You’ll find it saved as a page at the top of the column to the right of this post.  Please forward your reports as comments to that page.  I’ll sort out a title for it which places it high on the alphabetical list.

Here’s a URL for cross posting:

For those of you who like to use meta data in formulating your ice-out predictions, here is a bit of climate geography courtesy of Tom Stutzman.

As the snow has retreated it’s been muddy for the last week in Eastern Ontario.

Over the years I have taught the various spaniels the “Wash your paws!” command, leading the dog of the day through the patch of clean snow nearest the door to clean her paws for drying inside the house. This morning for the first time in recent memory there was no snow for the procedure. On the other hand the dog had avoided the small puddle in the driveway and her paws weren’t all that bad when we arrived at the mat inside the front door.

Things are drying up a bit, at least temporarily. At this stage I truly dread the next big dump of snow.


With the sap refusing to run without another freeze I decided to prune trees to fill in the time. Four acres of walnuts planted from seed in 2005 were first for the annual trim, then a row of thirty blight-resistant butternut hybrids planted in 2008, then a hundred butternuts from 2006. Twig borers regularly attack the butternuts, killing the leaders. The trees respond by shooting out lots of lateral branches and even suckers, effectively turning the butternut into a shrub, unless pruned.

Because the hybrids are a test plot owned by someone else I’ve been reluctant to prune them, but finally Rose gave permission last year and I had at the suckers and extra leaders. They look much better now and I fervently hope they don’t contact blight from the wounds, as so far I haven’t seen any blight on any of the planted butternuts.

Mind you, half of the 2007 butternut planting next to the woodlot are routinely stripped of their early leaves by a convocation of insects ranging from caterpillars to twig borers, but they simply grow new leaves and carry on. What’s more, every rutting buck who braves the wolves to explore the property stops to beat up on a butternut tree or two, tearing the fragile bark and snapping branches. Something about butternuts just seems to challenge bucks. Maybe the thick terminals on the branches look like antlers.

Speaking of things which look like antlers, (Wandering much this morning?) the handle-bar ends on a mountain bike can also provoke a buck. Back in my salad years I was racing a spaniel down the Clear Lake Road and turned at speed onto the Cataraqui Trail only to encounter head-on a large buck. Instantly he dropped his antlers for a fight. As I reluctantly closed the distance between us he thought better of it and abruptly sat down on the trail before leaping into the swamp and making his escape. By the time I had clawed the bike to a stop he was long gone. That was one very large buck, likely the twelve pointer who lived for years in the area.

If I have wandered this far I might as well go all of the way. The buck encounter wasn’t a patch on my friend Les’s session one Sunday morning on the Marina Road. Cell phone coverage at the Indian Lake Marina is spotty for some carriers so Les got into the habit of driving a golf cart out towards the county road when he needed to call Ottawa. His favourite calling spot was on a flat stretch adjoining a swamp, halfway between the lake and the road.

Les had likely picked up the paper at the mailboxes and stopped on the return trip this fine morning. He had no sooner shut off and taken out his phone when he heard a rapid series of slurps crossing the swamp. A doe raced out of the mud and across in front of his cart. Then he heard more slurps and a very large cat tore across the road after the deer!

The wide-eyed report of this sighting led to some skepticism at the marina and suggestions it was probably a wolf or fisher, so owner Wayne Wilson jumped into his Kubota and drove out to look for tracks. He returned assuring us that there were both deer tracks and very large cat tracks in the mud exactly where Les had said.

It’s time to move this post to a page accessible from the index at the side of your page. You should find it there identified as

    A New Ice Report, December, 2012 to April, 2013




23 December, 2012

Today I drilled a couple of holes out slightly from the launch ramp at the foot of Bay Street in Newboro. The rather soggy ice in this location measured 4″ in thickness. I wouldn’t walk any distance on it yet.

15 December, 2012

The Newboro end of Newboro Lake had about an inch of ice at the shore today, with coverage as far as we could see. The Little Rideau was frozen at the canal entrance to Newboro, but showed plenty of ripples a bit past the buoys.

Yesterday a trip across the bridge to Wellesley Island on the St. Lawrence showed a bit of ice in the usual bays, but nothing substantial yet.

13 December, 2012

While walking the dog in early evening last night I was struck by two very bright patches of light on the horizon in the general direction of Newboro. The intensity of the light put one in mind of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. One was nearly in line with a communications tower, the other maybe five degrees to the east of it. Nothing else on the horizon (we can see a lot of it from Young’s Hill) showed strong illumination. This morning at 5:00 the one light was gone, and the other was back to the normal glow from Westport.

A look at Google Earth revealed that two solar fields currently under construction lie in the directions I noted. Maybe they’re working overtime to get things closed in before winter sets in.

UPDATE: After a few more night-time looks, I think the lights I saw were indeed those of Newboro and Westport, seen in freakishly clear air. What struck me was how obscure the lights of Elgin, Phillipsville, and Athens had been on the same night, so it must have been a localized thing.

12 December, 2012

A drive north this morning revealed that Mississippi Lake appears to be covered with ice, as is Clayton Lake. On the return trip I noticed that at Rideau Ferry the Lower Rideau is covered, but the Upper Rideau is frozen only about a quarter mile west of the bridge, and there are cracks all over the sheet. This ice may break up again with a breeze. At Portland on the Big Rideau the bay is frozen, but only out to the first island.

Please feel free to report ice conditions when and where you observe them. Just post a comment and I’ll do the rest. You may send photos to me for possible inclusion at . Rod

11 December, 2012

The Weather Network often displays contributions from viewers. This morning I ran across a shot of Bedford Mills which from a quick look appeared to be an image painted during the Romantic era. On closer examination it turned out to be a remarkable shot posted by R Couper on November 10, 2012. (I asked my son Charlie, a professional photographer, to comment on the photo. He suggested it had been altered through aggressive use of Photoshop.)

My attachment to the Mill goes back several generations. My grandfather Charlie Croskery walked across the hills from his farm on MacAndrews Road to work at the Mill in winter. Much later in life he laid out the Cataraqui Trail through this area. You see the triangular marker on the tree in the foreground of the attached photo. For a couple of years my mother hiked across the hills to her students at Bedford Mills Public School. When I came along, Marjorie Bedore babysat me in their apartment on the second floor of the Mill. I dimly remember the night Ken and Marjorie’s firstborn arrived. Mom was first on the scene and had Clay pretty well delivered before Dr. Goodfellow arrived from Westport. It was on February 9th, my birthday (and Ken’s as well), though I do not recall the year. Most likely it was about 1954.

Bedford Mill

A break from winter

February 17, 2011

I think we’ve crested the hill of this winter, because this morning was achingly beautiful on Young’s Hill, the kind of ache which needs some time along moving water to calm. So in I went to the spillway in Chaffey’s beside the Old Mill. There’s a well-established track through the deep snow down to the end of the point. Apparently I’m not the only winter fisherman.

I tossed a lure into the moderate current while watching a large bird swim out past the little islands. It was the size of a Trumpeter swan, but dark in colour, and mercifully quiet. Ice cover is half-way out the 48 hour dock from the lock, so I tossed to the edge of the ice a couple of times. Thought I saw a flash behind the lure once, but it was likely a combination of sun and clouds. It seemed like a splake at the time, though.

I parked near Dorothy’s, decided against snowshoes to get to the water’s edge, and walked up the road under the railroad bridge instead. Vehicles have had a wicked time getting up that little hill lately, to judge by the tracks. One car took out some sumacs when it went between the driveway and the turn, and the whole hill was pock-marked with holes created by spinning wheels. Glad I walked.

A visit to the Isthmus separating Indian and Clear Lakes seemed indicated, so I tried a few casts there and saw a pair of Trumpeters living around the bubbler on the boathouse just to the north of the Ferry. The open water from this bubbler would be a factor for anyone trying to get to the Island on the ice, so be warned.

The ice isn’t open all that far out either way. The navigation markers on Indian are iced in. While standing on the Ferry I could see a couple of vehicles (ATV-sized) and a few people out on Indian, obviously fishing splake.

It was a pleasant outing and I was able to return home in time for lunch. That’s freedom of a sort.

A few years ago Tom and Kate came up for a mid-February expedition to their beloved cottage, ostensibly to see if the roof was all right after the heavy snowfalls, but really because they were homesick for Scott Island.

We unloaded the snowmobiles near the Isthmus, drove them down the road to the ferry landing, then ducked out onto Clear Lake over a snowmobile trail which avoided the questionable ice near the current.  All went well until we hit the deep snow of the Island.  On eBay Tom had bought a new drive pulley for his pristine 1970 Skeeter, but he had expressed some worry about the rust on the polished steel where it met the belt.  I had assured him it would soon wear smooth with use.  What did I know, eh?

The first deep snowdrift left Tom and Kate straddling a smoking, roaring snowmobile which clearly wasn’t going anywhere.  A look under the hood showed a lot of fragments of belt, and big holes worn in the sides from the rusty drive pulley.  O.K., I guess they don’t polish themselves.

Determined to carry on, we left Bet and Kate with the crippled Skeeter and pressed on with the Alpine.  The biggest Skidoo is a brutal machine to control, but its one saving grace is that it can plough through deep snow.  It picked its way through the island snowdrifts without difficulty.  Trouble only came when we got off the thing and tried to snowshoe down the hill to the cottage.  In the deep, wet snow it was a cursory check of the property before exhaustion drove us back to the Alpine.

Out the trail we went to where we had left Bet and Kate.  Tom reversed the Skeeter out of the snowdrift, looked ruefully at his frayed drive belt, and gingerly set off in the lead on the return course. Halfway across the Clear Lake stretch, the Skeeter abruptly disappeared into a cloud of gray smoke and came to a halt in front of me.  The eyes of Tom and Kate grew wide as they gazed at the water oozing up around their stalled machine. I wasn’t going to stop the Alpine in a pool of slush, so I moved it and Bet to shore before I let off the throttle.

Then we walked back to the Skeeter.  Yep, the slush had gotten it all right.  The Alpine had had enough power to blast through, but the Skeeter’s wonky pulley had torn up the weakened drive belt when stressed.  Now the machine sat up to its running boards in slush.  The footing was too questionable to work around, so we retreated to Smiths Falls to recover and plan.

Sunday morning rose clear and very cold.  No problem with the footing on the ice this day, so Tom and I headed out with ropes, axes, and an ice spud, not to mention an auger and a ratchet winch.  On a whim I threw in a couple of 5” walnut boards I found in the shop, as well.

What followed was a four-hour session of chopping a heavy snowmobile out of six inches of ice.  Tom and I  emphatically do not recommend this activity.

We discovered that a large snowmobile encased in a block of ice is very heavy, too heavy to move even after we had chopped the ice free around it.

I drilled a hole, stuck the two walnut boards down it, then anchored the come-along to them to stretch the Skeeter enough to pry it forward when we lifted up with the axes and the ice spud.  This actually worked, though it was brutally hard work.  With two hundred yards to go to shore, we’d be worn out long before we got there.

So I took a hundred-foot 3/4″ yellow tow rope out of the Alpine and tied it to the front of the Skeeter, did a bowline around the trailer hitch on the Alpine, and headed for shore.

There’s quite a bit of spring in nylon rope, so it brought the straining Alpine to a halt with the Skeeter unmoved.  Next time I backed up beside the Skeeter and took a running start at the rope.  That worked.  I heard the loud “SPROING!” even over the roar of the engine, but the ice block and its snowmobile were ten feet closer to shore.  Now if we could get it moving again before it froze down…

I tried again, full throttle.  Another ten feet.  It became a matter of momentum:  the Alpine with me on it weighed about nine hundred pounds; the Skeeter with a full load of ice around it weighed anywhere from 1000 pounds to a ton.  How can you tell?  The rope did not snap and decapitate anybody and Tom kept it from tangling, but it was a long, rough tow as we bungee-corded the Skeeter to safety.

It took a month for all of the ice to melt out of the flooded running gear.  Then one sunny day in March I started the derelict up and loaded it onto its trailer.

Tom and Kate got their vintage Evinrude back, but somehow they had lost the urge to cross onto Scott Island with it.  Last I heard the Skeeter’s for sale.

Ice Reports, 2010-11

December 18, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010:

So it begins. From Hwy 15 in Portland today I could see snow covering the ice out as far as visibility allowed. The snow appeared to reach the large islands in the middle of the lake, though this may have been an illusion. One enterprising soul has placed an ice fishing shack out in the wide, shallow bay next to the park/boat launch ramp to the east of the village.

On Otter Lake I could see open water in the middle of the pool nearest the road, and open water in the larger pool to the northeast.

I’ll copy this post to a page which will appear on the right margin of my website. Updates will be there.

The photo shows four people stuffed into snowmobile suits, mitts and helmets, standing along the edge of a frozen lake and leaning on a pair of old snowmobiles.  The shot could have been taken anytime, but in fact it is only a couple of years old.  It marked the final winter expedition to the cottage on Schooner Island.  That’s right.  Never again.  Both our wives insisted.

But the trip had gone well; it’s just that the weather changed a bit.

Tom and Kate get homesick for their cottage on the Island during the winter, and I can tell by the frequency of emails and phone calls about when the pressure will become unbearable for Tom, and up they will come.  Much planning is required:  ice reports are filtered through runoff records to determine if the ice is strong enough for a passage across Newboro Lake to the Island.

A few years ago in a fit of optimism I asked a snowmobile collector to locate me a serviceable Ski Doo Alpine, the two track, single ski behemoth which crowned the Bombardier line for many years. From the first time I drove it the thing intimidated me:  I could barely pull the starter cord on the monstrous engine.  It refused to turn without running into something.  Its suspension ignored my considerable weight, and only rode smoothly if I had a full oil drum on the back.  But it would float over any depth of snow, and could it ever pull!

Not to be outdone, Tom found a 1970 Evinrude Skeeter, also with reverse, which had been kept in its owner’s living room in Ohio since it was new. 

Tom and I decided to run out to the island without wives or luggage to make sure the ice was strong enough to support us.   Tom’s machine made a ghastly racket at its maximum speed of 25 miles per hour.  The Alpine is actually a lot faster than that, so I had to idle along to let him keep up.  Then Tom spun out on the ice.  This looked pretty funny, but the third time the machine flipped, tossing Tom clear and rolling until it had divested itself of its windshield.  Chastened,  Tom made the rest of the trip at a more modest pace.

Back at the SUVs we discovered far too much luggage to load onto the little sled I had brought, so Tom took it and I hitched the 5 X 8 trailer to the Alpine.  Down the ramp we went with everything but the kitchen sink in the trailer.

As long as the shore was nearby, our wives’ morale was high.  As we pulled out into the open lake, though, and the only reference points became the large bubbles of air just beneath the black, transparent ice, I began to notice a persistent vibration coming from the rear of the Alpine.  It didn’t vary with engine revolutions or speed.  In fact the shaking continued when we’d stopped.  Bet was shivering.   This did not bode well, but we were over half-way there,  so on we went.

The cold-weather camping was good fun at the cottage, and then the morning dawned to a five-inch drop of slushy snow, with clouds and wind which indicated more on the way.  Yikes!  The trailer!

The retreat from Schooner Island occurred  more quickly than our hosts would have liked, but we had to get off the ice.  With the wide track of the trailer I would have to maintain a steady speed until we hit dry land, or we’d be stuck.

We tossed the luggage into the snow-filled trailer, Bet clamped her arms around my waist, and I gingerly urged the rig along the  shoreline  until we had gained enough momentum to brave the deeper snow.

With a roar the Alpine hit cruising speed, and the next three miles was quite a ride. The open lake alternated between hard portions of frozen snow and liquid puddles of goo.  We plunged straight through them.  I didn’t dare look back.

Down the lake we went and up the ramp.  Newboro had never looked so good.  The Alpine shut down with a grateful sigh; I pried Bet’s arms free and staggered off the machine.  She still sat there. When I knocked on her helmet, an eye opened through the frosted visor and she gradually became aware that we had arrived.

She pawed at the visor a couple of times with her mitt.  I helped her open it and remove her helmet.  “I … will … never … do … that … AGAIN!”

I’d  sorta expected that, so I checked the load behind.  Nope, nothing there but a snowbank which had somehow slid up the ramp and into the parking lot behind us.

Tom  couldn’t get over the remarkable turn of speed the Alpine had shown on the trip across the lake.  “We were following in your track, but your machine was just a dwindling yellow dot, with a great big snowball forming behind it!”

Perhaps the governor on the huge Rotax engine responded to the weight it was pulling, or maybe the beast just sensed its master’s panic and ran for it, but the Alpine has never gone that fast since, and perhaps it’s just as well.

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.


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