May 12, 2022: Lost & Found

I don’t plan a full post today, but there are some minor things that I should mention.

John Dahl reports that the ice is gone from Laurenson’s Lake. In his words:

Today, May 11th, our lake was completely ice free. Second latest date we have over the past 30 or so years. Latest was in 1996 when it was ice free May 13th by our records.

From the comments form, Susan reports that there is still solid ice on Clearwater Bay, and says there’s lots of dock damage due to recent wind, high water and ice.

Which brings us to why this post is called Lost & Found.

When I’m hiking the trails on Tunnel Island, I usually pick up any lost items I come across and take them to the trail map at the parking lot. Mittens, mostly.

However, yesterday I spotted this on the Winnipeg River, and it was too big for that.


It’s a dock, and it still has rocks on it that were intended to weigh it down. So if you have a place on the river, not far below the Norman Dam, maybe check to see if something is missing from your waterfront.

The owner of the dock has been located. He has already secured it and will retrieve it soon.

Apologies to everyone who hoped that this might be theirs. It seems a number of people are missing docks from a range of places.




March 20, 2021: Satellite Saturday

I have today’s satellite images, and also some pictures Jason Duguay took this morning.

Yesterday’s satellite shots were a bit blurry, so I waited until this afternoon to get the latest MODIS pics. It was worth the wait: today’s images from Terra are razor sharp.

You can’t zoom in on these images, because this is just one tiny patch of a huge composite image that spans all the way to the Great Lakes. See the FAQ page for a guide to landmarks on this photo. For a quick orientation, Lake of the Woods starts at the lower left and fills most of the frame. Cliff Island, just north of the Alneau Peninsula, is dead center.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image for March 20, 2021 in true colour.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image for March 20, 2021 in false colour.

The half dark lake near the top that looks a bit like a manta ray or a kite is Big Sand Lake, north of Minaki. In particular, it looks like Lower Black Sturgeon Lake–the skinny dark shape above the center–may have opened up. Falcon and West Hawk, the ‘bat and ball’ near the left edge, also look as if they’re changing rapidly.

I’m just going to pop a picture in from last week for comparison.

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image from March 12, 2021 in false colour.

This image from eight days ago isn’t as sharp, but you can see how the ice quality has changed. Where there were only fringe areas of weak ice, there are now vast stretches of dark ice.

Okay, on to the aerial photographs. Today’s contributor is Jason Duguay, and he grabbed these shots near Kenora from the ORNGE helicopter.

Yes, you can click on these images to see a full screen, zoomable version.

Keewatin to Channel Island.

Looking south towards Channel Island with Keewatin Bridge in the lower left. We can see that ice is yielding around Mackie Island, Cameron Island and Cross Island. Yacht Club Island is still surrounded by ice.

Coney Island Beach.

A view south over the east end of Coney Island towards Devil’s Gap. Some water pushing through the gap into Rat Portage Bay as far as Johnson Island and Goat Island. The current is strong there. The area around Gun Club Island, towards the right, is much slower to thaw.

Norman Dam, Tunnel Island, Palmerston Island.

Lastly, a look north at Tunnel Island with part of the hiking trails visible along the riverfront. Quite a bit of open water in the upstream stretches of the Winnipeg River, and it looks as if things are softening as far downstream as perhaps the Dalles.

April 4, 2020: Satellite Saturday

Kenora caught the tail end of Manitoba’s big storm. Before dawn on Friday, we had freezing rain, and then it turned to snow sometime around sunrise.

Friday stayed nasty all day, and when the skies cleared overnight the temperature dropped to -16ºC. There was no wind, so ice formed on quiet waters.

Here’s a picture taken from the highway between Keewatin and Norman.


See that shiny surface beyond the fresh layer of snow? That’s new ice. The open water is in the distance, where the ripples are. You can click on this picture to see it in high resolution.

For Satellite Saturday, since it’s too early to really see open water from space, I thought I’d put up photos from before and after the winter storm.

You cannot enlarge these pictures; they are at the maximum resolution available.

For a comparable satellite picture with some landmarks labelled, visit the FAQ page and scroll down.

This is the before pic, from March 31st. Notice that the forest is starting to look green.

Naturally, it was too cloudy to take pictures during the storm, but the skies cleared today.

Same camera, same satellite, April 4th. You can see that Shoal Lake, at the left, looks much whiter with its new layer of snow. The same is true of the Clearwater Bay and Ptarmigan Bay area east of Shoal, and also Buffalo Bay and Muskeg Bay, in the south west corner of the lake. The forested areas look less green, probably because of snow on the ground. A cloudy patch hid the Winnipeg River today.

I’ll finish with a couple of bonus pictures.

This is Piper checking out the geese and ducks last week on Tunnel Island.

And this is what our walk looked like this morning.

Stay well. Don’t forget to wipe down your smart phone.

March 30, 2020: Warm week

Just a quick update without pictures. Cam tells me the ice was still nearly three feet thick yesterday. He was near Crescent Island. He describes the ice as strong and solid, and the snow cover as several inches of clean crystalline snow.

This week is warm, with daytime highs of about 9ºC. Overnight lows have been just a few degrees below freezing. Does this mean we’re above freezing on average, and have therefore passed the Inflection Date? Maybe not. The weather forecast says that although the next few days will be mild, temperatures will sink again after that. Thursday looks set to be cool and rainy, and Friday is expected to be snowy and stay below 0ºC, and then it looks like a few days will hover around freezing. We’ll have to wait and see how it really averages out. Rain at this time of year is very helpful because it washes off the snow cover. Fresh snow is just the opposite, of course.

If you have photos from out on the lake, I’d like them, but keep in mind that the comment box can only handle text. Take a look on the ABOUT tab to see how to email them to me. I would need the photographer’s name, and info on when and where the pictures were taken. Please don’t send more than one or two, it’s easy to clog my mailbox. Remember: you only have the right to submit your own photographs (because of copyright) and you should give permission to post them on the site.

Oh, I almost forgot: the gulls are back! A small flock is hanging out on the Norman Dam, pestering the ravens. The hiking trails on Tunnel Island are still very icy. There are a few dry spots, but also many places where the ice softened to slush and refroze. On the north side of the island, there are some extensive sheets of sloping ice. You need cleats to do any serious hiking.

March 29, 2019: Morning Photos

I came home early today because of heavy snow up north. That allowed me to take a few pictures at 10:30 this morning.

This is the area just north of the Kenora Bypass, looking south west over Norman and Keewatin.

In the middle distance, you can trace the Kenora Bypass as it crosses Dufresne Island. Close to the nose of the plane is Sweeney Channel, and on the far side of Dufresne is Palmerston Channel. Lots of open water here, and I wish my flight path had taken me closer to Minaki for a better look at more of the Winnipeg River.

On towards town.

I took this picture to show how things are going on Safety Bay, but the photograph is centred on Tunnel Island. If you’re a regular on the hiking trails there, as I am, you’ll be able to spot the railway bridge, the pond on the Sandy Nook trail, the Norman Dam, and other landmarks. If you like to hike a little, I recommend these trails, but they are in rough condition right now, due to deep snow and ice. Maybe hold off until the ticks are out. Ahem. Anyway, There’s not much change along the harbourfront.

This last shot is really just a closer look at the same thing, but it shows Devil’s Gap and Keewatin Channel a bit better, if you zoom in.

We’ve come to the end of March, and so far there’s been no sign of the warm spring that was in the long-term seasonal outlook. Temperatures this month stayed mostly at or below normal, with only one or two nicer days. A normal high this time of year is around 4ºC, and a typical overnight low would be about -6ºC. The two-week forecast doesn’t show us getting that warm for another week.

That means we won’t reach the inflection point, when we start spending more time above freezing than below, (more precisely, when the daily mean temperature is above freezing) until the weekend of April 6th and 7th. That’s about two weeks later than I expected. After that, we might see some slightly warmer than normal temperatures. Nothing in the double digits, though.

In the meantime, it’s snowing as I write this. The bad weather I encountered up north this morning has reached Kenora. While the forecast called for light snow tapering off to flurries this afternoon, I see that the aviation weather is reporting the visibility as 3/4 of a mile, which is officially considered moderate snow, not light. In more casual terms, I’d say it’s coming down pretty hard.

Sad to say, that’s going to restore a lot of our ice cover to a nice bright, reflective white layer. Not helping.

Tomorrow is Satellite Saturday on Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol. I doubt we’ll have a satellite shot from today—it’s too cloudy—but we can look back over the week and see what changed.  I’ll also use the archives to compare this spring to some recent years, to show how things seem to be shaping up.



November 15, 2018: We’re Making Ice

We’ve changed seasons. The average daily temperature has dropped below freezing, and it looks like the actual inflection date was November 7th. Effectively, that’s when freezing became the fashion, rather than the fad. In the week before that, average temps were right around 0°C, except for a mild Sunday on November 4.

Sunday, November 4. The pond by the Scenic Nook trail on Tunnel Island had mostly frozen over.

On Wednesday the 7th, the daily average dropped to -4°C, and in the following week it went as low as -9.5°C.

Same pond a few days later

The forecast calls for fairly consistent low temperatures in the next weeks, and let’s face it, we’re not going to start any serious melting in December. Remember, we’re talking about daily averages here, not daytime highs.

In summary, we’re making ice now. North of Red Lake, small lakes have been frozen since about the beginning of November, and on yesterday’s training flight, I saw small bays on Lake of the Woods were icing over. Strong winds were keeping larger areas from freezing, for now.

This time of year, I always see an upsurge in emails and comments asking if I’ll be reporting on ice thickness. Ice fishers want to know! Sorry, I will not. I cannot judge the thickness of ice from an airplane, and I worry that if I report that a certain bay has frozen, people will take that to mean the ice is thick enough to support them safely.

Someone sent this graphic my way. It doesn’t say which Department of Natural Resources, but I think the credit goes to Minnesota. Note the caveat that these guidelines should only be applied to new clear ice.

Have a safe winter.



April 3, 2018: Refrozen

This time last year, we were enjoying daytime highs of about 11°C, and overnight lows above freezing. There’s nothing that warm forecast for the first half of April, and lately, we’ve been coming close to the record low temperatures.

This morning, I saw that much of Safety Bay had refrozen over the Easter weekend.

Things looked a little better this afternoon, but there’s more freezing than thawing going on right now.

Looking south from Dufresne Island, that’s Highway 17A, the bypass, at the bottom left. Note the fresh grey ice near the bridge. Looking further south, you can see Tunnel Island and all of Kenora from downtown on the left to Keewatin at the right edge.

Now a closer look at the Norman to Keewatin stretch of Safety Bay. Don’t forget you can click on these pictures to see them full-screen and zoomable to full size.

If you do zoom in, you’ll be able to see quite a lot of new ice, although it looks pretty thin and weak. By this afternoon, it was breaking loose from the old solid ice.

There still isn’t an open waterway from Safety Bay to Keewatin Channel. There’s open water around Channel Island, but it hasn’t even started to extend past Shragge’s Island yet.

This next picture overlaps with the last, but shows more of the area near downtown.

Coney Island sprawls across most of the photograph. In the background, Devil’s Gap still has only a little water, with no new expansion into Rat Portage Bay. Beyond Treaty Island, it’s solid ice as far as the eye can see, with bright white snow cover.

This isn’t going to melt fast, and there’s still a week of cold weather ahead before we can hope to start making progress again. Comparing today’s pictures to photographs from past years, I see a lot of similarities to how things looked in early April of 2013.

That would suggest an ice-free date close to May 15, and we’d need a big swing to above-normal temperatures to improve on that.

I hope I’m wrong, but I’m beginning to feel like a groundhog: six more weeks of winter.


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.