Muskoka, Ontario, is known for its breathtaking landscapes, pristine lakes, and a rich history of leisurely exploration. One iconic feature of Muskoka is the Muskoka Steamships, which include the Wenonah II and the RMS Segwun. These vintage vessels have been sailing the Muskoka Lakes for generations, offering a unique and timeless experience for both residents and visitors.
But have you ever wondered why these charming steamships periodically dry dock at the Port Carling lock? In this blog post, we’ll dive into the fascinating world of Muskoka Steamships, their significance, and the essential Transport Canada mandated maintenance and inspection that takes place at this strategic location.
Muskoka Steamships: A Legacy of Elegance
The Wenonah II and RMS Segwun are more than just boats; they are floating pieces of history. The RMS Segwun, for instance, was built in 1887, making it one of the oldest operating steamships in North America. These vessels offer an authentic glimpse into Muskoka’s past and provide an unforgettable experience to those who step aboard.
The Importance of the Port Carling Lock
To ensure the safety and longevity of these cherished vessels, Transport Canada mandates regular maintenance and inspection. The Port Carling lock, located on James Bartleman Island, where Lake Muskoka meets Lake Rosseau and connects to Lake Joseph, stands as the only place that can accommodate their specific needs. This strategic location serves as the indispensable hub for servicing and maintaining the Muskoka Steamships. This process should be completed around November 7th.
This also provides a great opportunity for inspection and maintenance of the large lock!
Port Carling Small Lock – Standing By!
During the ~ month long closure of the large lock, the small self-serve lock is still operational to allow passage between Lake Rosseau and Lake Muskoka.
A Rare Opportunity to Witness the Steamships Out of Water
The dry docking process at the Port Carling lock provides a remarkable and rare opportunity for enthusiasts and curious onlookers to witness these historic steamships out of the water. It’s a chance to see the intricate details of these vessels, which are typically hidden beneath the surface, and gain a deeper appreciation for their craftsmanship.
The mandated maintenance and inspection processes are critical to ensuring the safety and functionality of these historic vessels. They include checks on the steam engines, hull, and other essential components. These activities are conducted with the utmost care and expertise to preserve the charm and reliability of the steamships.
The Muskoka Steamships, Wenonah II and RMS Segwun, are living pieces of history that offer a timeless and elegant experience on the Muskoka Lakes. The Port Carling lock plays a vital role in preserving these iconic vessels by providing the only location that can accommodate their specific needs for Transport Canada mandated maintenance and inspection. As they continue to navigate the beautiful waters of Muskoka, the legacy of the steamships lives on, enchanting new generations with a taste of the past.
So, the next time you see the Muskoka Steamships cruising on Lake Muskoka, Lake Rosseau, or Lake Joseph, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for the care and maintenance that keeps these pieces of history afloat. Hopefully you had the chance to see them out of the water during the dry docking process, but if not don’t forget to check out our instagram for a closer look!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to send it to you!
The shoreline is an extremely valuable and important area – not only for personal enjoyment and property values, but for the health of our Muskoka Lakes, and the critters we share them with.
Did you know a natural shoreline can:
Protect against erosion?
A natural shoreline is perfectly engineered to protect against erosion. Native vegetation along the shoreline strengthens the structural integrity of the land and prevents it from falling apart. The roots of the plants grip the earth and provide structure, and the foliage and leaves of the plant reduce erosion caused by rainfall and winds. Aquatic plants and buffer plants right along the edge of the shoreline also lessen the effects of wake hitting the shore.
Maintain or improve water quality?
Buffer plants and shoreline gardens reduce incidences of soil erosion, which has the added benefit of protecting fish habitats.
“One could think of it this way: waterfront plant buffers are like eyelashes to our lakes: they keep the grit and goo out”
Filter overland pollutants and absorb extra nutrients?
Vegetation along the shoreline not only helps slow the movement of surface runoff, but the roots of this vegetation also help absorb surface water – trapping excess nutrients and pollutants in the soil.
An excess of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen is one of the factors that can cause an algal bloom – much like how fertilizing your lawn causes it to grow faster. Given that the other main factors are weather related, keeping these nutrients at a reasonable level are the best defence cottagers have against algal blooms. There are many types of algae – an excess of any of these can be harmful to the aquatic ecosystem, but some types (like blue-green algae) can have dire consequences when it comes to our health and the health of our pets. Most other common types of algae are at their most harmful once they’ve died – they sink to the bottom of the lake and decompose, reducing the amount of oxygen available to fish and other aquatic organisms.
Consuming toxins from a blue-green algae bloom can include headaches, fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and other more serious effects. It can also kill dogs and other animals. According to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, “people not on public water supplies should not drink surface water during an algal bloom, even if it is treated. In-home treatments such as boiling and disinfecting water with chlorine or UV and water filtration units do not protect from blue-green algal toxins.”
Blue-green algae does more than just threaten our health though – it also threatens our property values. Of particular note is the 2005 toxic algal bloom in Three Mile Lake in Muskoka, a lake which has had more than it’s fair share of blue-green algae related woes. This toxic bloom resulted in property values on Three Mile Lake dropping by about 25%. I guess that’s not much of a surprise to anyone after hearing about the health risks… but we should also mention how repulsive it can look and smell. According to former Township of Muskoka Lakes Mayor Susan Pryke, the worst hit areas of Three Mile Lake “looked like pea soup, with bits of algae floating in the water, sort of like chunks washing up on shore,” and smelled like “garbage that had been left sitting out too long.” Lovely.
Protect wildlife habitats, while ALSO reducing the number of geese that come on your property?
Throughout their lifecycles, the majority of our native Muskoka species depend on a healthy shoreline. The riparian zone (the area that lines the border of the water, with rich moist soils where diverse plant communities can grow) is used for sources of food and shelter, breeding, migration, and for rearing young. This area is also essential when it comes to preventing geese – geese are attracted to open spaces with easy access to the water, and they like to feed on short grass. If you have a goose problem then I’m willing to bet you probably have a grass lawn. A shoreline barrier of native Muskoka shrubs and tall vegetation can help deter them from hanging out on your property.
Moving into the water from the riparian zone, we enter the littoral zone – the submerged area of shoreline where the sunlight still penetrates through to the lake bottom. According to Muskoka Watershed Council, the littoral zone is “the richest natural environment that most of us will ever come into contact with,” with as much of 90% of the species in the lake either living in or passing through this zone. This area (and the aquatic plants and downed trees that it consists of) is responsible for providing oxygen to the lake, spawning areas, shallow protected nursery areas (for fish and amphibians), foraging areas, and hiding spots.
Protect the economic benefits associated with tourism?
Nature is one of the major appeals of Muskoka! Wait to catch a sunset while you watch a Blue Heron fish nearby, a family of ducks float past, or any number of other native Muskoka species encounters. Or just enjoy floating in a lake that isn’t thick with potentially dangerous, smelly, pea-soup like blue-green algae… either way, if the health of our lakes isn’t protected it will result in major tourism-related economic losses down the line.
So, how do you naturalize your shoreline?
Getting started with naturalizing your shoreline doesn’t have to be some gargantuan effort – there are some very low effort ways you can get started on your journey to a healthier shoreline for your Muskoka cottage. Let’s look at a few ways you can help work towards a more natural Muskoka, in order of increasing difficulty…
Creating a no-mow zone near the shoreline to allow vegetation to re-establish
This one could not be easier – simply leave an area along your shoreline unmowed. It is recommended that you leave at least 10 feet, but any amount of shoreline buffer is better than nothing! Ideally you would also minimize the amount of entries you have into the water, leaving 75% of the length of your cottage shoreline to re-naturalize.
Bonus points if you follow this “no-mow” philosophy in the shallow water along your shoreline by using your dock as a bridge to get over the weedy shallow parts of the water rather than clearing the weeds to create a swimming area. That way you can still enjoy a clear area to enjoy the water, without harming this essential habitat.
Placing or allowing woody debris to accumulate along the shoreline
Unless a fallen tree is a hazard to boats or swimmers, consider leaving it be! Not a lot of shoreline trees fall around the lake during a year… and clearing a bunch of them away at once can have disastrous consequences to the habitat they were supporting. By the way, submerged wood not only creates hiding and spawning spots for fish, it’s also a major food source for crayfish, aquatic insects, and small fish.
Active planting of native species
So, you’ve already begun to leave the strip of land nearest to your shoreline alone to re-naturalize… but why not help it along even more by planting some native grasses, plants, shrubs, and/or trees? This is also beneficial in terms of appearance – Muskoka has so many beautiful native plant species, so there’s no need to sacrifice the aesthetics of your cottage. People are often surprised how much they love the look of a naturalized shoreline garden.
Removal or “softening” of existing hard structures like retaining walls
While these hard structures may provide a temporary solution to erosion, they can cause damage to neighbouring properties. They can also eventually fail and damage the shoreline they were originally placed to protect.
Instead of removing these structures entirely, there is also the option of protecting the wall (and your shoreline) with softer measures such as planting buffer vegetation. In the case of rip rap, planting can be done between the rocks – the roots of the plants will help with structural integrity, and the foliage of the plants will help to protect against erosion from waves.
I’ve been loving hobby photography lately, but I’d never thought to capture a lightning storm before. As a child I remember being told that lightning came up through the ground (which is only partially true), so I was surprised to check my pics and see the horizontal lightning bolts.
First: a short explanation of how lightning works, then I’ll explain what I learned about my horizontal lightning strikes!
Lightning is all about the charges – nature always wants to find equilibrium. It’s a natural static discharge where different areas of the atmosphere equalize in charge. Think of it like when you get a static shock from something – it’s the same process taking place.
The most common type of lightning is cloud-to-ground (CG). Generally CG is negatively charged. This channel of negative charge, called a stepped leader, is invisible to the human eye. When it approaches the ground, positively-charged “streamers” reach up to meet it – which explains the “lightning comes from the ground” misconception! These streamers tend to travel up through tall objects like trees, and when they reach the oppositely-charged leader electric current begins flowing – which is why you’re supposed to avoid standing near trees or tall objects during storms.
Occasionally, an exceptional amount of positive charge builds up in the upper levels of the cloud. This too must be balanced out, and since the lightning has a longer way to travel it is much more powerful. Usually these bolts travel vertically to the ground, but because of the high difference in electrical potential they can also travel horizontally before going to the ground. This means that these positive cloud-to-ground lightning bolts can strike from a blue sky many miles away from the storm – a “bolt from the blue.” Since positive lightning has higher peak currents and longer continuing currents, it is capable of heating surfaces to higher levels… which also makes it the type of lightning most likely to start a forest fire.
So anyway, onto our horizontal lightning strikes! The explanation for these bright horizontal strikes is actually pretty simple – differently-charged areas in the atmosphere are simply seeking equilibrium, this time it happens to be two clouds with opposing charges (cloud-to-cloud lightning). As we learned earlier, clouds can be either negatively or positively charged, and nature always seeks equilibrium.
These days, it’s more important than ever to support local businesses – so we thought we would share one of our Muskoka favourites with you! Crossroads restaurant, located in Rosseau, has been serving up casual yet upscale meals for more than a decade now. Their dishes (and atmosphere) are sophisticated but still manage to maintain a cottage vibe. We have been there a number of times, in fact it is our “special holidays” spot – birthdays, anniversaries, father’s day… they provide a cozy atmosphere with cheerful, friendly staff and incredible food.
While it may be impossible to experience the atmosphere right now with the pandemic, Crossroads has been a leader in Muskoka in terms of COVID-safe takeout. Not only do they offer online ordering (a rarity around here), they also have contactless pickup brought right out to your car!
They are open for takeout Wednesday – Saturday from 3:00pm – 8:30pm. They also currently offer a curated “chef’s box” for $100 per person that includes hors d’oeuvres, an appetizer, entree & dessert, fresh flowers, and a bottle of red or white wine. Sounds perfect for a date night or Valentine’s Day, doesn’t it? In fact I may just send Steve the link to this blog post…
Give them a chance – you won’t be disappointed. The passion that chefs Julie and Richard Lalonde have for the business is apparent from the very first bite.
We hope to run into you there once it’s safe to gather again!
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.”