Friday, March 31, 2006

Pictures are worth 1000 words

The pictures below were all taken at Oxtongue Lake, today, March 31, 2006. This is not an April Fool's joke! We still have lots of snow and lakes are frozen solid. I was wandering around on Oxtongue Lake taking pictures and barely made a footprint in the surface snow! You probably can't see her but the woman entering the store at the moment I took the picture was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It is that kind of day.

Algonquin Outfitters' Oxtongue Lake store - lots of snow left to melt!

We get many phone calls at this time of year, from people in warmer climes, wondering if the lakes are open yet. It is still too early to call but as you can see from the next picture, there is no shortage of ice. Lakes in Huntsville are still frozen. When Oxtongue Lake opens up, lakes in the park typically are ice-free a week later.

The Hwy 60 bridge over Oxtongue Lake. Ice from shore to shore on March 31!

Remember the blog about Quinzee building? Two of our fearless staff members, Todd and Jeremy, helped out by Thomas from down the road, built a Quinzee at our Winter Assembly. Quinzee-building conditions were tough. The day was cold (high of -15 C) and the good snow was hidden under a hard crust. They perservered and built a fantastic three-person Quinzee. It is a testament to solid construction and the surprising strength of snow that the quinzee is still standing today.

Quinzee constructed on Feb. 18 still standing on March 31!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

No increase in camping permit fees for 2006!

Earlier in the new year, we had been told by Ontario Parks staff that Algonquin Park interior camping fees had increased to $10/night. We have been passing this information along to customers.

I went digging around on the Ontario Parks web site yesterday and discovered that we have been giving out bad information! Ooops. The good news is that the cost of interior camping fees has not increased for Algonquin Park, remaining at $9/night for adults and $4.25/night for youth. For full details, check the hard-to-find fee structure for interior camping fees.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ice thickness report

One of our staff members went out on Lake of Bays yesterday to do a little ice fishing. For those not familair with that lake, it is a beautiful big lake just west and south of our Oxtongue Lake store (similar size to Lake Opeongo). Being outside of Algonquin Park, ice fishing is permitted on the lake.

She and her husband laboured with a manual ice auger to drill a hole through layers of hard frozen snow, ice, slush and more ice. They estimate total ice thicknees of at least 28". With current evening temperatures averaging well below freezing, it is possible that more ice is forming, now that the insulating snow layer has been soaked with rain and frozen solid.

This information is a good basis for estimating ice conditions in Algonquin Park, where ice fishing is not permitted, and nobody is out there drilling holes. Bigger lakes in the park will likely have thicker ice than Lake of Bays. The typical annual pattern is that lakes in the park generally open up 10 days to two weeks after lakes in the Huntsville/Lake of Bays area.

It is still to early to make a reasonable "ice-out" prediction but at this point, it doesn't look like it will happen early.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Spring is coming - slowly

Long time no blog - my apologies to faithful readers of this journal.

The days are getting longer and spring is in the air - sort of. There is still two feet of snow on the ground in most places in Algonquin Park, despite the rain and warm weather last week. Snowfall in February was double the annual average and there is a lot of water content in the snow. Ministry of Natural Resources staff estimate that the water content of the the snowpack right now is about eight inches. This means that if all the snow melted at once, it would be equivalent to eight inches of rainfall. That would be some kind of flood! The normal amount for this time of year of two inches.

This is not deterring people from planning early season trout fishing trips. Optimistic anglers are booking water taxis and canoe for "ice out" trips starting on the opening day of trout season, this year April 29. It's to early to perdict when the ice will go out but our advice to folks planning early season trips is to be flexible.

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 but in 2005 Lake Opeongo was not fully open till May 4!

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 an informative and entertaining report on Canoe Lake conditions, visit the Electric Penquin's ice out page.