Thursday, April 28, 2011

Very detailed update on Algonquin Park web site:

 Due to recent high winds and rain, conditions are changing rapidly. Park staff just announced that Highway 60 and some other access points will be open tomorrow, with most lakes accessible off the highway either open or partially ice covered. Interior lakes conditions are unknown. Park staff were planning a flight today but cancelled it due to high winds and low visbility.

Travel conditions are typical for the time of year: frigid water temperatures, very high water levels, flooded portage landings, wet muddy trails, expect blowdowns on portages and campsites. Any river sections will be in full flood conditions. Fine weather for a canoe trip.

Check it the details here:

A quick update from people "on the ground"

Heavy rain, wind and mild temperatures have been having their way the stubborn lake ice.

As of 9 am this morning:
Oxtongue Lake: Open. The ice seen in the "ice canoeists" photo in the previous post is gone. Water levels extremely high. I would not recommend travel on the Oxtongue River at the moment. Or any Algonquin Park river route, for that matter! It is full-on raging spring flood conditions.

Lake Opeongo:
the bay in front of the store is open. The lake is ice-covered just beyond the channel marker buoys. We will try to get a further report from Opeongo later today.

Lake of Two Rivers:
mostly ice free, some big pans of black ice floating around.

Smoke Lake:
covered in ice fog, hard to tell. Hangar Bay still iced in with grey ice.

Cedar Lake and Brent Road:
Jake checked in yesterday from the Brent Store. The road is passable by 4x4 truck with good ground clearance. Not recommended for lesser vehicles. Cedar Lake is still ice-covered though there is a big lead in the middle from the inflow of the Petawawa and Nipissing Rivers.
High winds today will make lake travel very hazardous due to cold water conditions and shifting ice.

Stay tuned to the Algonquin Park ice conditions page for more updates and more details on access point road conditions. Currently, the Rain Lake and Source Lake roads are closed due to washouts (among others). This situation will not improve soon with the heavy rain last night, and more is expected today. At this moment the backcountry permit restriction is still in effect, to be re-evaluated today.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ice canoeists on Oxtongue Lake

A couple of hardy young  men from Port Sydney did an overnight trip down the Oxtongue River, ending at our dock like many people do. Unfortunately for them, the last 100 metres or so was the hardest part of the trip, since they chose to take the direct route across the remaining ice. It took them about 30 minutes to get from the bridge to the shore, pushing and shoving their aluminum canoe across the slushy surface. It probably didn't help that one set of parents and I were offering them suggestions from shore, as in, "why didn't you take the long way, and paddle around the ice?" Oh well, sometimes the spirit of youth cannot be denied.

Almost.... There.....
There is not much news in the ice department. Algonquin Park has extended the "no water access permit" restriction until April 28. Things will start to change quickly given the current weather forecast. We are currently experiencing heavy rain and thunderstorms and milder weather in the next five days should really get things moving.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday Algonquin update: ice, moose and fish.

Now that the Opeongo Store is open (even if the lake isn't) our roving reporter Jerry Schmanda can send us reports on conditions as they evolve:
Yesterday's report...
A quick update as to fishing results on opening day, April 23, 2011. Very few fisherman's cars were parked along Hwy 60 and the day hiking trails were empty. It was a windy raw day that made you think that underwater would be a better place to be. None of the smaller lakes are ice free.
Everyone we spoke to that went out fishing caught fish! One party fished from out on the ice and caught a few. The others all caught some from shore. So far so good. Nobody was skunked!
Today's report....
Algonquin Ice Out? Not yet.  All the lakes along Hwy 60 are still ice covered with some areas opening up due to the currents from small creeks and rivers. Lake of Two Rivers shows the most progress so far. Canoe Lake looks as though it might open by June! Lake Opeongo now has two resident loons, both are in the only open water, near our docks. The first wood ducks were seen on the creek that parallels the Opeongo Road today. Upon arriving at the store, I was greeted by the unmistakable calls of an Eastern Phoebe from a nearby pine tree. Two wolves were seen yesterday near the Visitor Center and a Pine Marten was spotted sniffing around on the Opeongo Road early this morning.
Algonquin Park's Annual Easter Moose Jam took place today near the intersection of Hwy 60 and Rock Lake Road. It was the least the two moose could do for all the people that drove hours to see one.
TAF (that's all folks) from Opeongo,

Pictures from today, April 24, 2011. All photos by Jerry Schmanda .

Looking east on Tea Lake from Hwy 60
Cache Lake boat launch
Lake of Two Rivers. There's a big crack between the island and the point
Easter Moose Jam on Hwy 60
Costello Lake - people were walking on it today
Male and female wood ducks on Costello Creek
There is enough open water to launch a water taxi!
But not quite enough to go very far...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

If you are visiting Algonquin Park this weekend, bring your hiking boots. And maybe your snowshoes...

It's a little snowy up here in the woods!

The Algonquin Park website has been updated with a special announcement:

ImportantDue to unsafe ice conditions and winter weather persisting within Algonquin Park, no backcountry water access camping permits will be issued until circumstances are reassessed on April 26, 2011. In the interest of public safety, all day use activities on Algonquin Park waterways are strongly discouraged. 

The full report is here:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

AO visits the Algonquin Park Visitor Centre

The big cheeses of AO went in to the park yesterday for a meeting and a special cheque presentation, so I took a few shots along the way. Sorry for the bad quality of the lake ice photos but we were running a little behind schedule and didn't have time to stop!

On behalf of the Friends of Algonquin Park, superintendent John Winters accepts a cheque for $750 from AO's Rich Swift. The donation is portion of the proceeds of the Huntsville showing of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, annually hosted by AO in Huntsville in January. AO has used proceeds from this event to support wildlife research projects for many years. This year the donation will support wolf research being carried out by Dr. Brent Patterson and PhD candidate John Benson. For information on the wolf project and to learn how you can support it, click here.
Park superintendent John Winters is retiring soon, so the AO old-timers gathered for a group shot. We are very proud of the positive relationship we have with Algonquin Park staff and wish John all the best on his next adventure. From left: me, Opeongo Store manager Jerry Schmanda, John Winters, Brent Store manager Jake Pigeon and AO General Manager Rich Swift.
Lake of Two Rivers from Hwy 60. There is a sliver of open water by the roadway.
Even I was surprised how much snow is left in the woods. All north-facing slopes are snow covered (knee-deep in some places) though south-facing slopes are mostly bare. Park staff reported that they are still using snowshoes to do interior trail maintenance in many places.
Hangar Bay on Smoke Lake. A little bit of open water in the sunny, sheltered bay but all the lakes you can see from the highway are mostly frozen right up to the shore. Nothing in the rearview mirror. Only saw one moose - many people people are reporting seeing five or six when traveling between the East and West gates.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A little doggerel to pass the time

Trusting that you will forgive my self-indulgence, I thought I would share a bit of free verse on the topic of canoe tripping in less than ideal conditions. It seemed appropriate, given the theme of recent blog posts.

Three degrees and raining

That is the weather today -
add in wind: gusty and blustery,
patches of snow in the woods,
lakes and ponds covered with ice.

Put another log on the fire,
make a cup of tea,
settle down with a good book:
it’s that kind of day.

I’ve been on canoe trips on days like this,
including the frozen lake part:
I highly recommend it,
if you need some character-building.

There was Temagami in October:
I was a bit embarrassed that the tent I loaned my friends
leaked like a sieve on a windbound rainy cold day.
At least that gave us a project.

Or the James Bay Lowlands in June,
on a river with an unpronounceable name,
camping on nature’s largest sponge.

After carving out a hideout in a spruce thicket
we blew up one stove
and the spare didn’t work.
That night the river rose a foot:
now I always tie my canoe to a tree.

Years ago, on the barrenlands in July
(Yes - rain, snow and frozen lakes)
with wind so strong you could lean into it
and not fall over.

Eventually the sun comes out.
You revel in it, dry out,
and make light of how uncomfortable you were
the day before.

It all gets stored in the memory bank
and you will inevitably do it again.

Even in Algonquin, mild-mannered Algonquin,
one day in May,
I drove into Magnetewan Lake,
with a vague plan to meet some friends
already out there.

There was snow on the ground and it was raining,
the ice had been out for a couple of days.
I got out of the car, and let the dog out.
The solo canoe stayed on the roof.

We walked down to the dock and had a look around.
I stuck my hand in the water.

I looked at the dog, already wet and doggy-smelling.
He looked back, in that soulful way that dogs have.
This time I had a choice:
I went home and made a cup of tea.

Gordon Baker, April 16, 2011.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My hunch was right, the ice out flight will happen this week...

In case you are not a Facebooker, I am cross-posting this announcement from the Friends of Algonquin Park Facebook page:
Ontario Parks staff will be conducting an ice out flight sometime during April 18 to 21, 2011 to assess current ice conditions throughout Algonquin Park. The exact date can not be confirmed as the flight is dependent upon suitable weather conditions. Results of the ice out flight will be posted at as soon as they are available.
Along with many other great images, the Friends also recently posted a few aerial shots of popular lakes along Highway 60, taken April 12. Here's one of them, showing Tea, Smoke, Bonita and Canoe Lakes: 

You can see the Friends of Algonquin Park complete ice-out gallery here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A little Algonquin Park brook trout stoke...

While you are sitting around waiting patiently for the ice to go out, take 10 minutes and watch this informative and beautifully filmed video on the native brook trout of Algonquin Park. There are some great underwater shots of fish and a powerful conservation message. You will also notice a few canoes courtesy of Algonquin Outfitters, by the way!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Algonquin Park ice report: yes, there is still ice.

Satellite image from April 9, 2011
I drove through through the park on Hwy 60 last evening, on my way home from spring skiing in Vermont (which was great, by the way). A lot of snow melted in the three days I was away, and with the torrential rain last night and mild weather today, even more will be gone by now. The ice is locked right up to the shore on all lakes you can see from the highway. Even small ponds are still frozen, though they look pretty mushy. So, what's the conclusion? Slow progress is happening but personally, I would estimate ice-out on bigger lakes in Algonquin Park is at least two, if not three weeks away. I have been wrong before. Golden Lake, to the east of Algonquin Park and at much lower elevation, is still ice covered though there is open water along the shoreline. As you can see from Saturday's satellite image, Lake Simcoe, Muskoka and Haliburton area lakes are still ice-covered (Opeongo is in the upper right corner).

If you decide to take a drive up and see for yourself, be careful on the roads. "Ice fog" can roll in during the evening and morning hours, making it difficult to see big critters like deer and moose. I had to stop near Cache Lake last night and wait for two shaggy moose to amble off the roadway, and a friend reported seeing a dead moose at km 15 when he drove through the park about two hours later.

Tea Lake Narrows from the highway bridge, April 7, 2011

Possibly the most-photographed island in Algonquin Park. Lake of Two Rivers, April 10, 2011

It's a lonely road on a Sunday in April. Just me, the fog and a few moose.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

It's a little different from last year. Ice out April 3? I don't think so.

As type this in the office at Oxtongue Lake, I can hear the buzzing of snowmobiles drag racing up and down the lake. Last April 3, you might have heard the putt-putting of a cottager out cruising in their tin boat, or maybe the swish of a paddle. I'm not complaining about the sledders, if I was a snowmobiler I'd probably be doing the same thing. I am a skier, and what did I do yesterday? I went skiing with friends just outside of Huntsville. Some folks came in the store today and reported excellent spring conditions on the neighbouring trails belonging to the Blue Spruce Resort.

Spring is making inevitable progress. Snow is receding fast on the sunny side of the highway. The robin has returned. Alas, for paddlers and anglers, the lakes are still frozen solid.

Algonquin Park has cranked up their ice out reporting for 2011. For some recent pictures of conditions in the park, check out the Friends of Algonquin Park Facebook page (and you don't even have to be a "Facebooker" to see the pictures). The FOAP website has, among other items, an interesting comparison of 2008 satellite imagery with that of 2011, found here. Looking at those images, the big thing that stands out is how "grey" much of the ice looks in southern and central Ontario in the 2011 image. I hate to be a killjoy but don't take that to mean that the ice in Algonquin Park is about ready to go. While grey ice in the satellite image can mean soft mushy ice on the verge of disappearing, it is not always the case.  In that image, with the exception of lakes south of Hwy 7, I believe it means that there is a layer of water on top of the ice, formed by the sun's melting of the surface snow. I see this happen every day outside the window.

Being a dedicated ice-out blogger, I mentally correlated those images with the archived ice-out data for 2008 on the Canoe Lake Ice-Out page. Interestingly, most people (including me) predicted a late ice-out of April 30 but the winning date was April 25. As I recall, and confirmed by reviewing this blog's archive, we were calling for a late ice-out up to the middle of April. Then, the weather shifted, someone turned the heat on and POOF, the ice disappeared very quickly.

So, for you optimists out there, anything can happen. For you realists out there, keep your eye on the weather, use the resources at hand, and plan accordingly.

I'm just sayin'...

Utah the Wonder Dog trying to help dig out our deck in rural Huntsville, April 2, 2011.