Monday, November 19, 2012

The AO blog has moved...

If you want to see the latest blog posts, please visit our active blog at: 

But since you're here, feel free to browse around and read what we have been 
blogging about since 2005. There is some good stuff in here!

Sunset moose in Hailstorm Creek. Photo: J. Schmanda

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Oh, by the way, Opeongo is ice-free. For now.

We made the official call on Thursday, March 29, and announced it on our Facebook page. Unfortunately, we bloggers just can't seem to keep up with those Facebookers.

Now that lakes in Algonquin Park are open, there seems to be a growing buzz about Easter weekend canoe trips.  Here are some things to consider: The Oxtongue Lake store (and all AO locations) will be closed on Good Friday. Oxtongue Lake will be open all other days over Easter. As of this morning, wintry weather has returned and it is no April Fool's joke. There is 5 cm of new snow on the ground, roads are slippery and many ponds, small lakes and sheltered bays have ice forming around the edges. It is thin ice but ice nevertheless. You can't see this from the satellite image.

If you are thinking about visiting the park over Easter, my suggestion would to come up to Algonquin, check conditions and make
a realistic decision based on factors like the weather; your experience; what type of gear, clothing and food you have and how prepared you and your group are for a "cold water emergency." It could be a great weekend for hiking but maybe not for canoeing. We are currently operating on our "November policy," which means that our decision to rent a canoe (or not) is based on the prevailing weather, snow and ice conditions, water temperature and the customer's apparent levels of experience and preparedness. The challenge is that in April, the paddling stoke level is much higher than it is in November.

Just what is a "cold water emergency?" Here is a quote from the Transport Canada site:
Cold water can paralyze your muscles instantly. Sadly, many people do not understand this danger and how important it is to avoid it. Cold water shock likely causes more deaths than hypothermia. Canada’s cold waters are especially dangerous when you fall into them unexpectedly. For three to five minutes, you will gasp for air. You could also experience muscle spasms or a rise in your heart rate and blood pressure. Worse yet, you could choke on water or suffer a heart attack or a stroke. Even strong swimmers can suffer the effects of cold water shock.

If you are wearing a lifejacket before falling into cold water, it will keep you afloat while you gain control of your breathing and prevent drowning from loss of muscle control. Trying to grab a lifejacket while in the water, let alone putting one on, will be very hard because of the changes your body will be experiencing.

If you survive the shock of cold water, hypothermia is the next danger.
For the full scoop on cold water immersion, hypothermia and how to respond, visit Cold Water Boot Camp, the home of one Canada's leading experts in the field, Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, also known as Professor Popsicle.

Satellite image from March 31, before the recent snow. There appears to be some ice left in Big Trout Lake (more or less dead centre of the image).
To see this image in more detail, here is the link to the large screen version. You don't have to travel to far north of Algonquin Park to find frozen lakes:

Check the weather for the upcoming week:

A few canoes have been spotted on top of cars over the last few days. If those people went camping, they are waking up to winter this morning. Happy April!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is Lake Opeongo open yet?

Our friends at are calling Canoe Lake open, with the qualification that there is still ice floating around. Since we don't have people "on the ground" at Opeongo, or better yet, "on the water," our call will be based on the satellite image. As of 4:30-ish yesterday (see previous post), sat images show significant ice still in the east arm and in the narrows between the north and south arms. With the cold weather, there would not have been any melting. I even saw fresh ice on a few lakes visble from the road this morning. Today's image will tell the story (assuming the cloud cover allows us to see anything). By our definition of "unimpeded boat travel end to end" the lake is not open, though I'd say it is 60% open.

Now if we had one of these, we could be telling a different story:

The Oktokopter would be even more useful than a web cam!
Update: 4:43 PM:
The daily satellite images are up but cloud cover is not helping our crack team of observers. Fortunately, the north and south arms can be seen through a break in the cloud and the blockage in the channel is still visible. I think it is safe to say that things on Opeongo have not changed much since yesterday, due to the cold weather.
The south arm is pretty much in the centre of the image. The ice blockage is visible up and left a bit.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Satellite image from today. Lake Opeongo is just right of centre.

This year will set another early ice-out record. Looks like a lot of ice is left in Big Trout but other than that Algonquin Park is mostly open water. High winds will have pushed any remaining ice into the south ends of many lakes. The water is still frigid and the expected low tonight is -12 C. I'd recommend waiting a bit before going on a canoe trip.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ice-out 2012: where is the drama?

If you do search through this blog (click the label "ice-out reports for Algonquin Park" in the "things we blog about" box to the right) and read the ice-out reports over the years, you will notice that the seasons with "normal" or "late" ice-out seem to create the create the most excitement.  In years like those, we outfitters are hoping that the ice and snow will disappear in time for us to dig out canoes, get water taxis in the water and provide service to anxious early-season trippers. Trout anglers are stoked to get to their favourite lake and will do just about anything to make that happen. In years like this, and 2010 as well, when an early ice-out is pretty much a certainty, it all seems a bit ho-hum.

Except for a few piles in shady spots, the snow is already gone. The small lake near my house opened up this morning and our local Oxtongue Lake is half-open. The big lakes around Huntsville, like Fairy, Peninsula and Lake of Bays have large open sections and the remainder is covered with a layer of black mush, likely to disappear in the next 48 hours.

OK, OK, what about Algonquin? This weekend will tell the story. Temperatures are dropping over the next 72 hours, back to more seasonable levels. For early next week, Environment Canada is forecasting lows in the negative double digits and possibly a snowflake or two. Whatever ice survives the weekend will harden up and sit there until the next heat wave.

A more "normal" looking weather forecast for late March
I  believe it is safe to think that Algonquin lakes will be ice free by April 28, the opening day of trout season. What day the faithful will be able to go on a "no fishing" canoe trip is still open for discussion. The Friends of Algonquin Park seem to be on the same page and since they are out and about a little more than we are, are publishing daily pictures on their Facebook page.

For the record, river levels are still very high. If you are planning a backpacking trip this weekend, please note that the Western Uplands and Highlands trails are closed due to flooding. Levels are expected to drop but please call the park info line at 1-705-633-5572 for the latest updates.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Oxtongue Lake ice update 3/18/12: summer is the new spring

As I am sure I don't need to remind you, the weather has been a little balmy this week. Kind of "barmy" if you ask me, because I am still thinking that I am not done with winter activities yet. Looking at the forecast, I apparently need get over it and put the skis away:

Note the temperature drop at the end of the week. Back to normal?

That said, except for a few open stretches of fast moving, frigid river water, there isn't much chance of canoeing in Algonquin Park anytime soon. Notice the implied warning in the previous sentence. And speaking of fast moving frigid rivers, our neighbourhood stream, the Oxtongue River, is in full flood at the moment. One of the best activities at this time of year is staying firmly planted on shore and watching the raw power of places like nearby Ragged Falls. Here is a little video I captured on Friday. The water is even higher today!

Finally, for those of you who need photographic evidence, here is a picture, taken today, of the still-frozen of waters of Oxtongue Lake, just in front of the store.

It wouldn't be hard to get a canoe in the water but you wouldn't get very far.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Meanest Link trip report and a quick ice update for your reading pleasure

A Meanest Link report!
Scott Rogers is the first member of the "Six On Six" group to get a trip report on-line. And what a report it is! Well-written, full of great pictures and humour, it definitely does not gloss over the challenges of the trip. Make yourself a couple of pots of tea for this one, because with a 15-day trip, it is no surprise that he created a 15-page report:

Quick ice update:
And while I'm here, here is a little snow and ice update: rain and mild weather has definitely made a BIG dent in the Algonquin Park snowpack. Having said that, I must report that people are still cross-country skiing and snowshoeing this week in very "spring skiing" conditions. All lakes are frozen right up to the shore, small streams are in flood, and the long-range forecast is looking colder by the end of next. So, shall we see a repeat of the record-breaking 2010 ice-out? I doubt it. Early-ish maybe, but not that early.

Cast your vote for ice-out predictions in Algonquin Park:
Canoe Lake Ice-Out Contest:

New! AO's own Lake Opeongo ice-out contest, with absolutely no prizes except bragging rights. It's a really long URL, simply click here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Um, excuse me, it is still winter up here!

If you are living in some snow-less zone and are pining for a little winter activity, don't forget that things change as you drive north. Muskoka and Algonquin Park received an unexpected blast of fresh snow yesterday and I would say that is is now officially "full-on winter" up here. Come on up and snowshoe, ski, go for a walk, build an igloo, whatever floats your boat!

The flag is flying and we are open for snow business!
Our open-top igloos from Winter Fun Day are looking very creamy.

The backwoods snow-depth-o-meter was off the scale this morning.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Winter Fun Day is coming up on Feb. 11: don't miss it! UPDATED, Feb 9, 2012

Important Winter Fun Day Update! 

Our original mushers had to cancel due to circumstances beyond their control. The good news is that our old friends from Winterdance are coming up with THREE teams of happy huskies. Dog sled rides will available from 10 am till 12:45 pm only. Get here early if you want to mush! Cost is $35 per sled.

Modified original post:
Yes, there is snow in the north! Utah the wonder dog is very pleased:
Happy dog on a snowbank this week.
If you still don't believe me, check out this picture of my ski tracks from two days ago. I can't reveal the location of this backcountry powder paradise but trust me, it is in Muskoka:
Learn to telemark and you too can make turns like this in the middle of nowhere.
And because we love snow, Algonquin Outfitters is celebrating, for the 18th year in a row! Winter fun in the great outdoors is the theme of Winter Fun Day, hosted by Algonquin Outfitters, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012. As you can see above, we've got lots of snow up here and are looking forward to another great event. This free, family-oriented, event takes place at the Oxtongue Lake location, just west of Algonquin Park, on Hwy. 60, about 30 km east of Huntsville. Winter Fun Day is designed to introduce people to self-propelled (or at least non-motorized) winter activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, skate skiing, winter camping and dog sledding, as well as provide a host of opportunities to simply have fun in the snow.

This year’s event will pack a host of activities into a single day. You could drive a dog team, learn how to build a snow shelter, try skate skiing, go on a snowshoe hike, learn about winter camping, enter a snowshoe race (and hopefully finish!), play snow games and more! Representatives from Atlas and Tubbs snowshoes will be here to show off ( and let you try out) their newest new winter products. Lunch is always a highlight of any winter activity and barbeque fare will be available (sorry, no vegetarian options).

This year, we have several igloo builders attending to demonstrate their skills using the amazing Ice Box igloo tool. With any luck we will have an igloo village at the end of the day! Don't be afraid to grab a shovel and pitch in.
Last year's igloo taking shape.
Equipment for all activities will be provided free of charge for Winter Fun Day participants and a heap of door prizes will be given away throughout the event.

For more information, please call Algonquin Outfitters, 1-800-469-4948 (705-635-2243).

A scene of the snowshoe demo tents from last year. 
 For more pictures of last year's Winter Fun Day, please click here.

Please note that there is a charge for dog sled rides and a family rate is available. Dog sled rides are booked that day on a first-come first-served basis, so sign up early and avoid disappointment. Sign up first at the dog truck, then pay inside.

Here is a general overview of the event:

Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012:

9 am: Algonquin Outfitters opens

10 - 12:45 pm: dog sled rides - please sign up to make sure you get a ride!

10 -12: morning program (x-c ski lessons, ski and snowshoes demos, snowshoe hike, igloo building, dog sled rides, etc.).

Formal XC ski lessons are scheduled for 11 am, 1 pm and 2:30 pm. Lessons are geared towards to both new skiers and experienced skiers wishing to improve their technique. Skate and classic techniques will be covered and the lesson will be tailored to the needs of the group. Informal lessons and tips are available in between scheduled lesson times.

12 - 2: BBQ lunch available

1 - 5: afternoon program (ski lessons, ski and snowshoe demos, more igloo building, snow games).

Sunday, Feb. 12:

10 - noon: 18th annual Ragged Falls Snowshoe Adventure Hike (show up at Oxtongue Lake store by 9:30 if you need snowshoes).

Advance registration is not required - simply show up! All events take place in the immediate area of our Oxtongue Lake store (except the Ragged Falls hike - car pooling req'd).

Dog sled rides are provided by Winterdance. For more information on their programs and Iditarod race team, visit their web site.

Ski lessons are provided by Ski for Life. For more information on their programs visit their web site.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

When optimism knows no bounds...

This photo taken today, at about 9:45 AM. The thermometer does not lie: it is -25℃, Swix Polar is the recommended ski wax, the weatherstick is pointing straight out (whatever that means) and snow conditions indicate that winter has arrived. Note canoe and kayak on the truck. These folks were looking for open water.  Seriously.

We advised them that it might be difficult to find in these parts and, if they did find some, potentially very hazardous.

Can I call this the first "ice-out report" of 2012?