May 14, 2022: Courtesy of MAG Canada

Early this morning, I received two photos from Jared Cantor. He took them yesterday morning from an airliner on the way from Toronto to Winnipeg. Jared was sitting on the left side of the plane, so his window seat looked south. Here’s what he saw from about 30,000 feet.

Click on these pictures to enlarge them.

Bigsby Island, Big Island and Big Traverse.

Everything’s big on this end of the lake. Above and left of centre are slender Pine Island and Sable Island,  Four Mile Bay, and the mouth of the Rainy River. The patch of ice is near Long Point.

Big Traverse, Buffalo Bay, Buffalo Point, Muskeg Bay, and Warroad, Minnesota.

In this second view from a minute or two later, the right side of the frame shows the view south across Buffalo Bay to Buffalo Point. Beyond that is Muskeg Bay and Warroad, Minnesota. The big patch of ‘land’ in the middle of the picture is actually another expanse of ice.

Thanks, Jared!

The photos above were omitted from the first version of this post. I meant to include them but lost track.

Knowing where we stood yesterday, I was very eager to go flying today. I knew there couldn’t be much ice left. I wanted to see what there was, to get the best idea of when the last of it will be gone.

So I called my old friends at MAG Canada to see if I could book a short flight. They wouldn’t take my money. They insisted on giving me a free flight for old time’s sake. I always knew that the company supported me and Ice Patrol on a local level, but I was touched to hear that this was supported by the head office. Thanks, Mark!

So I met up with Andy Zabloski at the hangar, and we went for a short tour. I wanted to head down towards Sioux Narrows, because I haven’t had any pictures from that direction recently.

You can click on these pictures to see a larger version.

Bigstone Bay. Sultana Island and Quarry Island are in the middle of the picture.

The first thing we noticed was that there was no ice at all left in Bigstone Bay. Sometimes Heenan Point or Needle point will trap some late ice, but not today. All the bays in this area are completely ice-free.

We had set off to look at Andrew Bay, Witch Bay and so on, but we couldn’t find any ice in that region at all, so we turned towards areas more likely to have late ice.

The first ice we did see was in the Manitou.

The Manitou. Bare Point in the foreground, Town Island in the middle.

There is ice here, but not very much. It’s hugging the shore of Wolf Island and Hare Island.

Here’s what it looks like from Devon Ostir’s dock cam on Hare Island.

He’s promised to send me an update when his shore is clear of ice. Thanks, Devon!

Now back to our flight. There’s usually late ice south of the Barrier Islands, but we didn’t see anything obvious, so we went further south to see if we could spot any at the south end of the lake.

Cliff Island and the Alneau Peninsula. Little Traverse is in the distance.

It was a long way away, and the patchy light from a broken cloud layer makes it hard to be certain, but I think there’s some ice down by Bay Island, in the Little Traverse.

Next we turned north to take a closer look at the Barrier Islands.

The Barrier Islands.

We had missed it at first glance, because it’s not a big sheet, but there’s some ice against the south shore of Shammis Island, very near the centre of this picture. Zoom in to see it, and the larger area of ice in the Manitou that we saw before.

The Manitou also has another ice remnant around Wolf Island.

Wolf Island, Welcome Channel, Thompson Island, Holmstrom’s Marsh.

There’s still some soft pan ice drifting in this area. In this picture, it’s right by the propeller blade, near Houghs Island, but it’s probably on the move.

We got a nice shot of the Scotty Island to Hay Island area.

Scotty Island, Middle Island, The Hades and Hay Island.

We found no ice at all in this area, and that also includes Slate Island, Railway Island, Queer Island and Square Island.

That concluded our look at the ice on Lake of the Woods. In short, we found almost none. If it’s not gone tonight, it certainly will be by Monday morning.

Here’s a picture from Kelly Belair, showing what some of the ice looks like when it piles up on a reef. This was taken near Rocky Point at about mid-day today. He says the picture doesn’t do it justice.

Ice pile by Rocky Point.

By the way, ice remnants are not the only boating hazard right now. Because of the high water levels, there are lots of deadheads and debris in the water. Parts from damaged docks and cribs have been reported.

All marinas should be operable now, but they’ll have a lot of catching up to do.

One last picture from our flight. As we were circling to return to the airport, we flew over Upper Black Sturgeon Lake. Water levels are up there, because the Winnipeg River is so high that it’s flowing into the Black Sturgeon Lakes, instead of the other way around. This was apparently an overstatement. River levels are high enough that the Black Sturgeon Lakes are not draining normally, but I heard recently that the rollers are still above water, so the river is not actually higher than the lakes. At least, not yet.

Beauty Bay Golf Course.

As just one example of how bad it is, the water is lapping at the clubhouse of the Beauty Bay Golf Course. The front parking lot and dock area (near the middle of this picture) are submerged.

So a special thanks to Andy and my old colleagues at MAG for this farewell flight. I got to ride one more time in GTWW, a plane I flew for thirty-two years and (checks logbook) over 5000 hours. Sad sniff.

Signs of spring:

My dog found a bee today.

Motorhomes and campers. Boat Trailers. Generally heavy traffic. Potholes with a capital P.

Ice Patrol will be wrapping up for the year soon. We’ll try to establish the actual date the ice was all gone, and we’ll update the graphs accordingly. I’m still hoping for a nice satellite image of an ice-free lake to round things off.

If you found Ice Patrol valuable this year, let me just mention that I did insert a donations form back in March. It uses the services of Stripe, and works in US dollars. Traffic is way up since March, so here’s a link to it, in case you missed it, and feel like it. The form is at the bottom of this post from March 16. Every donation is appreciated, but there’s no obligation. It’s entirely up to you.

 

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 7, 2022: Satellite Saturday

We’ve had almost a whole week of sunny weather, so at least one of the NASA satellites got a picture for five days running.

I was hoping to put them together as an animated gif or a slide show, but it didn’t work well.

I’ll just show them in reverse order so you can compare.

If you need help getting oriented, go to the last one, May 3, and click on it. You’ll see a version with some landmarks labelled.

May 7.

May 6.

May 5.

May 4.

May 3.

The amount of progress in five days is impressive. The amount of open water is very different in the first and last pictures. But it’s the steady change in the colour (and strength) of the ice that is most important.

While we’re looking at things from overhead, Tom Lindstrom went cruising by in an airliner today and took a series of pictures from the cockpit. Many of them turned out kind of dark; I think his camera was dazzled by the brightness of the ice. I’ve enhanced the contrast on these two to improve the difference between islands and water, so they look a little odd, and the ice colour is not correct.

You can click on these pictures to see a larger version. Then zoom in, because these pictures are big

Kenora waters.

This picture covers everything from Kenora a the top left, to Second Channel at the bottom right. Zoom in and you can see the last patch of candled ice in Kenora Bay.

From Safety Bay to Bigstone Bay.

This second shot includes a wider area. Bigstone Bay is at the top right, Middle Island and Scotty Island are near the corner, Welcome Channel and Poplar Bay are halfway down the right side, and White Partridge is at the bottom.

The weather:

We hit at least 20°C yesterday, and it’s 22°C as I write this, exceeding both the forecast highs and seasonal averages. But just so you know, the record high for this date is 31.7°, set in 1953!

Now we’re supposed to get a couple of days of rain. Because weekend. But wet weather is not entirely bad. High humidity can have a powerful melting effect on ice. This is due to the energy released when water vapour condenses onto ice or snow. The humidity actually does more damage than the rain.

However, the rainy weather means we won’t get any satellite coverage until Tuesday, and it may not be good enough for my pilot friends to take pictures, either. So we’ll have a bit of an information blackout for a few days. If you go boating, you could use the comments form on the ABOUT page to let us know how you made out, and how far you got.

Signs of Spring:

I finally found time to put my summer tires on today.

Flies are out. Midges will be next, I think, and a friend mentioned that with all this standing water, the mosquitoes may get off to a roaring start this year.

I can’t find a bulletin on a planned date for the removal of the Coney Island pedestrian bridge yet. It gets scheduled for removal when the ice clears out between Kenora and Devil’s Gap, leaving the bridge as the only obstacle to boat traffic. That hasn’t happened yet.

 

April 16, 2021: New Aerials / Big Changes

A week of cloud and snow has left us all wondering what’s happening on the lake. But poor flying weather and cloud cover that blocked the satellites from seeing anything left us all in the dark. Until yesterday.

First, it cleared up enough yesterday afternoon that NASA’s Aqua satellite managed to image most of Lake of the Woods.

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

Aqua satellite’s image from April 15, 2021, in false colour.

There are clearly areas of ice on Shoal Lake, and both north and south of the Barrier Islands. Closer to Kenora, cloud cover makes it hard to be confident, but it looks like mostly open water. The south end of the lake looks completely clear. This is possible, it was down to free-floating sheets of ice five days ago, and that stuff is very vulnerable to wind action.

Let’s follow up with some aerial photography to get a more detailed picture of how it’s going. My friend Quinn Wilson was out for a training flight in one of the MAG Canada fire detection planes, a Cessna 337. He took these pictures on Thursday afternoon.

If you click on these pictures, you’ll see a larger full screen version.

Bigstone Bay, Hay Island.

In this shot, the camera is pointing south across Bigstone Bay at Hay Island. Interestingly, the east end of the bay is mostly water, but there are extensive ice sheets west of Copper Island. In the distance, Moore Bay appears open, but Andrew Bay and everything further south look icy.

Pine Portage Bay.

From the other side of the plane, Pine Portage Bay, home of Northern Harbour. The marina is just visible at the right edge.

Town Island, Keewatin Channel, Second Channel, The Tangle.

Looking north. Town Island is at the lower right, and the picture is roughly centered on Shragge’s Island. It looks like the water is open from Kenora all the way to Leisure Island now.

The Manitou.

In the other direction, the Manitou is still covered in ice. I don’t know the name of the island in the foreground; it’s next door to Hough’s. Whiskey Island is at the right, and the Barrier Islands are in the distance.

Welcome Channel.

Welcome Channel is still frozen over, but the shorelines are starting to let go.

Poplar Bay.

The strange track-like feature is just a reflection of the upholstery stitching in side the plane.

Abbott Island, Cross Island, Turnbull Island, Rheault Bay.

West of Keewatin, there’s still pan ice close to town.

Crowe Island, Anglican Island Channel Island, Shragges Island, Keewatin Channel, Second Channel, Canoe Channel.

As you can see, this area is open except for where the ice roads ran, but there’s still plenty of ice further out on the lake. Quinn says all that ice looks poor, though. Thanks, Quinn!

Only days now until the lake is fully open.

I’ve got more photos coming in, taken this morning, but while I receive them and sort them out, I’ll put this batch up for people to see.

I’ll put the newest photos up in a separate post later today.

 

March 24, 2021: West Hawk, Clearwater and more.

There were some technical difficulties getting these photos to me, so they’re a couple of days old. They were taken in the late afternoon/early evening on Monday the 22nd, by a pair of seventeen-year-old pilots. On this trip, Arsen Yamborko was the pilot flying, and James Norris was navigating and taking pictures. I’m really happy to have these because it’s a challenge every spring to find people who are flying over the Whiteshell.

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

South Cross Lake, Caddy Lake, West Hawk Lake.

The Whiteshell, looking south east over West Hawk, with Shoal Lake in the far distance and a hint of Lake of the Woods on the very horizon.

Clearwater Bay, Deception Bay.

I love the late afternoon lighting on this one. McCallum Point dead center, and part of Zigzag Island at the lower right corner.

Northern Peninsula.

I had to hit the maps for this one. The Northern Peninsula’s Spruce Point is just out of the frame at the lower left. Rabson Island is the one that vaguely resembles a musical note. In the distance, Fox, Hare and Wolf Islands. Kenora is in the extreme distance at the upper left corner.

Brulé Point, Fox Island, the Manitou, Welcome Channel.

Brulé Point extends up from the bottom of the frame, Fox Island is just left of center, and Welcome Channel is above that. Kenora is again visible in the upper left corner.

Norman, Safety Bay, Coney Island.

Closer to town, this shot has Norman in the foreground, and the west end of Coney Island in the center. Further right, the ice is rotting out around Cameron Island, Gourlay Island and Yacht Club Island.

Remember, these photographs are from Monday, so the ice is surely even worse by now.

Anyway, special thanks to Arsen, James, and to Dan Zvanovec, a former contributor who got in touch with me about these photos.

 

May 2, 2019: Good Timing

My morning trip today was flown in cloud and showers, so there are no pictures from that. However, my afternoon trip brought me back to Kenora just as the sun broke through at about four o’clock this afternoon.

First, two pictures from guest contributors.

Rick Jackson sent me this picture from the French Narrows/Andrew Bay area. It was taken on April 30th, but it’s fun to see someone using a good-sized aluminum boat as an ice-breaker.

Rick says: We live at French Narrows and on April 30th lowered boat to see how far I could get? That Green Buoy is SE of Square Island #E25, ice was solid enough for the boat to ride up on top . Looking back in diaries we should get to BarePoint by May 08 -09 ?

I also got this May 1st picture of Rush Bay from Joe Pereira.

Joe says: Looks like all of Rush Bay is free of ice.

It’s been a frustrating week for aerial photography, but this afternoon the cloud scattered out, and we were able to fly over Lake of the Woods get some useful shots. The low cloud layer was breaking up, but we still had to stay beneath it, so these pictures are from a fairly low angle.

You can click on any of the following pictures to see a full-screen version that can be zoomed to it’s full resolution.

First up: Keewatin Channel/Rat Portage Bay.

Looking roughly east. The isolated island below the centre of the picture is Yacht Club Island; you can see the red roof of the Clubhouse at the east end. That blurry rectangle is the electrical connector for airplane’s heated windshield. Worth noting in this photograph is Gun Club Island, visible above Yacht Club. Because of the ice roads, Gun Club is always the last thing to let go on Rat Portage Bay, but it looks like that could happen any day now.

Next we banked south to fly down Keewatin Channel.

That’s Crowe Island right on the nose of the King Air, with ice extending left towards Rat Portage Bay. Above Crowe is Anglican Island, Channel Island and so on, with The Tangle at the right above the wipers. Zoom in to see Scotty Island in the distance.

I’ve been trying to get closer to Clearwater Bay for days, so we turned west.

This is Bulman Bay, just south of Rheault Bay, with Bulman Island near the middle of the picture. Ice seems to be shore to shore here. The eastern end of White Partridge Bay is at the right side of the frame. There are patches of open water there, but most of the dark areas are just cloud shadows.

Here’s Corkscrew Channel.

Looking west towards Clearwater. I wish we could have gone further west, or at least climbed higher, but I didn’t see any significant water in this direction.

We swung south towards Brûlé Point.

Ice is starting to let go here. None of the deciduous trees are turning green. I don’t think they’re even budding yet.

Then we had to turn east to start heading for the airport.

This is Fox Island and The Manitou. Follow the softening ice road at the left to check out Hare Island, Wolf Island and Welcome Channel. Something looked strange about Whisky Island, so we went for a closer look.

The Manitou is almost entirely frozen, but there’s some weird patchy ice around Whisky Island with a few air holes in it.

We straightened out to the east again.

Holmstrom’s Marsh is at the lower left of this photo, and Thompson Island extends beyond the aircraft’s nose.

Zoom in on this picture to see the open water getting tantalizingly close to Scotty Island. Right now there’s an ice barrier between Anchor Island and Scotty, but it should let go in a day or so.

Last, as we headed off the lake towards the airport, a look north over our left wing at Galt Island and Devil’s Gap.

Allan’s Island is partly hidden by the prop, and the propeller blade is pointing right at Devil’s Gap. In this picture, you can really see how the ice roads strengthen the ice around Baker’s Island at the mouth of Matheson Bay at the right, and off the wingtip, north towards Rogers Island and Treaty Island.

That concludes today’s whirlwind tour.

Weather note: there was a dusting of snow on the ground again this morning, and although the sun did come out late this afternoon, we still only managed to reach six or seven degrees Celsius. Winnipeg was sunnier for more of the day, so it was warmer there, but basically, a huge swath of Canada from the Prairies to Quebec is caught in a cold northerly air mass. Forecasters are fairly confident that colder than normal temperatures will persist for two weeks or so. They’re not  making any extravagant promises for the weeks after that, either.

 

April 30, 2016: Going…

With help from some friends, I can offer an update this weekend after all. First, the satellite overview. If you compare today’s picture with the ones from three days ago, you can see that the areas of ice are much reduced. The  mostly gray patch at the upper left is Shoal Lake. The streaky gray bit at the upper middle is Clearwater Bay, and the faint pale streak to the right of that is Bigstone Bay.  Below that is a scribble of bright white ice, and that’s closer to Sioux Narrows.

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Lake of the Woods, April 30, 2016.

Second, I received a fabulous picture of Pine Portage Bay through Twitter today. Joe Wedge tweeted me these:

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This version isn’t zoomable, but it clearly shows that Pine Portage Bay is wide open, while much ice lurks out in Bigstone Bay. Thanks, Joe! I hope it’s okay that I cropped it.

As soon as I replied, he sent three more:

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Brown’s Island, Ptarmigan Bay

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Ptarmigan Bay, Ash Rapids

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Clytie Bay, Shoal Lake

These all show areas I haven’t been able to cover this spring. Thanks again!

I got a great set of pictures from guest contributors Garry Hawryluk and Barry Mallin today, and they were just what I needed. These were taken Saturday morning.

Click on the pictures to see a larger version, and click on that to zoom right in.

I’ll start  near town, and work my way west. Garry was actually flying towards town, but through the magic of the internet, let’s pretend we can back him up.

Welcome Channel Poplar Bay Crop

Poplar Bay, Welcome Channel, Hare Island, Wolf Island

This shot looks east, with Welcome Channel and Hare Island close to the center. Poplar Bay is a little further back and to the left, and way off toward the horizon on the left is Kenora. All that ice at the right is the Manitou.

Whisky Island

Whisky Island, Slate Islands

Looking south east over Whisky Island. Did I mention that there’s still lots of ice in the Manitou? It may not look like much on the satellite picture, but the northern portions of Lake of the Woods still have extensive stretches of ice.

Birch Island

Birch Island, Ptarmigan Bay

Looking west from the Manitou  over Brulé Point towards Ptarmigan Bay, things look a little better.

Here’s one for the Clearwater crowd.

ZigZag Island Crop

Deception Bay, Woodchuck Bay, ZigZag Island

Looking East again. Deception Bay, at the left, is pretty open, but there’s still quite a lot of ice further out from the landing.

Heartfelt thanks to Garry and Barry for today’s pictures . It’s always tricky at the end of the thaw, because things suddenly start to change very fast, and it gets hard for me to keep up.

Today, I drove to Winnipeg and back. Naturally, I looked at the lakes as I went by. When I went west, at around 11:00AM, Clearwater Bay had lots of ice, much like what you can see in the picture above. Falcon Lake looked to be 50-60% ice-covered.

On my return, at around 7:00PM, things had changed a lot. Strong north winds had pushed the ice on Falcon against the south shore, and it looked from the highway as if there was only 15-20% ice cover. This is where aircraft come in so handy- they give a better overall perspective. But although it’s hard to judge accurately from just driving by, I think there was big change in eight hours.

Ice also retreated visibly from Clearwater Landing. I’d guess it had been pushed back almost to McCallum Point, but remember, I was driving by in my nice warm car, not freezing my face off in a boat for a proper look.

Overall, Lake of the Woods looks like it’s down to 10-12% ice cover. In the area just south of Kenora, it might still be close to 50%, but the ice is weakening fast. The forecast for next week is calling for warm temperatures on Monday and Friday, but cooler conditions during the week.

I’m looking forward to taking some pictures on Monday.