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Lake Athabasca Thaw & River from Ft McMurray
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Author:  jwhite [ January 7th, 2014, 4:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Lake Athabasca Thaw & River from Ft McMurray

Hi, I was considering a June trip starting in Fort McMurray going down the Athabasca River and then going east along the sand dunes and south shore of Lake Athabasca to Fond du Lac.

I wanted to start June 1st and figured 8 days to Lake Athabasca. But now I'm wondering about ice conditions once arriving at the lake... my worry came about cause of the below wikipedia entry, which has an image of the lake labeled June 9th and there's still lots of ice in the image. It does appear to thaw on the west side first... ... ncial_Park

So anyone know when I could expect to find the lake open for paddling? Just wondering if shifting the idea by a week, starting June 8th (arriving to the lake June 16th say) would work or if I'd still be the same issue?

My other question if anyone knows, is just about drinking water or fishing on the Athabasca River, how bad is it that's it's directly downstream from Fort McMurray?, does filtering the water help... or any thoughts, I'm not usually too worried as it'll only be 7-8 days of my life, but wanted to check and get some thoughts.


Author:  ice-breaker [ January 7th, 2014, 6:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Lake Athabasca Thaw & River from Ft McMurray

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo posts historical breakup dates for the Athabasca River near Ft. McMurray here:

Looks like mid-late April is the norm for Ft. McMurray.

Not sure about Lake Athabasca. Looks like some of the fishing web sites talk about ice still being on the lake in early June.

Author:  canoeguitar [ January 7th, 2014, 6:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Lake Athabasca Thaw & River from Ft McMurray

I definitely wouldn't drink the water from the Athabaska River or Lake. I'm not certain on this, but my guess is that some of the crap that is finding its way into the water will not be stopped by a filter. We're not talkin' about giardia here.

Author:  Ralph [ January 7th, 2014, 7:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Lake Athabasca Thaw & River from Ft McMurray

I have no personal experience, however, I found this site which gives some historical data. You can zoom in on the map and get an idea of ice-out dates.

You could also contact the town of Fort Chipewyan. ... pewyan.htm


Author:  jmc [ January 7th, 2014, 10:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Lake Athabasca Thaw & River from Ft McMurray

Hi jwhite -

If you go to this site – ... t_McMurray

click in the “date box” and you can see June ice conditions on Lake Athabasca for the years 2007-10. It seems they had a recent disc crash at NOAA, as there is no historical data for more recent years at the moment. Sometimes you need to try a few dates to get one without cloud cover. Terra 250m gives a nice image.

The lower Athabasca is a muddy, silty river. With no portages I would suggest a folding water container to refill at side streams. Once you’re out of the Athabasca delta and heading east in Lake Athabasca, the water should be fine.

P.G Downes’ journals for 1938 (I think) edited by Robert Cockburn and published a year or so ago – see this thread – ... 90&t=39731

has a great description of his trip from Waterways to Fort Chipewyan.


Author:  jwhite [ January 10th, 2014, 1:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Lake Athabasca Thaw & River from Ft McMurray

Thanks everyone for the information and thoughts.

So I get the impression that the lake may or may not be open by mid-June. Meaning it might be just fine, or maybe not!

And if the Athabasca river is muddy/silty I suppose that makes any water contaminant a non-issue cause I won't be drinking it anyway, side streams sound the way to go with some way to hold the water.

Thanks, I appreciate the info.


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