Every Wednesday I feature an antique wooden boat I’ve spotted in Muskoka on our Instagram account @cottageinmuskoka. Today’s feature was “The Jeffrey,” a 1939 Greavette rebuilt by Peter Breen in the early 90s after being rescued from a boathouse on Lake Nipissing during the previous decade. The Jeffrey now lives on East Bay in Lake Muskoka.
Muskoka is a destination known for beautiful scenery – rocky outcroppings, windswept pines, and lakes everywhere. While there are a TON of other reasons to visit ranging from world class dining to museums and antique wooden boats, you’ll likely want to visit when the weather in Muskoka is at its best for outdoor activities.
Fall Weather in Muskoka, Ontario
In Muskoka, Ontario, fall offers a captivating display of nature’s transition. As the summer warmth gradually fades, visitors can expect a breathtaking mosaic of crimson, gold, and amber foliage painting the landscape. Crisp, invigorating air sweeps through the region, carrying with it the earthy scent of fallen leaves. This is by far my favourite season for hiking in Muskoka – two fall favourites are Lions Lookout in Huntsville or Huckleberry Rock Trail in Muskoka Lakes. You can check those out along with lots of other fall activities here.
The daytime temperatures typically range from the mid-tens to low twenties in degrees Celsius, offering a comfortable climate for outdoor adventures like hiking, canoeing, and enjoying the region’s many lakes. However, as the season progresses, the nights grow cooler, often dipping into single digits or below zero overnight, so cozy sweaters and bonfires become inviting companions.
By the end of October the weather is quite chilly – it’s often snowing for Halloween, so make sure to pack appropriately!
Winter Weather in Muskoka, Ontario
Winter weather in Muskoka, Ontario transforms this picturesque region into a winter wonderland. You might not think of visiting Muskoka in the wintertime, but it’s well worth it if you’re an outdoor enthusiast!
Expect cold and snowy weather – it gets to -30c here sometimes! Muskoka weather often includes heavy snow due to our proximity to the Great Lakes. Make sure you pack your warmest clothing! You’ll need it to enjoy snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice fishing, skating, and fireside gatherings!
Spring Weather in Muskoka, Ontario
Spring weather in Muskoka ushers in a season of rejuvenation and transformation – though that transformation includes a bit of an ugly duckling period. In no way is Muskoka ever truly “ugly” in the slightest, but I would say this is the least picturesque time to visit this region. The trees are bare, and everything is a little muddier. However, watching the trees slowly start to bud is always enjoyable, as is the hunt for spring wildflowers which start appearing everywhere. The lake views are still gorgeous. This is a good time to hike before the bugs start to appear – pack a rain coat and some good boots or hiking shoes.
My favourite spring activity is stargazing on the dock at night before the bugs come out. Pleasantly cool temps, no bites, and the lakes aren’t lit up with summer cottage activity yet!
Summer Weather in Muskoka, Ontario
Here it is – the most popular season to visit Muskoka. Summer! The weather in Muskoka unfolds into a sun-soaked paradise of warm and sunny days, with temperatures often in the mid to high twenties or low thirties in degrees celsius. This is the perfect time to enjoy Muskoka’s plethora of lakeside activities – swimming, boating, paddling, sunbathing on the dock, swimming. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!
Our forests certainly aren’t lacking either – this is a great time for camping and hiking enthusiasts to enjoy the outdoors. There’s nothing like a good dip in the lake after a long and sweaty hike to a spectacular view – and we have no shortage of spectacular views here.
There are occasional rain showers that provide relief from the summer heat, but sometimes we have long periods without – so please keep an eye on the fire rating and double check it before enjoying a bonfire.
In conclusion, Muskoka’s weather offers a delightful tapestry of seasons, each with its own unique charm. Whether you’re captivated by the colors of fall, enthralled by the winter wonderland, invigorated by the freshness of spring, or eager to bask in the sunny delights of summer, Muskoka has something for every outdoor enthusiast. Pack your bags (hopefully using the info above), and we’ll see you in Muskoka!
Nestled on the shore of Lake Rosseau in the heart of Ontario’s esteemed Muskoka region, a contentious development has emerged that is raising concerns among many local residents and environmentalists. In this first part of our series, we’ll delve into the concept and location of the Legacy Cottages project, aiming to provide an informative overview while remaining objective.
In later parts we will discuss the bumps in the road the developers and the Township of Muskoka Lakes faced along the way, Minett’s redesignation to a “Resort Village,” and some of the developer’s other projects.
Understanding the Legacy Cottages Project:
Legacy Cottages, spearheaded by the Rosseau Group, is a development located along the shores of Lake Rosseau, one of the most prestigious lakes in Muskoka. The project aimed to create a modern and affordable retreat for individuals seeking to enjoy the natural beauty and tranquility of the region, as well as promote increased tourism. This area of Lake Rosseau is in the village of Minett, which is located in the Township of Muskoka Lakes.
Legacy Cottages kicked up a lot of debate, especially regarding density concerns and potential environmental impact on the water quality and shoreline of Lake Rosseau. The project consists of 43 units, 9 docks, and a boathouse on 470 feet of shared shoreline – that’s approximately 11 feet of shoreline per cottage. It is located on the site of the old Lakeside Lodge, which is located next to Clevelands House Resort.
This high density of development was allowed due to the District planners deciding that the use of a two week rental pool qualified Legacy Cottages as commercial rather than residential. We’ll talk more about this when we talk about Minett’s redesignation to a “Resort Village” and the 22 million dollar lawsuit filed by the developers against the Township of Muskoka Lakes.
Critics of the Legacy Cottages project raise valid concerns about its potential environmental impact. The region’s lakes and forests are sensitive ecosystems that play a crucial role in maintaining biodiversity, water quality, and overall ecological balance.
The proposed location of the Legacy Cottages project is a matter of concern for many. Lake Rosseau has already faced some water quality concerns attributed to the presence of other resorts and developments – namely an excess of certain nutrients such as phosphorus.
Phosphorus is the nutrient that controls algal growth in most lakes in Ontario, which means an excess in phosphorus can lead to an algal bloom. While the natural addition of phosphorus into a lake via sediment and precipitation is necessary and nothing to be concerned about, excess phosphorus due to human inputs are of concern. Namely, septic system seepage and surface runoff from lawn fertilizer and agricultural sources. Not only can something like an algal bloom be detrimental to the ecology of the lake, it can reduce the attractiveness of the lake for tourism.
There are also other environmental concerns like the construction of shoreline structures such as docks, lack of shoreline buffer zone, the use of retaining walls, an increase in boat traffic, and an overall increase of human activity in the area. We will delve deeper into the environmental concerns surrounding the project (including a look at the water quality of Lake Rosseau and Wallace Bay) in a future part of this series, and examine if they could lead to the degradation of the surrounding natural environment.
Objectives of the Legacy Cottages Project:
Proponents of the Legacy Cottages project argue that it aims to enhance the accessibility of Muskoka’s beauty to a wider audience while contributing to the local economy through increased tourism and development. Buying a cottage in Muskoka, sometimes referred to as the “Hamptons of the North” can be extremely expensive. With units at Legacy starting at $699,000, buying a cottage there allows access to one of Muskoka’s most prestigious lakes at a far more affordable price point.
In this first part of our series exploring the Legacy Cottages project, we have introduced the concept, location, and objectives behind this contentious development in Muskoka. While some argue that the project presents an opportunity for modernization and economic growth, others express concerns about its potential impact on the area’s fragile ecosystem. It must be emphasized that the developers have not broken any laws, and while I may not agree with the rules – they have followed them.
In the next installment, we will delve deeper into the re-designation of Minett to a “Resort Village,” before turning our attention to a deeper dive on the environmental considerations surrounding the Legacy Cottages project for Part 3. This will include a look at potential alternatives or mitigations that could strike a balance between development and conservation.
Part 4 will likely cover the lawsuit, with Part 5 being about the Rosseau Group and some other projects they’ve been involved with (including their current project – Cherokee Lane on the Muskoka Wharf in Gravenhurst).
Stay tuned for a comprehensive analysis of this ongoing discussion and its implications for Muskoka’s future.
The Bracebridge Falls are the largest of 3 major waterfalls in Bracebridge (Bracebridge Falls, Wilson’s Falls, and High Falls). There are also a number of smaller waterfalls in Bracebridge which I will write about in a future blog post. If you hike along the Trans Canada Trail in Bracebridge you can view five waterfalls in one day!
This is where the last bit of the North Branch of the Muskoka River meets up with the South Branch of the Muskoka River, before continuing on into Lake Muskoka. The Bracebridge Falls are part of the Muskoka River Watershed, which has its headwaters in Algonquin Park and ends at Georgian Bay.
There are a couple spots you can view Silver Bridge and the Falls from. The best is by heading down Wharf Road to park at Bay Park (which is free). There is a generating station at the base of the falls with a platform in front that you can stand on. This is by far the best view of the falls! I went during the 2023 Muskoka Flood and it was an amazing experience – the waterfall coming toward you while the water under your feet moves in the other direction makes you feel like you’re about to be pulled in. A bit scary, but very cool!
Or, take the historic walk, which you can access from Bay Park. Just follow the 10 plaques – each marks a place of interest along the route.
Bay Park was also an… interesting experience during the 2023 Muskoka Flood. I will upload pictures this week and link them here.
You can view videos of the Bracebridge Falls on my personal instagram account here, or on our Cottage in Muskoka account here.
There are a few things that contribute to flooding in Muskoka, which we mostly experience along the Muskoka River Watershed – one of four watersheds in Muskoka. This watershed includes the Muskoka River, Moon River, Lake Muskoka, Lake Rosseau, and Lake Joseph, among others.
The first major factor is where we’ve built cottages and homes. Many of the builds in the areas that experience the most flooding in Muskoka (Muskoka River, Lake Muskoka, and Moon River) are built on floodplains. In fact, builders on Lake Muskoka have started to build with that in mind… and not just by raising docks and boathouses! I saw a post made by Corbin Patten Designs on Instagram recently where they had included a raised section in a boathouse to keep a beer fridge safe during future floods.
If you don’t know what a floodplain is, it’s an area adjacent to a river or other watercourse that is susceptible to flooding. Floodplains are typically low-lying and flat, making them ideal for the slow accumulation of water during periods of high precipitation or snow melt. While these areas provide important ecological functions like natural flood control, water purification, and habitat for fish and wildlife, unwittingly building on a floodplain can be disastrous. Ensure that you are checking floodplain maps before you build or buy!
Flooding in Muskoka can be caused by a variety of environmental factors, including the amount of snow pack here and in Algonquin, the speed of thaw, and the level of precipitation. The Muskoka River watershed has its headwaters in Algonquin, and the amount of snowpack there significantly affects flooding here. When there is an above average amount of snow pack in Algonquin, it can lead to a larger volume of water entering Muskoka’s waterways during the spring thaw. The speed of thaw is also crucial in determining the severity of flooding in Muskoka. If temperatures rise too quickly, the snow and ice can melt too rapidly, overwhelming the local waterways and causing flooding. Finally, the amount of precipitation during the spring months can also contribute to flooding, as heavy rains can cause rivers and lakes to overflow their banks. All of these factors must be taken into account when predicting and preparing for potential flooding events in Muskoka.
Limitations to MNRF control
Okay, and here’s a reason that not many people seem to know… the dams along the Muskoka River Watershed are NOT flood control structures! The MNRF can draw down water to prepare for potential flooding, but beyond a certain point there’s nothing they can do to stop it. Here’s an excerpt from the 2019 Ontario Flood Report:
“It must be emphasised that dams in central Ontario, including those in the Muskoka River watershed, are not flood control structures. Flood control structures require a large lake or reservoir and associated drawdown capacity to store or hold back flood waters. Analyses have confirmed that lakes in the Muskoka River watershed that are regulated by dams have a limited capacity to drawdown water to affect flooding, and during periods of large volume rapid runoff, the available drawdown capacity is insufficient to reduce peak flood water levels. In this sense, the greater the magnitude of the flood event, the less ability the MNRF has on affecting or mitigating flooding through operation of its dams. Once the dams are fully open, the MNRF does not have the ability to increase the rate of flow, as it is then based on the amount of water in the system and the natural rate of flow and elevation as it moves through the wide-open dam sluice ways.“
There’s also a limit to how much they can draw down the water levels which has nothing to do with the dams, and more to do with the creatures we share Muskoka’s waterways with. Drawing down water levels can have a significant impact on lake trout spawning. Lake trout are a cold-water fish species that require specific water temperature and oxygen levels to successfully spawn.
In many cases, lake trout will spawn in shallower water nearer to the shoreline than their usual habitat. However, if water levels are drawn down too quickly or too far, the shallow spawning beds may become exposed to the air, causing the eggs to dry out and die. Additionally, sudden changes in water levels can cause currents and turbulence that can dislodge the eggs from the spawning beds, reducing the chances of successful hatching and survival. As such, water managers must carefully consider the impact of drawing down water levels on lake trout spawning and take steps to mitigate any negative effects.
So, what can we do about flooding in Muskoka?
Well, here’s what the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry can do:
Muskoka River Water Management Plan (MRWMP)
The MNRF is responsible for managing the water resources in Muskoka and has developed a comprehensive water management plan to mitigate the impact of flooding events and protect the local ecosystem.
The MNRF also works with other government agencies, local municipalities, and community groups to develop and implement best practices for managing water resources in the region. These practices include promoting the use of permeable surfaces to reduce runoff, and restoring wetlands to provide natural flood control. Overall, the MNRF’s water management plan aims to balance the needs of the local ecosystem with the social and economic benefits of water use in the region.
And as for us?
Expect flooding if you cottage or live in certain areas – in particular the Muskoka River, Lake Muskoka, and Moon River, or on any floodplain. Prepare your property, dock, and boathouse when you close your cottage in the winter. Sign up for our newsletter – you’ll be reminded when the time comes, and you’ll be shown exactly how to close your cottage and prepare for potential spring flooding. I’ll be sure to add an additional post about bracing for a flood before the spring 2024 flood season in Muskoka.
Use a local real estate agent
Not only do we know what areas flood (and see it firsthand), we’ll make sure to review floodplain maps as part of our due diligence – something that a Toronto real estate agent wouldn’t necessarily think to do. I would not be the first person you would ask about problematic condo buildings in the city or the areas of Toronto with the best walkability, and they should not be your trusted source for information about Muskoka.
Continue monitoring the situation when the water level begins to decline
The first sign of receding water levels is not the time to stop monitoring the situation.
First of all, high levels of precipitation, additional snowpack melting and adding water to the watershed, and dams flows being reduced to relieve flooding further down the watershed can all cause the levels to start rising again.
But here’s the bit everyone seems to forget – let’s say the water level was high enough that your boat is floating around in your boathouse. I’m sure you’ve secured it carefully, and removed anything that could damage it. But what happens when the water level drops? You need to make sure the boat makes it back into the slip. Not only can you damage your boat and the boathouse, but how would you ever move it again if it ends up out of the water? A jetski could be put back in the water with help from a few friends… good luck doing that with a boat!
You also need to watch the water levels if you’ve tied your boat off somewhere higher up in the boathouse. Obviously you can’t just make the ropes long enough to compensate, because you don’t want your boat smashing around in there. But what happens if you’ve tied it normally and the water level goes down beyond the length of rope you’ve used? I’ll tell you what – damage! Time to practice your sailing knots. We’ll teach you in our flood coverage if the water level starts to get high enough.
You can check current flood information (warnings and watches by area) from the Government of Ontario here.
We posted daily flood update stories on our Instagram this year, with up-to-date photos and location information, plus alerts about flood warnings, updates from the township, real time water level graphs from multiple water bodies in Muskoka, and other relevant info. We also stopped by a number of cottages to check on them for their owners. Follow us on instagram here to be kept up-to-date about flooding in Muskoka next time around.
Looking for things to do in Port Carling and Muskoka Lakes? Here are the essential experiences, laid out in order by time of day. You may want to plan out a few weekends to visit, or talk to us about getting yourself a cottage, because you’ll need lots of time for the most essential experience of all – relaxing by the water and forgetting that time even exists.
Wake up in time for a sunrise (at least once!)
View the sunrise from wherever you choose – but I’d highly recommend picking a bay or smaller section of lake. It’s not just about the sunrise itself – it’s the mirror-like reflection of the morning clouds on the lake that really make early Muskoka mornings magical.
Check out the Port Carling Wall
The Port Carling wall is a local icon. I recommend grabbing a coffee at Beveragino before walking over to the wall. From there you can enjoy the sun and views on the docks, or walk downtown to do some shopping.
Don’t forget to find the blue and red Muskoka chair while you’re there – the wall is part of the View the Lakes tour, said to showcase the best views in Muskoka.
Visiting the Muskoka Lakes Museum
The Muskoka Lakes Museum is set on James Bartleman island, between the locks. It houses a collection of artifacts and interactive exhibits showcasing the way life was in Muskoka. I’ve been to a lot of museums around the world, and believe me when I say this is a special one.
Lunch on the Waterfront Patio at Turtle Jack’s
You can walk or drive there of course, but the best way to go is by boat! Turtle Jacks is a classic choice, but there are a few great waterfront restaurants to check out. Or, grab takeout from York & Mason, Portside Fusion, or one of the many other choices in Port Carling and bring it down to the docks for a picnic.
Going out for ice cream
Check out Mooskokas right in Port Carling, or go by boat to Silver Streams Market on Lake Rosseau. It’s located right across from Port Sandfield Marina. Pro tip: they make amazing sandwiches.
Visit Stone Cottage Antiques (Little Red Barn Antiques)
Or visit one of the many antique stores in the area – there is another along Hwy. 118 that opened this year – just look for the red, white, & blue ”antiques” sign (before you hit Windermere nursery on your way into Port Carling).
Visit the LCBO by boat
The LCBO in downtown Port Carling is located right at the water – park your boat outside and head in for some drinks. This is a unique Muskoka experience and a definite must! Just remember the golden rule – water on the water, and beer on the pier!
My favourite? Jumping off the boat a few minutes before we dock at home, so I can swim in for a drink. Passengers only, of course…
Boating through the locks and up to Lake Rosseau and Lake Joe
Boat from Lake Muskoka up the Indian River to the Port Carling locks, then through to Lake Rosseau. From there you can head toward Port Sandfield, and under the bridge to Lake Joe. Interested in checking out some interesting builds in the area? Message us and we’ll give you a list of must sees!
Visit the Sherwood Inn on Lake Joseph
Visit the spa, have a few drinks, have dinner, or do all 3! I highly recommend having dinner out on the patio – watching the colours change with the sunset over Lake Joe while surrounded by all those big tall trees is just lovely. And the food is amazing, which certainly doesn’t hurt.
Catch a Sunset at Huckleberry Rock Lookout Trail
Huckleberry Rock Lookout Trail is one of the absolute best places to catch a sunset in Muskoka. Watch closely for the white marks on the rocks to follow the trail up to the lookout point – some of the oldest rock in the world at well over a billion years old. The exposed rock dotted with lichens and moss is gorgeous to begin with, but the view is out of this world. You can see right across Lake Muskoka.
This is a favourite of mine year round, but I think fall is the best time to visit. Be warned – there is a small portion of the trail which is steep, and the trail can be very icy in the winter.
So there you have it – lots of things to do in Port Carling and Muskoka Lakes! If you need a few more (or ideas for an area we haven’t covered yet), give me a shout at Len@cottageinmuskoka.ca!
The 29th annual Gravenhurst Car Show was held on June 18, 2022 at Gull Lake Rotary Park in Gravenhurst. It’s been a couple of years since the show could be held in person, and everyone seemed pretty excited to be back together in person again! Here are a few of my favourite pics from the show.
If you went to the show, did you vote for a favourite? Let us know which!
The Port Carling is 9,028 pictures pieced together into a 111ft. x 45ft. mosaic of the RMS Sagamo passing through the Port Carling Locks in 1922.
There are 906 individual photographs, which depict life in Muskoka Lakes between 1860 and 1960. They can be viewed in the nine foot lower portion of the mural – from there up the photos are replicated.
Don’t forget to find the red and blue Muskoka chair while you’re there – the wall is part of the View the Lakes chair tour, said to showcase the best views in Muskoka.
We are starting to see the Muskoka real estate market shift. From the frantic 2021 cottage market season right up until recently, holding offers until a specific date has been a popular strategy for sellers to drive up competition for listings. Listings were seeing a large number of offers and disappearing from the market quickly. Now we’re seeing more of a mix – some listings are seeing multiple offers, and some are quietly removing their request for offers when the day comes and passes with nothing.
One factor in the shifting market we’re experiencing is the Bank of Canada raising policy interest rates by 0.5% in April, one of the major goals of which was to bring inflation levels back to their target 2% (vs. the 6.7% reported in March). This is the first time it has raised rates by more than 25 basis points in more than two decades. Higher interest rates mean higher borrowing costs, which lowers demand. We expect interest rates will continue to be increased until borrowing costs are back to pre-pandemic levels of 3%. The next announcement is on June 1, 2022.
The 2022 Federal Budget also puts a few factors into play that could effect Muskoka’s real estate market moving forward. It focused heavily on housing initiatives, including (among others):
A foreign ban on buyers for two years
An anti-flipping tax that removes the principal residence exemption for properties that were purchased and sold within the same 12-month period (with some exceptions). The proposed anti-flipping measure would apply to residential properties sold on or after January 1, 2023.
Sales tax on all assignment sales. Starting May 7, 2022, anyone selling their agreement of purchase and sale to a new buyer will be subject to a tax of up to 26%
Does this mean the bottom will fall out and prices will go way down? Highly unlikely. Historically, we still have quite low inventory. It’s gone up from 2021, but properties are limited – especially waterfront. Plus, the already strong desirability of living in Muskoka has only increased after the pandemic. On top of that, there is still a large portion of the population approaching retirement age, who are looking to relocate to somewhere like Muskoka for their golden years.
If you’re a buyer, it’s time to shake off the fatigue of last season and get back to your cottage search – with less competition.
I have posted the relevant stats for overall waterfront market activity and waterfront market activity by location below, for our more analytically minded friends.
If you’re looking for non-waterfront stats or anything else that I haven’t included please email me at email@example.com. I’d be happy to send it to you!
My parents live in Port Carling, in an old house now known as ‘Caledonia House’ (formerly Heart’s Content). It has spent portions of it’s life as a: private home, resort, music venue (more on that soon), and who knows what else. But the coolest part? It didn’t start out where it lives today – it was moved across Indian River and Mirror Lake by barge! Here is an excerpt from the 1995 book Indian River Tales by Ann Duke Judd.
The Moving of Heart’s Content
“The old Heart’s Content was built around 1916 at Indian Point. In early spring, around 1928 it was put onto two scows, using horses and the high water to help.
Cribwork on the scows kept it level at the old elevation; the scows were borrowed from one of the lumber companies, and Allan Dixon was in charge of the operation. One scow sprang a leak, and since there was no electrical power at the point, it had to be hand-pumped all night. Art Duke and others took turns keeping the pump going.
The next day, they set off across the river, but about half way across Mirror Lake, the steering mechanism on the Vedette broke, and she had to be taken up to Port for repairs. The wind blew the scows and house down to Arcadia point. The centre timber caught on trees along the riverbank and pulled out – fortunately, the two outside timbers stayed secure and the house remained level.
A second time, the men attached the scows to the Vedette, and pulled their cargo close to its new site on the eastern shore – but because the boat could not tow it in from the front, the lines had to be untied while the Vedette manoeuvred to the stern to push it in.
Again, the house got away, the wind blowing it ashore at the Schreibers’. By the time it was securely tied at the proper place on the shore, daylight was gone. There was electricity on this side, but it was not very reliable then, so an electric pump was left running overnight.
The next morning, Heart’s Content was moved ashore, and lowered – one crib timber at a time – onto its site at the bottom of Silver Creek Hill.
Here it remained the home of Arthur and ‘Did’ Duke (née Elizabeth McCulley) and their sons Thomas and Reay until 1948, when the couple’s retirement home was built. The sign still identifies that home, now the residence of Rev. Tom Duke and his wife Charlotte. Tom’s main memory of the house moving is the disappointment he felt at having to go to school, and miss the excitement of the move.”