May 8, 2018: More Good News!

I got pictures from two more co-workers. Tom Hutton and James Biesenthal were flying together, and they both took pictures.

First, the ones from Tom Hutton.

The classic Keewatin waterfront shot to get us started. No more ice in Safety Bay.

Here’s a closer look at Crowe Island, Anglican Island and Channel Island. They’re all clear, but there’s ice out past Thompson Island.

This third picture shows Gun Club Island in the left foreground, then Treaty Island and Roger’s look joined together by the low angle. That’s Town Island in the middle distance, left of center. Beyond it, by Nantons Island, there’s still ice.

Now some pictures from James Biesenthal. There’s some overlap with Tom’s pictures, but I’ve selected a few that offer a different view.

This is the Winnipeg River, looking south with Locke Bay spanning the frame in the background.

Further south, James photographed the west channel of the river, with Keewatin in the distance.

Then Darlington Bay with Keewatin in the center of the picture.

Then from over the Keewatin bridge, this shot of the cluster of islands that include Mackie’s, Cameron, Cross, Kalamalka, Gourlay and Yacht Club islands. Further right, Turnbull Island and Rheault Bay. You’d have to zoom in to see the distant ice on the Manitou.

The last shot is of Treaty Island, with Shragge’s to the right of center and Channel Island at the wingtip. More to the left are Rogers, Galt, and Town Islands. There’s still enough ice to block passage to Scotty Island, but it won’t last long.

Monday’s high was 28.3°C, but Tuesday was quite a bit cooler, reaching just 13°C. By Wednesday night, the Weather Network forecast says we’ll be dipping down to 1°C, and rising to just 9°C on Thursday. I don’t think it will matter much: for Lake Dwellers near Kenora, the lake will be navigable.

Although cool, Thursday should also be sunny, so the satellite photographs will show if there’s any ice remaining by then. Some ice may persist on the south part of the lake for a few days longer. Shoal Lake is going fast, so it might go at the same time Lake of the Woods this year.

In case you missed seeing the reports in the comments section, Clearwater Bay is open, West Hawk Lake is open, and down by Sioux Narrows,  Long Bay is open.

March 23, 2018: Whitefish Narrows

I was out yesterday, so just two quick pictures today.

First, I had some enquiries about the Sioux Narrows area.

This is the view looking west, with Long Bay stretching diagonally up from the lower left. The only open water anywhere in this picture is a tiny patch at Whitefish Narrows, near the center of the picture. You’ll have to click on the picture and zoom in to really see it. Whitefish Bay, Yellow Girl Bay and pretty much everything else is still frozen.

I doubt we have 1% open water on Lake of the Woods as a whole.

For a ray of hope, I’m throwing in this close-up of the open water closer to Kenora.

Looking north at Keewatin, we have Rat Portage Bay in the foreground, with Gun Club Island at the right edge of the photo. Like yesterday’s shot of this area, you can see that open water just reaches the west end of Yacht Club Island, near the center of the picture. There’s no great change in one day.

My real reason for including this shot is to show that the quality of the ice-or at least the snow cover on it- is deteriorating, with more slushy gray patches. This is easier to see than yesterday, when a mix of sunlight and cloud shadow made it hard to tell what you were looking at.

By the way, the ice roads look much darker today than when I started taking pictures ten days ago.

Random signs of spring: I saw some bear cubs a week and a half ago. No seagulls yet, but Caroline spotted three geese today.


March 22, 2018: First Shades of Grey

Just a quick update today. James and I had the opportunity to swing out over the lake before lining up with the runway at Kenora’s airport. I’ll begin with an overall perspective.

This photograph is centered on Middle Island, looking north towards town in the distance, so those are the Hades islands in the foreground, and the northern tip of Hay  Island at the very bottom of the picture. Scotty Island is above and left of center. As you can see, it’s all frozen, and still has good snow cover.

Next, the latest on Keewatin Channel.

The open water has reached Shragge’s Island. If you click to zoom in, you can also see that water is reaching out from Keewatin to the western tip of Yacht Club Island.

That’s only one of the reasons I included this photograph. It’s subtle, but the snow-cover is losing its pure white colour and developing faint patches of pale gray. I’m not talking about the big cloud shadows. You have to zoom in to see them, but there are tiny patches of scruffier snow, the first signs that the cover layer is starting to yield.

Last, as we turn towards the airport, a quick look at Devil’s Gap.

Looking east along part of Treaty Island, with a little bit of Gun Club Island at the lower left, we can see that water is beginning to spread from Devil’s Gap towards Rat Portage Bay and Gun Club Island, but the ice roads there still look strong. So do the roads around Roger Island, right of center. Note: Gun Club and Rogers are both late melters. The ice roads run near them for a reason.

Loosely speaking, places closer to town with strong currents go first. Examples: Safety Bay, Keewatin Channel and Scotty Island. Places further out, especially those with weak currents, go later. For instance: Bigstone Bay and the Manitou. Please keep that trend in mind when you’re wondering why I’m not photographing your area yet. I’m probably waiting for it to start showing signs.  A few distant places have current, and go early, but you can’t get there by boat until everything melts between them and your boat launch. Example: Big Narrows. Shoal Lake goes last, typically four or five days after the last ice on LotW.

There’s one other factor: it’s easier for me to fly near the Kenora airport because I’m always going there to land. I get fewer opportunities to range as far afield as Clearwater Bay or Sioux Narrows, but I do make an extra effort when things start to melt in those areas.

I just looked back at my pictures from this time last year and the year before. We’re nowhere near where we were on March 23, 2017, (an early year) and not as far along as March 21, 2016, (a typical year), either. But I think I’m prepared to start the six-week countdown now. That doesn’t mean I think we’ll be ice free in exactly six weeks, which works out to May 3rd. It might be possible, given favourable conditions, but I think somewhere between the 6th and the 10th of May would be easier to believe, given a typical range of weather. If you find that disheartening, bear in mind that that’s a guess at when Lake of the Woods might be completely ice free. If your camp is closer to town, you may not have to wait so long.

March 10, 2016: First Aerials

The clouds finally lifted enough for me to get a few shots. There’s still miles and miles of ice out there, but little patches of water have started to appear. It has begun.

You can click on any of these pictures to see a full-size, zoomable version.

Pilot: Garrett Shingoose. Photographer: Tim Armstrong

Longbow Lake

This is Longbow Lake. It’s near the airport, so it’s convenient for me to photograph. As you can see, it’s frozen from shore to shore.  That thing that looks like a blurry hockey rink at the bottom of the picture is not on the lake, it’s on the windshield. But the slush patches are real.

Lake of the Woods is still 99% frozen.

Town Island

Looking north west from near Town Island, with Keewatin Channel in the distance, you can see that the ice roads cross vast stretches of ice. I was out of town today, but I hear it has been announced that the ice roads will be officially closed at noon tomorrow (Friday the 11th). This makes sense, given the forecast for very warm temperatures this weekend: up to 7°C for Friday, and 9°C for Saturday.

Let’s take a closer look at Keewatin Channel and Channel Island.

Channel Island

This is looking north west again with Channel Island dead center and Shragge’s Island at the right edge. There’s a good amount of open water here, but it doesn’t connect to anything yet.

Swinging north towards Keewatin takes us to Safety Bay.

Yacht Club Island, Safety Bay

Yacht Club Island, visible at the lower left of this north-facing view,  is still ice-bound. Safety Bay is starting to open up, though, and for me that marks the beginning of the thaw.

Safety Bay and Coney Island

This is almost the same shot as above, but emphasizing the water more and showing less of the surrounding ice. Sometimes when I focus on the water, it gives the impression that the ice is in full retreat when the battle has just begun.

One last shot for the river-dwellers.

Headwaters of the Winnipeg River

Most of the Winnipeg River is still frozen solid.  But not all.

With Safety Bay beginning to open, I say the 2016 thaw has commenced. Usually, I would start my six-week timer now. This year, I’m not sure. I think it will be less. How much less? Too soon to say.