Sunday, April 26, 2009

Open water!

This should be my last "ice out" report for 2009. All lakes accessible from Hwy 60 are open, including Opeongo. There is a slim chance that some interior lakes could have black ice floating around but after yesterday's high winds and heavy rain, that is pretty unlikely. The only issue facing early-season canoe trippers now is access. Some park access roads are in rough shape and may only be passable with a four-wheel drive vehicle with good ground clearance. Check the Algonquin Park spring conditions report or call the park information line (705-633-5572) for details before heading to any of the more remote access points.

Anyone planning a canoe trip at this time of year should be prepared for cold weather, high water levels, very cold water and unexpected surprises along the trail, like fallen trees, flooded portage landings and soggy campsites. So why go? There are many reasons: spring wildflowers like trout lilies and wild leeks are popping up, the bugs aren't out yet and if you are really lucky, you might get to place the first set of human footprints of the 2009 season along a portage trail! Then there is the fishing...

Steve B could have gone to Venezuela to catch a wacky fish like this payara...

This week, he traveled all the way from South Florida to fish for beautiful fish
like this Algonquin Park speckled trout.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Algonquin fly-over ice report is up

Contrary to popular rumour, park staff were able to fly yesterday and have posted a detailed report with pictures. It is well worth reading as ice conditions are described as being "most unusual."

The executive summary is that most Hwy 60 lakes should be passable by Saturday (with the likely exception of Opeongo) but that canoeists should expect to find certain interior lakes still frozen over.

Remember that hole we described in our April 2nd blog? Well, it has expanded to the point where there is open water from Bates Island to Sunnyside. The trouble is, you can't get there due to the fact that the southern end of the South Arm is still plugged with ice.

Scroll all the way to the bottom of the report and read the access road report as well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The view from Hwy 60

Larry the Lawyer emailed the other day after seeing my pictures from April 16:
Geez, will you tell Gordon enough already with the snowy pictures on the blog. I took a photo of those same canoes on the AO Winter Fun Day and there was less snow.
Larry won't be happy with this report but I feel compelled to tell it like it is. Our staff are now in at the Opeongo Store, getting things ready for the opening of the season. They report that Opeongo is still iced over, though there is open water in the bay near the access. Ice thickness is about 12". There was a lot of wind and rain last night so things will be changing quickly in the next few days. Temperatures on Friday and Saturday are expected to be in the 20s!
Lake of Two Rivers on April 20

Costello Lake, just off the Opeongo Road

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Moving towards "ice out"

Smoke Lake, as seen from Fisherman's Point on April 16
(OK, so I'm no Ansel Adams. I just thought the image looked better in black and white.)

I don't have a new ice report for Algonquin Park today but I can report that all the lakes around Huntsville are open. Fairy, Vernon and Peninsula Lakes are all ice-free. Lake of Bays is mostly open with ice in some bays. Oxtongue Lake is 70% open. There is wind, rain and warm weather in this week's forecast, which will help get things moving.

My personal prediction is that you will be able to canoe somewhere in Algonquin Park next weekend. Most big lakes will likely still be ice-covered. Check the Algonquin Park news bulletin on Wednesday or Thursday, as they will posting a report after a fly-over on Tuesday.

Craig MacDonald, Algonquin Park's ice-out guru, told me recently that there are certain lakes that are predictably "resistant" to breaking up and hold ice longer than others. Typically, these are headwater lakes with little inflow. Good examples in Algonquin Park are Opeongo, Smoke, LaMuir, Tim, Ralph Bice and Louisa. With the exception of LaMuir, all of those lakes are either at access points or within range of a day's paddle, so just one ice-covered lake on your route could significantly affect route plans.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A few pictures from today

You'll want snowshoes to pick out a rental canoe

Lake of Two Rivers from Hwy 60

There is a little open water on Smoke Lake

Your faithful blogger paddles the dock at Smoke Lake

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Our blog makes the Insider Report

Thanks to the nice people at Ontario Parks for including a link to this blog in their recent Insider Report on Ice Out Canoe Trips!

If you are not on the "insider list," I highly recommend signing up. The reports include all kinds of interesting information about Ontario's wonderful provincial parks, as well as contests, camping tips, route suggestions and much more.

While I'm at it, thanks to all the faithful readers of this blog for paying attention to what I have to say. You know who you are. I checked the visitor statistics today and just about fell off my chair when I saw that this humble blog has had over 3000 visitors in the last month and a recent daily high of 164 visitors! I'd better get blogging. For some reason, people in Don Mills, Ontario, and State College, PA, really like this blog. Those two cities boast the highest AO blog visitation from Canada and the USA respectively. Who knew?

Beautiful weather up here but still lots of ice!

The weather has been spectacular lately. With all the sunny days, you'd think that the ice would be disappearing at a rapid rate. Unfortunately, at least for early season paddlers and spring anglers, this is not the case. Night-time temperatures are still well below freezing and the recent snow has made a nice reflective layer on top of the ice. Consequently, there has been much less ice-out progress than you would expect. 

Having said that, rivers have created big leads into some lakes so there is movement. What we really need now is some wind and rain to get things broken up. 

All this clear weather has made for some excellent satellite photos on the Coastwatch web site. Click the link and select the best looking recent thumbnail image (ie. the one with the least cloud cover). That will open in your browser window, putting you somewhere west of Thunder Bay. Scroll over and down until you recognize landforms like Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula. Scroll right (eastwards) from there and you should be able to recognize bigger Algonquin Park lakes such as Opeongo, Cedar and Lavielle. Notice how white and frozen they are! These images are updated daily so watch for progress. While you're at it, look at Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie and the crazy patterns in the water caused (I presume) by silt.

The Canoe Lake Ice-Out Contest page has some recent pictures of a very frozen-looking Canoe Lake and a link to an Algonquin Park page discussing the history of ice-out on Lake Opeongo. Algonquin Park staff have started their spring ice and road conditions report. This is especially interesting to anyone planning an early trip to some of the more remote access points. Stay tuned to this blog for more pictures - we're going into the park tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Spring is over, winter has returned

I've had a few calls today from optimistic souls who thought they might go on an Easter weekend canoe trip in Algonquin Park. Regrettably, I had to inform them that they might consider hiking or even a little snowshoeing.

While the heavy rains of last week gave some hope that lakes might open early, winter has reappeared. On Monday, the temperature dropped and 10 to 15 cm of fresh snow fell in and around the park. We're thinking late April average ice-out.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Big hole spotted in Opeongo Lake

Satellite view of Opeongo, Cedar and Lavielle area from March 31.

I saved this for April 2 because nobody would have believed it if I posted yesterday. AO's Opeongo Store manager, Jerry Schmanda, took a bicycle ride up Opeongo Lake the other day to check on ice conditions. He reported that the ice surface was very firm, although there is soft ice near shore. North of Bates Island, Jerry observed several large pressure cracks and a most unusual large circular patch of open water, roughly 50 metres in diameter. On the fuzzy satellite image above, those of you who know Opeongo will notice a dark patch just north of the location of Bates Island. This, we believe, is the hole.

April 2 and the quinzee built for Winter Fun Day is still standing (sort of).

What are conditions like in Algonquin Park at the moment? Pretty typical for the time of year. There is still snow in the bush, though south-facing slopes are bare. Streams and rivers are open, with very high water levels. Lakes are still frozen, though starting to look a little grey. There are many signs of spring - I've even seen several robins.

Oxtongue Lake on April 2. Still frozen solid!