Keewatin bridge at this time of year, but not today. There’s a patch of white ice there that looks as if it melted during that mild spell in February, then refroze in March.

Further away from town, there are small patches of water where the current flows between the Barrier islands, but on the whole, the lake looks like a continuous sheet of solid blue ice.

I was able to fly as far west as Clearwater Bay and I got a fairly good look at Shoal Lake. It’s all ice out that way, too.

This picture shows a view looking west down Ptarmigan Bay and Clearwater Bay towards Shoal Lake. At the top right corner, you can make out Falcon Lake and West Hawk Lake.

Milder temperatures are expected by the end of this week, but we’ve got some catching up to do.


May 2, 2016: …going…

I was able to catch a pretty shot of Northern Harbour on this morning’s departure from Kenora.

Click on the pictures to see a larger version that can be zoomed to 100%.


Pine Portage Bay, Sultana Island, Bald Indian Bay

Northern Harbour is at the very left edge of this shot, while Bald Indian Bay is on the right. All that ice in the middle distance is Bigstone Bay, and in the far distance at the right is ice on the big water south of the Eastern Peninsula.

On our return this evening, we swung over for a better look at that. This is well south of Kenora, closer to Sioux Narrows.


Shore Island

Shore Island is just below the center of this picture that looks west.  Beyond it is the largest pan of ice remaining on Lake of the Woods. Chisholm Island and Cliff Island are at the left edge, and way off in the distance is Shoal Lake. We couldn’t see any ice around Sioux Narrows, by the way: Long Bay and Regina Bay were entirely clear.

Next shot, closer to Kenora.


Hay Island, the Manitou

Hay Island is at the right, with Scotty Island above the center. That’s Whisky Island pointing like an arrowhead to where the sun is glinting on the waters of the Manitou. There are still a few loose pans of ice out that way, but the patch on Bigstone Bay at the right is much more substantial. Zoom in on this picture, and you should be able to make out some boats. Hint: look for the wakes.

Back to check on Northern Harbour and the ice on Bigstone Bay.


Hades Islands, Bigstone Bay

Middle Island and Hay Island are out of sight under the plane in this shot that looks north east over the Hades Islands at Bald Indian Bay, Sultana Island and Pine Portage Bay. Think of this picture as the opposite of the morning shot. This is the second largest pan of ice left on Lake of the Woods.

Lastly, Matthew Render sent me this shot of Shoal Lake. He’s been a contributor since Ice Patrol went online in 2014, and he’s a real help because he regularly flies right over Shoal Lake, which I can seldom do. This week he’s not in the neighbourhood, but he got a friend to take a picture and forwarded it to me.


Shoal Lake: Dominique Island & Stevens Island

This picture looks north, and it’s clear that most of the ice is in the southern portion of Shoal Lake.  Above the large pan of ice at the middle right is Cliff Island, and north of that, it looks like the lake is clear. Above Indian Bay, at the left, you can see Falcon Lake and West Hawk . I believe they are clear now.

I think Clearwater Bay is wide open. It certainly looked like it, but I was too far away to be absolutely sure.

Regional temperatures rose to 19ºC this afternoon, and it was breezy, too, so a lot of ice melted. East of Kenora, Eagle Lake at Vermillion Bay was almost clear this evening, and Wabigoon Lake at Dryden is about the same or better. Sioux Lookout is going fast; there was a floatplane on the water there this evening, and further north, Red Lake’s ice is very weak. Near Kenora, all the small lakes are clear, with the sole exception of Silver Lake, a deep lake that always thaws late.

For most people, Lake of the Woods is open. My eyes at the Clarion Lakeside Inn tell me the floating bridge to Coney Island came out today, to open up the waterways to boat traffic. The remaining ice will be gone this week, probably by Wednesday. That would be a day later than last year. It would also be Star Wars Day: May the Fourth be with you.