What to Expect at Lake of the Woods

Lake of the Woods Island Scenery
Two Bears Marina
Lake of the Woods Forest Scenery

Lake of the Woods Summary

Lake of the Woods (4,472 km2) is the second-largest inland lake in Ontario. It is located in the southwest corner of northwestern Ontario, where the state of Minnesota and the province of Manitoba share a water boundary with Ontario. Two-thirds of it lies within Ontario. The border between Canada and the United States was drawn through Lake of the Woods, and a small peninsula on the west side of the lake (the "Northwest Angle" or "the Angle"), above the 49th Parallel, is American.

Lake of the Woods lies within the vast Canadian Shield and was created during four great Ice Ages over a period of some 60,000 years. The lake is extremely irregular in outline with the shoreline exceeding 104,000 km. There are over 14,000 islands in the lake.

The first European to see Lake of the Woods was Jacques de Noyon, a French fur trader and explorer, in 1688. De Noyon named the great lake "Lac du Bois." By this time, however, the lake was known by all the native people in the region as Min-es-tic, which means Lake of the Islands. There are several First Nation reserves in the area. The largest population centre is the tri-municipality of Kenora, Keewatin, and Jaffray Melick, at the northern end of the lake. The town of Kenora was amalgamated with the towns of Keewatin and Jaffray Melick in 2000 to form the present-day City of Kenora (formerly called Rat Portage).

The Lake of the Woods headwaters are on its southern shore at Rainy River and flows northerly where it empties into the Winnipeg River.

The lake's clean water and scenic islands make it popular with boaters and cottagers. A large sailing regatta is held on the lake each year.

Here are some frequently asked questions…

What's the weather like?

If you check our Lake of the Woods Links & Contacts Page, we've put up CURRENT weather and Radar info for Kenora, Baudette, and even a link to Environment Canada's Marine Forecast (At Lake of the Woods Buoy)!

How does lake ice melt?

There is no short answer for this, so bear with us! Many of us have heard that lake ice melts mostly from underneath the ice upwards, rather than from the top of the ice downwards, but how and why that happens may not be commonly known. Let's understand how it freezes first, then we can answer how it melts, afterwards.

Water is at its densest at 4° C (or 39°F). This includes water that is even colder than 4°C! Water that is both above AND below 4°C is less dense and will therefore float upwards. Knowing that the densest water (4°C) will sink to the bottom of a lake, we know then that the water at the bottom will not freeze anytime soon (ice and snow acts as an insulator to the water underneath it), and it would therefore take a long time for ice to freeze right to the bottom of a large lake.

During early winter, when the temperature of the surface water is still above 4°C, it constantly cools and sinks which forces the deeper/warmer water up to the surface, where it then cools and sinks. This ongoing process (called convection) can take some time. Eventually, (after the majority of the water is colder than 4°C) The constant "turning over" of the surface water stops, and surface freezing begins. Remember that water colder than 4°C is less dense than water at 4°C, and is therefore lighter? This colder water eventually rises to the surface, where it freezes.

Now, to answer the question "How does lake ice melt?", we essentially reverse the process of freezing. As sunlight penetrates the ice, it warms the water beneath the ice, not unlike how a greenhouse warms the air within it. Once the snow is melted on top of the ice, sunlight penetrates even deeper into the water below the ice. Shorelines will melt first, because they are shallow (Shallow water will warm up faster than deeper water).

As the water continues to warm, it rises and pushes up against the bottom of the ice, and erodes it. As the ice warms up, it loses its integrity and strength. Eventually the ice transforms into crystals, commonly called "candle ice". These are long, vertical, and transparent. The ice appears black when these form, because they don't reflect sunlight nearly as much as "normal" (opaque) ice does. Less reflection = darker appearance! Wind and rain add to the melting process, as rain will indeed help melt the ice from above a bit, and wind helps to break the ice apart speeding the process even more. Next thing you know, the ice is out on Lake of the Woods!

More to come soon...


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