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 11, 2022: Turning Point

With half the ice gone, I stop showing where the water is expanding, and start looking at where the ice is shrinking.

Technical notes:

I have added a link to the Navionics online map of Lake of the Woods to the right-hand sidebar, next door to the Satellite links. If you don’t recognize some of the place names I use, this zoomable map is a great help. When I’m writing Ice Patrol posts, I keep it open on a separate tab in case I need to check something. This is way easier than unfolding and refolding my many marine charts.

Ice Patrol is having some of its heaviest traffic ever. Recently, it’s been averaging over 2000 visits a day. Notably, there is a higher than normal proportion of visitors from the USA. I think they’ve missed us. Come on up!

I received more pictures yesterday than I could process. Here are Josh Broten’s lovely pictures from the south side of the lake.

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

Looking SE over Buffalo Point. The ice is gone from Warroad to Buffalo and then narrows as you get to Rocky Point.

Over Buffalo Point looking NW. You can see Moose Lake is ice free.

Over Sand Point Bay looking SE. you can see of in the distance how the the lake is ice free from Rocky Point to Rainy River.

Looking NE over the NW Angle. Mostly open water from Oak Island and north.

Over Windigo Island looking NE. For the most part it is open water all the way past Tranquil Channel and Big Narrows.

Looking westward you can see Shoal Lake is still iced over.

Over Royal Island looking NE toward Kenora. Tranquil channel and Big Narrows are in the center of the picture.

Over Tranquil channel looking east over Sunset Channel.

Over Crescent Island looking north towards Kenora.

Over Yellow Girl Point looking Northerly towards Kenora. Lots of of Ice still between Kenora and the Alneau.

Another look to the west over sunset channel.

Looking east over Smith Island with Sioux Narrows in the distance. Lots of open water.

Josh is one of my favourite contributors. He edits his own pictures and even provides captions. Thanks, Josh!

Between Tom Hutton’s coverage of the east and north parts of the lake shown in yesterday’s post, and Josh Broten’s flight over the south and central parts, we’ve checked almost everything except the Ptarmigan and Clearwater Bays in the north west corner and Morson in the south east.

It looks as if we are now on track to have one of the fastest (and latest) thaws of this century. Once half the ice has melted, the remainder is floating loose at the mercy of the wind. With mid-May temperatures, it should be only a matter of days until it’s all gone. I looked back at 2014 to search for pictures showing an equivalent amount of ice cover at the same time of year, and I think we’re just five to seven days from total ice-out. A quick check of the MODIS archives from that similarly late spring suggests the same sort of timeline.

If this does become the fastest thaw in my records, there will be two main reasons. First, when the thaw starts late, it’s likely to run into warmer temperatures in late spring. So late starting thaws generally run faster than the ones that begin in March. Secondly, we’ve had an extraordinary amount of wet weather. A string of Colorado lows set records for precipitation in April and I think early May, too. And while you might be tempted to credit the rain for the rapid melt, meteorologists insist that it’s actually the high humidity that does the heavy lifting.

Signs of spring:

The floatplanes have been flocking in. River Air’s Caravan has been joined by a turbine Otter and a Beaver.

On a recent drive from the Kenora waterfront to Keewatin, I spotted another small plane near Q-104, meaning that I saw more  floatplanes in the water than boats. Most of the marinas had no boats at all at the docks, or just one or two. I expect that to change rapidly, as I have noticed a lot of boat trailers in the last few days, and the ice is letting go at many of the docks.

If you’re planning to put your boat in the water soon, don’t forget your safety equipment. Water traffic will be light at first, so if you have motor trouble you might have to wait a while for help. It is wise to take warm clothing with you.

Time for my annual reminder that when float planes are landing or taking off, they have the right of way over boats, because those stages of flight are critical. Safety Bay is a designated water aerodrome, so be alert there. Once a plane is on the water, it becomes a boat in the eyes of the law, and has the same right-of-way as other boat traffic. Having said that, floatplanes have no brakes and limited steering*, so I suggest giving them a wide berth.

*If you want to know how good a floatplane pilot is, you don’t watch them land. You watch them dock!

 

 

April 22, 2021: Scattered Pans

There’s still a little ice, but it won’t impede boaters much.

I’ll start with a satellite image from yesterday morning.

If you click on this image, you’ll see landmarks tagged.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image for April 21, 2021, in false colour.

It looks as if the south end of the lake is completely clear now, but there’s still significant ice on Shoal Lake, and some small patches around the Manitou and the Barrier Islands.

Now fast forward to yesterday evening, when Justin Martin snapped a few shots at sunset.

You can click on these pictures to see a full-size version.

Downtown Kenora, Devil’s Gap.

The area around Kenora is clear. Even Gun Club Island, at the right edge of the frame, and Rogers Island, near the center, which are late to thaw because of ice roads, are open.

The Manitou.

Out on the Manitou, only scattered pans remain. This shot looks south east from over Welcome Channel, with Thompson Island and Wolf Island in the foreground. Whiskey Island is at the right edge, and Scotty Island is at the left. Right in the middle of the picture, glowing in the sunlight, is Manitou Island. As you can see, there are some ice pans out there, but it looks as if you could simply go around them if they were in your way.

The Barrier Islands.

Meanwhile, the ice by the Barrier Islands is also disintegrating. This shot looks south east with Shammis Island in the center and Mather Island to the left. Beyond that are Allie Island and the Elbow. There are patches of ice both north (lower left corner) and south (right of center) of Shammis, but they don’t amount to much.

 

Shoal Lake.

Here, we’re looking south west down Shoal Lake with Helldiver Bay in the foreground, and Martinique and Galt Islands near the middle of the shot. There’s still some pretty extensive ice on Shoal, and it’s common for Shoal Lake to clear a few days later than Lake of the Woods.

Today’s forecast is for sunny skies, south breezes, and a high of about 13°C. I think that’ll just about finish off the ice on Lake of the Woods. I kind of hope so, because tonight the temperatures are expected to drop to about 1°C, and then stay there all day Friday. With snow, probably.

I’m going to put my patio furniture out on the deck today, but I’ll be bringing the cushions in this evening.

April 20, 2021: Ice Pans

Despite some cold days, the ice is breaking up.

A couple of satellite pictures to show the progress.

This is from Saturday:

April 17, 2021.

And this is from Monday:

April 19, 2021.

Even from space, you can see that the ice sheets are breaking apart.

Let’s take a closer look, from one of the MAG Canada Cessna 337 training flights yesterday. Pictures courtesy of Justin Martin.

You can click on these to see a full-size version.

The Manitou.

Looking west down the Manitou. Scotty Island is at the lower left, by the aircraft’s nose. The largest sheet of ice here is between Scotty and Whiskey Island. Right in the middle of the ice, Lemon Island and Manitou Island have clear patches to their south, like shadows. I think that’s from the ice being driven by a north wind.

Bigstone Bay.

The mouth of Bigstone Bay has been blocked until recently. Below the Cessna’s wingtip, you can find Heenan Point stretching out towards Needle Point near the middle of the picture. The two points were acting as kind of a choke point for the ice sheet, but it has cleared. At the right side are the Hades, and the ice pan in the foreground is just off Middle Island’s Heaps Point. The ice road is cracking up like a giant bar code.

Let’s take a look at things south of the Barrier Islands.

Whiteout Island.

Looking north towards the Barrier Islands. My chart doesn’t give a name to the chain of three islands in the middle of this picture, but the one to the right of them is Whiteout Island. As we saw in the satellite images, the big sheet of ice is fragmenting.

Barrier Islands: Allie and East Allie Islands.

Justin’s next shot takes us just a little further north to better see the Barrier Islands. Allie Island and East Allie Island stretch across the middle of the frame here, with the Devil’s Elbow left of center.

Big Narrows Island.

This is about as far down the lake as Justin got. We’re looking west over Big Narrows Island towards a sunlit sheet of ice on Shoal Lake in the distance.

Justin has more flights this week, so I hope we can all see the last ice go. Thanks Justin!

 

April 17, 2021: Satellite Saturday / Travel Restrictions

Warm temperatures and sunny skies meant both Aqua and Terra satellites were able to get MODIS images of Lake of the Woods today.

Here’s what Terra saw this morning.

You can click on this image to see a version with tags for landmarks.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image for April 17, 2021, in false colour.

Looks like we’re down to about 10% ice cover now, but most of what remains is located where it still prevents boaters from reaching popular areas.

Here’s how it looked to Aqua in the afternoon, with less cloud cover.

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image for April 17, 2021, in false colour.

There are visible differences. For starters, the ice clinging to the lake’s south shore is markedly reduced. Perhaps more subtle, the northern ice is also shrinking by the hour. Take a close look at the ice sheet in Bigstone Bay north of Hay Island. It’s faded a lot today. I’d say the ice on Shoal Lake has thinned, too, but only a little.

And just in case you find the false colour version hard to assess, here’s the same image in true colour. [and with no infrared component]

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image for April 17, 2021, in true colour.

While Bigstone Bay is undergoing rapid change, things seem more stable on the Manitou, at least as seen from space.

Devon Ostir sent me a picture from his Dock Cam on Hare Island, looking out at the receding ice on the Manitou.

View south from Hare Island.

He says there’s been a big change in the last day or two. Thanks Devon.

Change of subject.

By now you’ve probably heard that Ontario is closing its borders with Manitoba and Quebec for all but essential travel, starting tomorrow. Here’s a link to a CBC News story that covers Ontario’s new restrictions in general, including a link to the Order in Council that pertains to travel from Manitoba and Quebec.

And here’s the official wording of Section 2 of the Order in Council.

Certain travel into Ontario from Manitoba and Quebec prohibited
No person shall travel into Ontario from Manitoba or Quebec unless,
(a) the person’s principal residence is in Ontario;
(b) the person is moving to Ontario in order to make their principal residence in Ontario;
(c) the person is travelling through Ontario without unnecessary stops to reach their principal residence in another jurisdiction;
(d) the person is travelling into or through Ontario by means of an international or interprovincial bus, train, ferry, or flight;
(e) the person is travelling to perform work in Ontario;
(f) the person is transporting goods into or through Ontario as part of the operation of a business that involves the transportation of goods;
(g) the person’s health makes it necessary to travel into Ontario to obtain health care or social services;
(h) the person is travelling in a vehicle that is transporting or that will transport a person in Ontario to or from a hospital or health care facility in Manitoba or Quebec;
(i) the person is being transported from a hospital or health care facility in Manitoba or Quebec, whether by ambulance or by any other means;
(j) the person is,
(i) in the care of a children’s aid society in Ontario pursuant to a court order or a written agreement,
(ii) in the care of a person subject to the supervision of a children’s aid society in Ontario pursuant to a court order or a written agreement, or
(iii) at least 16 years old and no more than 21 years old and receiving care, services or support pursuant to an agreement with a children’s aid society in Ontario;
(k) the person must enter Ontario to exercise custody or access rights contained in an agreement;
(l) the person must enter Ontario to comply with an order contained in a decision or judgment of a court or tribunal, or as otherwise required by law;
(m) the person is travelling into Ontario for the purpose of exercising an Aboriginal or treaty right as recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982;
(n) the person is travelling into Ontario to respond to a critical incident, including travel for the purpose of,
(i) preventing injury or illness to persons,
(ii) preventing damage to property, or
(iii) performing a necessary action to respond to the critical incident; or
(o) the travel is necessary for a humanitarian or compassionate reason, such as,
(i) providing care or services to a person who requires them due to their state of health,
(ii) attending on a person who is dying, or
(iii) attending a funeral.

From the point of view of a cottage owner, that’s very restrictive. I’ve only copied out Section 2 here, but you can use the link to the Order in Council above to read the PDF in its entirety. Section 1 is about who can police the act, and Section 3 is about the obligations of people who are stopped under its provisions.

 

April 10, 2021: Satellite Saturday / Multiple Contributors

Okay, this is going to be a long post, because several people sent me stuff.

But first, the week’s big news.

Ontario has gone back into lockdown, and this time it includes a stay-at-home order.

Here’s the wording from the alert that popped up on my phone:

A stay-at-home order is in effect. Only leave home for essential purposes such as food, health care, vaccines, exercise or work. It’s the law. Stay home, save lives.

And here’s a link to some more detailed information.

I have not found any specific wording about visiting summer residences in the new order. I have enquired, but it may take a while to get a response. The old rules from the previous lockdown were that you could: A) visit your camp for up to 24 hours to perform necessary maintenance, in which case you cannot be in contact with anyone, or B) isolate for 14 days, so you’d have to bring gas and food with you to last for for two weeks before you could go shopping.

It gets more complicated if you are visiting from Manitoba, as you might also have to isolate for 14 days upon your return, but I’ve been told this needn’t apply as long as you adhere to the Ontario requirements while here.

Here’s an excerpt from the Manitoba government website that was updated on April 8:

As per the public health order, 14 days of self-isolation is required for people returning or coming to Manitoba from all jurisdictions.

Now back to a more comfortable topic: the weather. The NASA satellites got good images on April 6, and then it turned cloudy until today.

Here’s what things looked like on Tuesday the 6th.

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

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image from April 6, 2021, in false colour.

Today’s images haven’t been uploaded yet.

In the meantime, I have a picture from Devon Ostir, whose dock cam on Hare Island looks out on the Manitou.

With the exception of the satellite imagery, you can click on today’s pictures to see a full-screen version that is zoomable.

Next up, a drone shot of Keewatin Channel, courtesy of Paul Leischow.

I chose this specific shot from over Crowe Island because it shows that the water is open all the way to Keewatin. Actually, there’s a whole 360° panorama, and you can view it here if you want to scope out Rat Portage Bay or the Tangle from this vantage point.

Now photos from Josh Broten, and they are very revealing.

Over Buffalo Bay looking east to Garden Island.

Looking east at the big ice patch between Garden, Big, and Oak Island.

Over Windfall Island looking north between Falcon Island and the Western Peninsula.

Looking SW over Bishop Bay with Shoal Lake in the distance.

Over Skeet Island looking NNE.

Over Yellow Girl Point looking SE down Long Bay.

Aside from the huge stretches of open water, the key point is that all over the south end of the lake, the ice has separated from the shore. It’s still in enormous sheets, but it will start to break apart into pans soon.

Further north, where there are more islands and less vast stretches of water, the progress does not look as dramatic, but it’s following a similar path.

In case you missed it, regular commenter Stu Everett pointed out the other day that when current through the lake is slow in  winter, the ice forms to a more even thickness all over the lake, and sets up a situation where the big slow-moving parts of the lake are melting almost as fast as the places that usually have more current.

Before I forget, special thanks to all the people who sent in pictures or messages today.

The first of today’s satellite images is available.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image for April 10, 2021, in false colour.

Pity about the cloud cover [low altitude cumulus clouds at the left, made of water vapour, high level cirrus clouds with more ice at the right] but you can see the same trend photographed by Josh.

UPDATE: Aqua’s image is up.

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image from April 10, 2021, in false colour.

Still some cloud, but it’s moved a little, revealing different parts of the lake.

The big question is: have we reached the tipping point? Once the ice breaks up, the end is very near, because wind action becomes a major factor. I think we’re almost there.

So naturally, the forecast is for some cool temperatures. The Weather Network has revised the fourteen day forecast since I last talked about it, and it now shows Monday as the coolest, with temps hovering around the freezing point all day. After that, daytime highs may run a little below normal for the next two weeks, while overnight lows are kind of 50/50.

Will the ice go? Your guess is as good as mine.

April 4, 2021: Shoal Lake to Kenora

Some new aerial photographs from Josh Broten, and also the first drone picture of the year, taken by George Dyker over Clytie Bay, a popular cottage area on Shoal Lake. All were taken Saturday.

Let’s start with Josh’s overview of Shoal.

You can click on these pictures to see them full screen and full size.

Northwest Angle, Shoal Lake.

Looking north from over the Northwest Angle towards Shoal Lake. Lots of water and only pan ice in the Angle. In the distance, the ice looks poor on Shoal.

Monument Bay, Shoal Lake.

Here’s a slightly closer look at Shoal, with the camera pointing north west over Monument Bay, so that Shoal Lakes large Dominique and Stevens Island appear side by side. Mason Lake and part of Reid Lake are a the right side of the frame.

Now George Dyker’s drone shot of Clytie Bay on Shoal. George operates a DJI drone.

Shoal Lake’s Clytie Bay.

This view looks south west, with the open water at Gateway Point in the foreground. That ice road that heads off onto the main body of the lake looks to be in one piece, but it’s riddled with cracks.

Now, back to our tour with Josh’s Cub, picking things up at the south end of the lake, where Josh is based.

Oak Island, Flag Island, Brush Island.

We’re back by the NW Angle, looking at the area by the international border. The open water is mainly by Flag Island, which has a webcam, by the way. You can find a link to it on the Lake of the Woods Links sidebar.*

*When viewed on a desktop or large tablet, Ice Patrol offers a number of features on a sidebar to the right of the main column. These include Recent Comments, a Search Tool, a Flag Counter, the Archive Tool, and an extensive list of links that may be of interest to lake dwellers and visitors.  However, if you’re in the habit of viewing Ice Patrol on a phone, or via the email subscriber list, you may not see the sidebar.

Also a link to my writing blog. Support me by buying my SF novel, AVIANS. It’s about girl power, alternative aviation, and volcanoes! E-book and trade paperbacks available. Averaging 4.5% stars last time I checked.

Oak Point, Big Narrows.

Looking south. The patch of open water in the foreground is right at Oak Point, and there’s open water almost all the way through Big Narrows. At the left, on the far side of Big Narrows Island and Tranquil Channel, there’s some open water through French Portage Narrows.

Chisholm Island, Cliff Island.

Looking north west, with Chisholm Island at the bottom of the frame, and Cliff Island at the left. The Alneau Peninsula is just off the picture to the left, and the Barrier Islands are near the upper right corner. Prominent pressure ridges show the strain on the ice.

Let’s finish Josh’s tour with a shot of the Kenora area.

Poplar Bay, Keewatin Channel, Rat Portage Bay.

Centered on Keewatin Channel, this picture looks north east towards Rat Portage Bay, Safety Bay and Kenora. Poplar Bay is in the lower left corner.

The ice is weakening, slowly but steadily. Warm temperatures all week, with daily highs in the double digits, should help.

In the meantime, a reminder. Ontario went back into a province-wide lockdown on Saturday, April 3rd, and is expected to stay that way for a four week “emergency brake.” Hairdressers are closed, restaurants are take-out only, and stores are restricted to half or quarter occupancy, depending on how essential they are. More details here.

 

 

March 14, 2021: Josh Broten

Alright! We have our first aerial photographs. These are from regular contributor Josh Broten, who flies a Cub. He took them yesterday.

You can click on these pictures to see them full screen, and click on them again to zoom in to their full resolution.

Looking North, with Keewatin Channel in the center of the picture.

Josh’s pictures show a lot of solid ice, and very little open water. In this first shot, you can see scraps of water in Keewatin Channel, near the center of the frame. Kenora is towards the upper right corner, and the distinctive crescent-shaped beach at Scotty Island just makes it into the picture at the lower right edge.

The Barrier Islands

Still looking north, but showing the part of the lake south of the Barrier Islands: they stretch across the frame of this picture, just above the center line. Notably, there’s not really any water to be seen in either French Narrows or at The Elbow. Strong currents forced through each of the gaps in the Barrier Island Chain wear out the ice in these spots early in the season. Gull Island and Brittania Island are in the foreground.

Shoal Lake in the distance, Monument Bay and Cochrane Island in the foreground.

Here’s Josh’s view of Shoal Lake. The ice does look more bare at the south end of Shoal, but it’s a subtle distinction.

Big Narrows

Here’s a look at the tiny patches of open water in Big Narrows. You’ll probably have to click and zoom to really see them. The foreground of this picture is dominated by Bishop Point Island, with Bishop Point at the left. Turtle Bay is close to the middle of the picture.

Big Narrows shown from further south, with Flag Island in the foreground.

Somewhere in this shot should be the marshy area where a gravel truck was reported to have broken through the ice in shallow water a week or two ago.

North side of the Alneau Peninsula, looking west over Chisholm Island.

Josh climbs to 10,000 feet (in a Cub, this takes some time!) to get these comprehensive photos. As you can see, Lake of the Woods is still more than 99% frozen over. That’s about what you’d expect in the first half of March. But it’s worth mentioning that I’m hearing—via email and through the comments form—that the ice is not thick this year. People have mentioned ice thicknesses of sixteen to twenty inches. That’s not a lot. March, after all, is usually when the ice reaches it’s peak thickness before the thaw begins. It’s not uncommon for 36″ augers to bottom out in ice that’s about forty inches thick. In round numbers, that’s a meter.

May 5, 2020: Remnants

We’re down to the last remnants of ice on Lake of the Woods now.

John Lunny sent this “before and after” pair of pictures taken from Lunny’s Island today as the ice cover changed dramatically. What a difference a day makes!

You can click on these pictures to see them full-screen.

The view is east down Bigstone Bay, with Kipling Island near the middle of the picture.

This morning

Late this afternoon

Fascinating to see the ice go dark in a matter of hours. John says the thermometer at his camp went as high as 22ºC this afternoon, although the official temperature at the Kenora airport never got higher than 14ºC.

An hour later, I got these pictures from Ted Main, also of Bigstone Bay, but from a different angle.

Kipling Island again, but looking west

The ice is totally candled.

Looking towards Northern Harbour from Heenan Point

 

Since we had mostly sunny weather today, I was hoping the satellite images would be clear. I was wondering about ice south of the Barrier Islands. Terra’s view was half obscured by cloud, but Aqua managed a mostly clear view.

The image is only 640 pixels square, but if you click on it, you’ll see a version overlaid  with tags for Kenora, Bigstone Bay, the Barrier Islands, and Shoal Lake.

Lake of the Woods, May 5, 2020. MODIS camera on NASA’s Aqua satellite. False-colour image.

The wispy blue is high cloud. Ice on the lake, specifically on Shoal Lake, and on Lake of the Woods south of the Barrier Islands, is a little more defined. Note that the ice is a very dark blue, indicating it is very thin and weak.

It will be gone soon.

Just before I uploaded this post, I got a couple of pictures from Matthew Belair. The Belairs have a place on Queer Island, not far from that ice by the Barrier Islands.

These are drone photos, taken this evening.

Looking east into Andrew Bay with the east end of Queer Island in the foreground.

No ice this way. But wait, there’s more.

Looking south at French Narrows. That’s the Eastern Peninsula at the left and East Allie Island at the right. 

These pictures aren’t very zoomable, but in the upper right corner, there’s ice down around Robertson Island.

So thanks to all of today’s contributors: John Lunny, Ted Main, and Matthew Belair.

Starting Wednesday night, the Weather Network says we may see a string of cold nights, with overnight lows of -5ºC for three nights in a row. I didn’t like that forecast, so I went to see what Environment Canada had to say… [Grits teeth] It’s worse! They’re saying minus seven on Thursday night. Really? It’s May. Would an afternoon on the deck be too much to ask?

Oh, well. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

May 4, 2020: What’s Left?

It’s no longer a question of what’s melting, it’s now about what’s still frozen.

The satellites were stymied by cloud today, and I wanted to know what’s going on at Bigstone Bay, so I texted a friend. John Sweeney sent me this pretty picture.

Before you jump to the conclusion that Bigstone is completely clear, you should click on the picture, and zoom in on the full-screen version. There’s a big pan of ice at the left. John was standing on the mainland, on the point between Route Bay and Storm Bay, and looking south across Bigstone Bay at Hay Island. 

If I understand John’s explanation, the ice is in or around Hay Island’s East Bay.

Here’s a second picture looking a little more to the left. I cropped it to make it easier to look at the ice. You’ll probably still want to zoom in.

You might be wondering what’s special about Bigstone Bay. I pay attention to it because it’s one of the areas on Lake of the Woods that thaws late. I expect there’s also ice south of the Barrier Islands, but I don’t know how much.

If it all melts in the next few days, this will be the quickest thaw* on our charts, even though it’s one of the later ones.

*using the specific definition that the thaw commences on the inflection date [the date when the mean daily temperature goes consistently above freezing] and ends the day the lake is 100% ice-free.