Drive-by Ice Reports

November 26, 2008

March 20, 2009: We finished sheeting the dock in Newboro this morning, and none too soon.  Yesterday’s task was to haul 150 2 X 6″ planks across 100′ of ice to the dock frame.  Walking was generally solid in the open, but we had to build a bridge of planks near shore.  Beneath the piles the ice was weak in some places, non-existent in others.  A cutoff from a  3 X 14″ pine plank went right through apparently solid ice when it was dropped about three feet and hit on a corner.  Nevertheless, the ice held out long enough for us to complete the dock.

Vehicles on the ice now in this area?  Crazy.

Would I still walk on it?  Yes, with precautions against falling through.

March 4, 2009: We’ve spent the last two days driving pilings for my friend’s new dock on Newboro Lake. The ice is strong and thick out from shore, though I put a foot through at one point as I moved from the sloping ice on shore to the flat part. Water levels seem to have dropped steadily over the last two weeks. We had to deal with top water on the ice because a neighbouring boathouse’s bubbler seems to come on in mid-afternoon, pumping its flow onto the ice above. Nevertheless we were able to work with three tractors and a couple of trucks on the ice in fairly close proximity and there was no sign of movement in the ice. Two of the posts we sank partially the day before were frozen so solidly into the ice that we couldn’t break them out today, even though we pounded on them repeatedly with the bucket of an 85 hp tractor. Unless we had left the piles on bedrock the afternoon before and not realized it, the grip of the ice on those 5 1/2″ steel posts remains a mystery.

February 20, 2009: Newboro Lake shows consistent, thick, hard ice anywhere that I have drilled a hole over the last two weeks.  This can change quickly, but at the moment I feel comfortable driving my truck on familiar sections of the lake.  Last week I explored Clear Lake and the Scott Island bays of Newboro Lake with my Utility Vehicle, and found the same ice depth wherever I drilled.  I’ve seen open water in the middle of Clear and up into the Elbow too often for me to trust the ice in the current, though.

February 9, 2009: Yesterday’s attempt to fish on Newboro Lake left everyone with very wet feet, due to the six inches of slush which covered the harbour area.  Only one determined crew drove their SUV out to an ice shack.  A brief jaunt onto  The Big Rideau at Portland showed that the crust of new ice over the slush was only about an inch deep.  I retreated to shore as soon as it cracked under my  1000-pound vehicle.

February 6, 2009: A drive around to ice fishing hotspots today yielded discouraging news. According to snowmobilers Brad and Danny Wilson of Chaffey’s Locks, virtually no lakes are currently travelable away from plowed tracks because of slush and deep snow. I drilled two holes on Newboro Lake and one on The Big Rideau and all showed ice deeper than 24″, but the snow accumulation is such that only snowmobiles can travel freely, and they are at great risk of getting mired in patches of slush. While driving on a plowed track on Newboro Lake today I felt my truck wobbling in a manner consistent with a vehicle on very thin ice — I must have passed over a large puddle of slush beneath a crust of hard ice. Surely enough, I soon came upon the tracks of a previous vehicle which had broken through the thin ice into the slush below, but presumably had had enough momentum to regain the surface. I parked close to shore and walked part-way back to the danger zone to drill a hole, but I hit only solid ice where I drilled. The Big Rideau seemed solid on its well-established ice roads, but I didn’t go off them. There were no fish. Neither were there any recent tracks on Indian or Rock Lakes, save for some foot traffic close to the cottages on Rock. Buck and Devil Lakes, as well, have virtually no tracks from traffic. A lone cross country skier set out onto Devil Lake without difficulty.

JANUARY 27, 2007: I spoke to a snowmobiler today who claimed to have recently  hit 90 miles per hour on Upper Beverley Lake on good snow conditions.  He heard that a party traveling the Upper Rideau got into ten inches of slush above the ice, though.  That got my attention.

JANUARY 25, 2009: From the Rideau Ferry Bridge I noticed a lot of ice fishing activity on the Lower Rideau out off Knoad’s Point, so I continued on to Beveridge Lockstation to check for access to the lake.  The messages on shore were ambivalent:  a road has been plowed to leave a bare-ice route out onto the lake, but a sign posted where the snowmobiles go on said, “Open water in middle:  keep to the eastern part of the bay.”  The message wasn’t dated, but was well written and in good condition.

On the other side of the Rideau Ferry Bridge I saw a road plowed out onto the main part of the Lower Rideau.  There were no tracks of any sort running beneath the bridge with its currents, though.

I noticed at Port Elmsley and again at Chaffey’s Locks yesterday that they’re running a lot of water at the moment.  My heart was in my mouth as I watched three nimrods on snowmobiles crossing very close to the open water on Opinicon Lake.  Ski Doos and wintering swans definitely should not mix.

JANUARY 19, 2009: To judge by the vehicular activity on The Big Rideau now there must be lots of ice.  I  haven’t drilled a hole lately, but before the frigid week just ended I found just over a foot of ice in a sheltered bay on Newboro Lake.

Google seems to prefer this article’s address to the one I’ve kept updated.  Sorry.

December 26, 2008 The Big Rideau and Otter Lake are frozen as far as I can see from the road, but I haven’t seen any tracks on the ice. Generally there’s lots of evidence of movement around the edges of the harbours, but not this year.

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I encourage you to post your observations.  Be sure to identify the location from which you have observed the lake or river in question.

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