Sunday, May 01, 2005

Ice Out in Algonquin Park

The big question on every Algonquin Park canoeist's mind right now is, "is the ice out in the park yet?"

After a long, cold, snowy winter, the answer (as of today) is, "not completely!"

Ontario Parks staff flew over the park two days ago and conditions haven't changed much since then. All lakes south of Hwy 60 are open, though you may still find sheets of ice floating around in larger lakes like Cache, Smoke and Louisa. Water levels are VERY high.

North of the highway, it's a different story. On Lake Opeongo, for example, the lake is completely frozen beyond Bates Island in the South Arm. Large interior lakes like Big Trout, Lavielle, Ralph Bice and Cedar are all ice-covered, with some open areas. Considering the weather forecast, things are not expected to change very quickly. Canoeists travelling at this time of year must be extremely careful. The water and air temperature is just above freezing and drifting ice could trap you for some time. Rivers like the Petawawa, Nipissing and Amable du Fond are in full spring flood, so extreme caution should be taken approaching portages and fast water sections.

When does the ice go out? A few seasons ago, our intrepid reporters unearthed a secret document revealing the results of a 33 year study of ice-out dates on Opeongo Lake. Opeongo is usually the last lake to open up in Algonquin Park. "Ice-out" refers to the day when boat travel from end to end is unimpeded by ice. Over 33 years of record-keeping, the average ice-out date was April 30, the earliest was April 12, 1981, and the latest, May 15, 1972. The official ice-out date for 2004 was April 25. With such a wide range of potential dates, you now know why our staff have such difficulty answering that popular question, "When will the ice go out this year?" The best strategy for trip planning is to have a flexible schedule and route plan and to phone us closer to your trip dates to get a better prediction.

For the official Algonquin Park report on ice conditions, click here. For an informative and relatively up to date report on Canoe Lake conditions, visit the Electric Penquin site.

I will post new ice reports as we receive them.

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