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.