Ice out yet?

March 12, 2012

That’s one of the key questions of the year for the cottage owner in this area. The frozen lake provides a route to island cottages for a brief interval each winter, but as the sun warms that highway turns into a sword of Damocles poised to destroy docks, boathouses, and shoreline.

The question is when to stop using the ice as a playground and work surface and start fighting it off your property. The wind that tore roofs off buildings on March 3rd apparently caused the ice to shift on Newboro Lake, even though it was still a foot thick. Tony Izatt arrived at the Lodge last weekend to discover his dock had moved six inches inland.

“I guess I waited a week too long to put the pump in this year,” he told me by email. “I couldn’t believe that ice that thick could move around, but somehow it did. In any case, the bubbler is now in place, the barriers and signs are up, so we’ll see how things go as the ice breaks up.”

For the last four years I have maintained an ice report on my blog. At this time of year it is easily the most popular page on The Walnut Diary.

It started as a series of emails to keep volunteers up-to-date while we built Tony’s dock. That was in the spring of 2009. Here are some excerpts from that year:

March 4, 2009: We’ve spent the last two days driving pilings for the 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. 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.

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. Vehicles on the ice now in this area? Crazy. Would I still walk on it? Yes, with precautions against falling through.

The big mistake in 2009 was that I didn’t bother to include an all-clear notification after a check that the ice was in fact all melted. I rectified that oversight the next year:

28 March, 2010: Tony Izatt wrote: “I watched a stand-off between 1/4 acre ice sheet and my dock pump on Sunday afternoon. The pump held its own against that high wind and didn’t allow the ice sheet within 15′. What was also really cool was to see the wave action at the back of the ice floe eat away at it.”

1 April, 2010: The ice is out on the Newboro/Chaffey’s/Bedford Mills level except for a few floes in the middle of the lakes.

Next year after pack ice knocked the huge concrete dock at the Newboro Lock off its footing, wrecking it, I ran into some of my Ice Report correspondents:

10 April, 2011: This morning at the public dock at Newboro I watched a pontoon boat come ashore and disgorge four cold, but euphoric voyageurs. Bill and Kohar Palimenakos and their guests Perry and Soula Pezoulas came back in after the first night at the cottage this year. Perry joked: “Bill and Kohar have the motto: ‘Last to leave, first to open.’
Then they all jumped in, telling me about how they had battered their way through the ice with two-by-fours to make way for the trusty pontoon boat. I guess that’s what cottage life is about.

Perhaps the highlight of the 2012 Ice Report was the following:

7 March, 2012: I wandered over to the beach to look out onto the Big Rideau. From the north a pickup truck was throwing a bow wake a cruiser would envy. The driver was making pretty good time, obviously heading for Portland. I shut off and watched. At one point the truck disappeared into the spray, but it ploughed through the low spot and continued unerringly towards the Bayview launch ramp. Remembering my own misadventure with rotten ice at that ramp many years ago, I booted the Ranger over to where I could watch and see if the truck emerged o.k. onto Hwy 15. Surely enough, a very clean, late-model gray Ford made its way past me on the highway, occupants grinning and giggling like adolescents. The man and his blonde companion looked to be in their late sixties. They’d certainly gotten their thrill today.

You can watch ice-out for yourself on the webcam at


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