Monday, April 28, 2008

A little blast of winter

Rick, Steve and Bernie are in good spirits despite the new snow!

Rick is the Canadian distributor for the famous EGB brand of trout lures. They decided to warm up at our Oxtongue Lake store before heading back into Algonquin Park for more product testing. The weather is expected to improve tomorrow. As you can see, early season canoe trippers should be ready for anything!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Opeongo ice report

This just in.

As the park's report from Friday has indicated, most small to medium sized lakes in Algonquin Park are open. As of 3 pm today (Sunday, April 27), you could get as far as the East Arm Narrows. Currently the North Arm and East Arm are inaccessible by boat. After wind and rain yesterday, plus more wind today. Conditions are changing hourly.

If you are going to Opeongo Lake this week, the best way to get an up-to-the-minute report is to call our Opeongo Store directly: 1-888-280-8886.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ice from the air

Current conditions, based on info from park staff:
  • Streams and rivers are open. Water levels are very high and still rising.
  • In general, all interior lakes are frozen solid up to the shore.
  • Several access roads are impassable due to washouts and/or snow.
  • Check the Algonquin Park spring ice update for more details and safety messages.
  • Check the NOAA satellite images for big lake conditions
The good news?
  • Conditions are changing VERY quickly and the warm weather is continuing. Many smaller lakes will open in the next few days. Mew and Brewer Lakes, for example, are almost ice-free and we expect Costello to open today. There is open water in front of the Opeongo Store.
  • Park staff are planning another flight on Friday morning and will report on conditions by early afternoon that day.
Here are some images from yesterday's helicopter fight over Algonquin Park:

The East Arm of Opeongo Lake, looking west

The north end of Lake Lavielle

Happy Isle Lake, looking towards Merchant
(the dark area is cloud shadow, not black ice)

Pathfinder Island, on Source Lake

Crooked Chute, on the Petawawa River (yikes!)

The Natch. Nice place, if you could get there.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Black ice, peepers and invisible moose

I drove through the park last night on my way home from a last blast of spring skiing in Vermont. Small ponds are open but all the big lakes you can see from the highway are still covered, with maybe a canoe length of open water around the shoreline. The good news is that the ice is very black, so clearly the hot sunny weather is having a dramatic effect. What we really need now is wind, to get the ice moving around, and rain, to dissolve it further. The forecast is calling for continued hot sunny weather, so regardless what else happens, there is a very good chance that many lakes will be open by the weekend. Hopefully all access roads will be too! Believe it or not, there is still patchy snow in the woods. Stay tuned and don't forget to check the Algonquin Park ice report.

While driving, I turned off the radio, opened the sunroof and was treated to the glorious sound of spring peepers. I also slowed down and kept a very watchful eye for moose. They are hanging out near (and on) the road. At night, moose are virtually invisible until one appears in your headlights. Even knowing the road and knowing the usual "moose zones" doesn't help. On my way through park very early Friday morning, I came as close as I ever have to hitting a moose at the Smoke Creek Bridge, one of the last places you'd expect to see one. The danger doesn't end at the park boundary either. Both moose and deer are commonly seen on Hwy 60 both east and west of Algonquin Park.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rays of hope and ice lore

Jerry Schmanda, our Opeongo Store manager, and I went to the annual Algonquin Park contractor's meeting yesterday. I was an interesting meeting and also gave me a great opportunity to see the ice situation first hand as we drove to and from the Algonquin Visitor Centre.

The "rays of hope" are the warm sunny days we have been having lately. Ice is deteriorating quickly and this morning it was clear that Fairy Lake, near Huntsville, will go out soon. Lakes in the park typically go out 10 days to two weeks later.

The interesting bit of ice lore we learned yesterday may give early season canoe trippers additional optimism for an more seasonal ice-out. According to Craig MacDonald, long time park staffer and guru of wilderness travel lore, "good ice" goes out faster than "bad ice." Good ice is that solid clear blue stuff we all dream of skating on. Bad ice, or "snow ice" is a multi-layered mix of ice and snow. The crystal structure of good ice absorbs heat and "candles" very quickly. Candle ice is a special phenomenon only experienced on a few days of the year.

The bottom line? Still too early to call but current indications are that ice may go out earlier than we thought. Algonquin Park staff are planning a fly-over on Tuesday or Wednesday of next. They will update the park's ice report as soon as possible after the flight.
Tea Lake as seen from the Smoke Creek bridge on Hwy 60, April 16

Fork Lake, seen from the deck at the Algonquin Visitor Centre, April 16

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Algonquin Park's ice report

The official word from Algonquin Park on the ice situation is now up and running.

Ice pictures from April 14

Hmmm. Three inches of new snow fell in some areas of Algonquin Park this past weekend, including Opeongo Lake. Staff at the Harkness fisheries research lab claim that with the sun and wind last week, at least 5" of surface ice was lost on Lake Opeongo. Of course, that leaves only about two feet to go. The good news is that daytime highs of 20 degrees are expected all over Algonquin Park later this week, so that should get things rolling. Thanks again to Jerry Schmanda, pictured at right, standing on his favourite lake, for taking the photos.

AO's Opeongo Store, as seen from the lake on April 14
As you can see, rental canoes are out and ready to go.
Note the snow on the roof!

Lake of Two Rivers - pretty much the same!

Snow on the Rock Lake Road
Apparently there are some big washouts from the January floods,
so many access roads could be in rough shape

Smoke Lake, seen through the power lines off Hwy 60

Hey! Open water! OK, it's beaver pond but it's a start...

Cow moose and two calves seen from Hwy 60.
Keep a watchful eye for deer and moose if you are driving!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ice pictures from April 10

Welcome to Algonquin Park.
Would you like to ski? Snowshoe? Canoe...not!

These pictures are a few days old but I'm sorry to report that things haven't changed much. Local river levels are VERY high right now, so lakes like Rock and Two Rivers should have some significant open leads at the river mouth. The Oxtongue River has opened a long lead into Oxtongue Lake but the rest of the lake is solid and white. All photos taken by Jerry Schmanda on his recent journey from Oxtongue Lake to Opeongo Lake. Hopefully we will have more images on Monday or Tuesday - stay tuned!

Smoke Lake, as seen from the landing

Canoe Lake, from the beach by the permit office
(beach, what beach?)

Cache Lake, looking towards Bartlett Lodge

Lake of Two Rivers, looking east to the Centennial Ridges

The cliffs on Costello Lake, near Hwy 60

Jerry's first view of the Opeongo Store this season
(hmmm, opening April 25?)

Canada goose looking for open water on Costello Creek
(and maybe thinking about heading back south...)

Sproule Bay on Lake Opeongo, looking north

The south end of Lake Opeongo, at the access point

Monday, April 07, 2008

Going, going, going...

But not gone.

Last week's rain was followed by several days of beautiful sunny warm weather, which has led to a huge reduction of the snowpack. Many south facing slopes are bare but there is still deep snow in the woods and solid white ice on all local lakes. Rivers are open but not at full flood levels - much of the snow is evaporating rather than melting.

Ice out predictions haven't changed much. The 14-day trend forecasts slightly below-average temps for our area, so melting will continue, but slowwwwwly.

Recent signs of spring:
  • Several robins were spotted in Oxtongue Lake today. I spotted redpolls, gulls and a great blue heron earlier in the week.
  • I stopped wearing a toque to work, now wearing the ball hat.
  • I have to wipe the dog's muddy paws every time he enters the house.
  • The neighbours reported seeing a moose cow and newborn calf hanging out near Ravenscliffe Road, just outside of Huntsville. Drive carefully!
  • Ragged Falls is spectacular, as you can see from the photos taken yesterday.
Here are a few more recent photos:

Ragged Falls from the top, taken April 6.
The ice formations won't last long!

The sun is slowly melting the big snow piles
at the Oxtongue Lake store

Solid white ice where the canoe should be

Oxtongue Lake, on April 7, from
just in front of Algonquin Outfitters

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Mr. Canoehead on-line

Our friend Kevin Callan has a great new web site. You can even buy his excellent guide books on-line - check it out!