Category Archives: Muskoka Lakes

Crossroads and cross-lakes.

After showing cottages by boat (they were mostly island cottages for sale) on Lake Muskoka and Lake Rosseau all day Saturday, we knew that we had planned well. We finished up around 6:00 pm at the top of Lake Rosseau, in Cameron Bay across from the Village of Rosseau, and just in time for dinner.
Fortunately our favourite Muskoka restaurant Crossroads Pub & Grill is just across from the village public docks. Crossroads is one of Muskoka’s best kept secrets – and that’s not just our opinion; check out the opinions of others on TripAdvisor. As you may see, the only criticism is that it takes a while to get your food served. That’s true, but having your meal made on the spot for you, well, it is absolutely worth the wait. Richard and Julie run a fantastic, community engaged restaurant serving a lot of local products. Pure. Simple. Delicious. Check them out in action. I think they didn’t notice their Videographer spelled restaurant wrong at the end:)

So, having arrived at 6:30 for dinner, meeting up with family and friends and taking our own sweet time to order and enjoying our fabulous meals, we weren’t back to the boat until 10:15. Even at the height of summer in Muskoka, it’s getting pretty dark. With a dock waiting on lake Muskoka, we had a long way to go: all of Lake Rosseau, half of Lake Muskoka, Indian River, Mirror Lake and the lock at Port Carling between them – which closes at 8:00 PM.

 

Lake Rosseau at 10:30 at 30 knots.
Lake Rosseau at 10:30 at 30 knots.

It’s a surreal experience, at cruising speed on the black surface of the lake. I know the way, but it is COMPLETELY different in the dark. Nothing is familiar; everything you normally use for guidance is gone. I know that Lake Rosseau  goes from close to 300ft. depths in the north to 100ft. or so in the south toward Port Carling; but it’s the edges I’m more worried about, and the rock shoals here and there. Anything other than that safe depth of water would be an absolute, potentially life threatening, disaster. This becomes little trouble though if you have, like I do an iPad and Navionics. For about 15 bucks I know, within a reasonable margin, where I am, where I am going and where the hazards are. All lit up on the iPad screen – you have to turn the brightness all the way down at night – really excellent!

Tobin Island Lake Rosseau on the Navionics app on my iPad
Tobin Island Lake Rosseau on the Navionics app on my iPad

The main lock at Port Carling closes at 8:00 PM, and we arrived there around 11:00PM. Fortunately there is a self-serve lock available. It’s tricky manoeuvering around to the smaller lock in the dark. There are marker buoys set, but no good lighting – if you have docking lights, put them on to pick up the reflective tape on the buoys. Head for the blue dock edge and tie up.

Tied up at the self-serve lock on the Lake Rosseau side.
Tied up at the self-serve lock on the Lake Rosseau side.

The self-serve part of the Port Carling locks is easy. Head over to the booth – we pay annually (about $85) for lock use, otherwise there is a drop box for your payment on the honour system. Then, you just stick your hand in the hole, move the lever in the direction of whichever gate is open, hold the lever in that position until the gate closes and the lock fills. It is crazy with bugs attracted by the light right over your head – but no biters for whatever reason.

Operating the self-serve lock at Port Carling.
Operating the self-serve lock at Port Carling.

The rest of the trip through Indian River and down into Lake Muskoka was just as beautiful as the Lake Rosseau passage. And again, no problem with the assistance of the iPad and Navionics. We docked about midnight. Nice adventure!

Algae and Water Quality. Looking back to see the future

As mentioned in previous posts, cottage owners and cottage buyers want to know about water quality on lakes in Muskoka. Because water quality has a direct relationship to property value, and algae – particularly algal blooms – directly affect water quality, we all want to know as much as we can .

I just completed and uploaded a video here for the Muskoka Watershed Council YouTube page. The subject is a talk that was presented by Dr. Andrew Paterson of the Dorset Environmental Centre at the Muskoka Stewardship Conference at Nipissing University in Muskoka (Bracebridge). The event’s theme was What Are You Watching?

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This highly interesting talk looks at studying lake sediments deposited over hundreds – and even thousands of years. Sediments are archives of environmental change and within them are clues to possible triggers of algae outbreaks.

Dr. Paterson talks about sediment research done in Lake of the Woods in north-western Ontario and the Hudson Bay Lowlands which may help scientist understand occurrences in the lakes of Muskoka. There is discussion on the relationship between water quality and property value for cottagers. The seeming paradox of stable or even declining phosphorous levels – the usual algal bloom suspect- at the same time as blue-green outbreaks are increasing. And of course, the effect of climate change.

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Algal Bloom Three Mile Lake 2005

Of particular note is the 2005 toxic algal bloom in Three Mile Lake in 2005, where research may indicate the possible triggers of record high temperatures coupled with record low precipitation which occurred in the fall of 2005 in Muskoka.

Slide 1

There is significant evidence that a warming climate is related to the increase in algal blooms. Dr. Paterson suggests that if algae was the music that we hear from a radio: then phosphorous is the volume; other nutrients (particularly nitrogen), light, etc., influence what species are present – are the “tuning”; and climate is the antenna. The presentation concludes that blue-green algae likes it hot!

Slide 1

Click here for the link to the video on YouTube.

Flooding on Lake Muskoka

Flooding on Lake Muskoka
Dock system completely submerged

These north Lake Muskoka clients are doing well so far, but holding their breath. They consider themselves very fortunate.

Many have fared worse, we just finished a conversation with Walker’s Point, Lake Muskoka cottagers whose entire 2 dock system has lifted right off the cribwork. “We are hoping that it sets itself right back in place when the water recedes. At least it’s still there; we’ve seen a few float by.”

Lake Joseph. Out on the April ice.

We were taken by snowmobile today so we could determine a listing price for a very nice Lake Joseph island property.

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45 mph makes for a good wind chill when you’re holding a camera!

We’ve been asked a few times actually, just in the past three or four days: “How thick(thin) is the ice on the big three?” Well we can tell you, as of today it is still very solid. Visibly on Lake Jo, there are no signs of open water except around bubblers and moving water. We have a way to go in Muskoka before break-up.
Below, even right beside the boathouse, the ice is very sound.

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Catharine; either waving, or trying to stop the process altogether!

We can’t show you the boathouse, the cottage, or anything identifiable on the property yet, as it’s not listed. But, here’s an image I made of the point while waiting for the snowmobile to return to pick me up.

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Selling a cottage is more than selling a cottage (in Muskoka)

Just had the best experience ever. My wonderful client turned to me, as he was signing the offer on his new cottage and said “This is the most excited I have ever been in my life”. And I actually get paid to do this. Life is good!

Spring at the Cottage in Muskoka … not here, not yet.

Many times in the past, at work in Toronto, Chicago, Orlando, or Boston, I’d hear about spring equinox (night and day of approximately equal length) and begin to wonder how conditions were at our Muskoka cottage.

In case you are at work planning for spring at the cottage, I have an update for you. Depending on where you are, it may not be all that spring-like, and it isn’t here either.
On Lake Muskoka, I made this image less than 20 minutes after the spring equinox today (Mar 20th). It’s hard to tell, but it was snowing and the high today is expected to be -2C.

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Lake Muskoka from Muskoka Beach area. Mar 20, 2013, spring less than an hour old.

Here’s how the spring weather looks coming up this week:

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If you are reading this a bit later here’s the current forecast.

And have a look below at the historic records for this date. Last year we hit 24.8C – much better than -18 in 2007!

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We did have an “early” spring last year and cottage real estate, just took off for us.

Speaking of spring, we’re at the Cottage Life show on April 5th -7th, really getting the cottage season jump-started; actually we are there Sunday the 5th from 1-5pm, so come and say hello.

If you want tickets give us a call.

Protect Your Muskoka Cottage Investment. Muskoka Lakes Association seedling sale; re-naturalize your shoreline this spring

The single most important thing you can do to protect the value of your Muskoka cottage waterfront property investment is to protect the water quality of your lake. One of the best ways to help sustain/improve water quality in your lake is to ensure you have a natural shoreline and a buffer zone; an area of natural vegetation running along your shoreline.

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The function of the buffer zone is to act as a filter for water flowing to your lake, and studies show that they greatly reduce water pollution. The plants and soil absorb runoff water laden with sediments, nutrients and pollutants harmful to the lake. Turf grass does not do an adequate job filtering water runoff, and is very attractive to geese and other nuisance species.

Native Plants … and lots of them!       “Ideally the buffer area is thickly covered with native vegetation. The higher the percentage of the ground that is covered, the better your buffer can work. A landscape made up of native plants is low maintenance. Once established, they can survive without extra watering, and without application of pesticides and fertilizers. Native plants are adapted to deal with local bugs and diseases and can get all the nutrients they need from existing soil.”

On the Living Edge Sarah Kipp, Clive Callaway
 

You can pre-order native plants from the Muskoka Lakes Association.

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“The Annual MLA Seeding Day is scheduled for Saturday May 18, 2013 at the Port Carling Community Centre from 9 am to 12Noon. The emphasis this year will be on Muskoka native species. An order form (with pricing) is available from the MLA website here. We have a lot of seedlings available in some of the most wanted species including White Birch, Balsam Fir, White Spruce, Dogwood and Nannyberry among others.”

Order soon as quantities are limited.  Orders can be emailed to info@mla.on.ca, faxed to (705) 765-3203 or mailed to Box 298, Port Carling, ON, P0B 1J0

Signs of spring, or the health of your lake. What are you watching?

pussy willows

Many years ago my Grandmother won a contest with Toronto radio station CKEY (now long gone). I think you had to write in, and the best story about signs of spring won. The prize was a ride in the radio station’s traffic helicopter during a weekday rush hour.  Grannie’s story was something about the pussy willows growing up right out of the snow in front of the Sundial restaurant on the way up to Muskoka (also long gone). Anyway, she gave me the helicopter ride – that was cool!!!

Whether: “is the ice-out”, other signs of spring, habits of wildlife or indicators of a healthy lake, we are often asked about key things cottagers need to know – or go by, and we are happy to help!
But here’s an opportunity to get all the scoops on what to look for: plan to attend the Muskoka Stewardship Conference, put on by the Muskoka Watershed Council. This conference is titled What Are You Watching?

Planned, are talks on algae (identification and monitoring), loon surveying, water quality, landscaping for wildlife, NatureWatch programs and more. There’s even the opportunity to join naturalist Al Sinclair on an outdoor birdwatching session before the talks begin.

Taking place at Nipissing University in Bracebridge, the whole day is only $30 and includes lunch. Register, and get more info here.

Afternoon sail on Lake Muskoka

Now, 10 days or so into fall, we are still completely busy with real estate, almost. I was able to get out sailing today from 3 till dusk.
With the sun setting before seven now, and me still used to long summer evenings, dusk seemed to come quickly along with cold winds. Three in the afternoon was t-shirt weather, then a sweatshirt on top by five, and a foul weather jacket by six.

Sailing south on Lake Muskoka between Browning Island and the mainland.
Flying the colours of the catboat Swell: the Ontario flag and the Catboat Association burgee.

The winds were our prevailing northwesterlies, and in the afternoon at 15 knots with gusts required a reefed sail. By evening they were a nice steady 8 or so so the reef was blown out and I sailed back north.
The evening sail was wonderful; once set, the boat stayed on track without any input from me. I was able sit back and take in the beautiful evening colours as the setting sun accompanied the boat back to Pine Island.

Once I rounded Pine Island, the wind, blocked by the mainland, slackened and I dropped the sail and watched the following sun set to the west.

Goodbye to a beautiful fall day.

 

Skeleton Lake Fish Hatchery

We had a number of meetings of the Muskoka Watershed Council today. Lots of great projects underway intended to benefit our environment, and all of us who reside here or visit. Included in the full council meeting was a presentation of the Skeleton Lake, Lake Plan in development by the Skeleton Lake Cottagers Organization; wonderful to see the inclusive plan to preserve this, still quite pristine and unique Muskoka lake. Information specific to Skeleton Lake, or any other of the lakes in Muskoka is available on the Muskoka Water Web in the lake data sheets link. Please be aware, if you are not linked-out already, there is an important page to explain how you interpret the water quality data.

Our meeting were held in the Raymond Community Centre, hosted by the Township of Muskoka Lakes. After the meetings we visited Fish Hatchery Park at Skeleton Lake.

Entrance to Fish Hatchery Park

Located just in from 141 of Fish Hatchery Road, the park has an entrance on either side. To the left follow the trails along the river to the falls. To the right the entrance leads to Skeleton Lake and the dam. Although not used as a fish hatchery for a number of years, the park is a great place to take a hike.

The falls at Fish Hatchery Park

I only had a BlackBerry with me for the photo, so imagine what you can do with a bit more control. Bring your camera along and go for a hike to the falls!