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!
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!
Muskoka’s waterfront economy creates over one billion dollars in income annually. It is necessary for the survival of local residents, as well providing substantial support to all tiers of government. The Muskoka Real Estate Market is a huge contributor to that waterfront economy.
Muskoka offers a unique respite for Greater Golden Horseshoe residents, along with celebrities and wealthy vacationers from around the world. The recent trend of telecommuting has allowed more cottage owners to live and work in Muskoka.
Close to 2,000 Muskoka lakes glitter in the sunlight and have been attracting people from around the world for hundreds of years, and indigenous people for thousands of years before that. Cottage owners and tourists bring much needed money with the summer boost in population. The permanent population is almost 67 thousand and the seasonal population is about 80 thousand, bumping the summer population up substantially.
The Muskoka market is unique due to the limited number of sales as compared to other markets, eg. the GTA, the vast variety of offerings, from small residential to multi-million dollar waterfront, and the consistent glut of buyers.
The topography of Muskoka and its waterways, and the very necessary restrictions on building, limit the number of waterfront homes that will ever be available. The buyer pool never wanes, but steadily increases.
The market may be going through a somewhat volatile period, but overall value in Muskoka remains stable. Big picture – steadily increasing prices over time, with the occasional market adjustment.
As we love to paraphrase – “they’re not making any more land”. Or lakes in the foreseeable future.
OVERALL MUSKOKA MARKET STATISTICS
As we head into the busy Muskoka summer market, we are seeing a somewhat dramatic increase in newly listed properties, as well as several properties that did not sell last fall or over the winter season. Price adjustments are once again becoming common, as sellers face the reality of a market that is becoming more balanced. We are seeing numbers that are similar to those in 2020. We expect values to even out over a five year period. Those sellers who are finding themselves in a position to sell after owning their property for a short time are going to feel the pinch. We are seeing some properties listed that were purchased at elevated prices during the pandemic. It is doubtful that they will resell at the same or similar price without having made any improvements.
The following numbers compare April 2023 with April 2022.
Overview of the current state of the Muskoka Real Estate Market:
Average price of a 2023 waterfront dwelling is $1,836,756.00 versus $2,199,562.00 in 2022, showing an adjustment of -16.5%.
Muskoka Lakes Township
Average price 2023 waterfront dwelling is $2,694,658.00 versus $3,515,088.00 in 2022, showing an adjustment of -23.3%.
Median price of 2023 waterfront dwelling is $1,749,000.00 versus $1,550,000.00 showing an adjustment of +12.8%.
Days on market this year average 25, last year average 26.
This is moving to a more balanced market.
Average price 2023 waterfront dwelling is $754,675.00.00 versus $869,250.00 in 2022, showing an adjustment of -13.2%
Median price of 2023 waterfront dwelling is $660,000.00 versus $830,500.00 showing an adjustment of -20.5%.
Days on market this year average 37, last year average 6.
Average price 2023 waterfront dwelling is $930,000.00 versus $2,524,120.00 in 2022, showing an adjustment of -63% ** (please see below for explanation)
Median price of 2023 waterfront dwelling is $930,000.00 versus $1,350,000.00 showing an adjustment of -31.1%.
Days on market this year average 22, last year average 18.
Average price 2023 waterfront dwelling is $861,000.00 versus $779,861.00 in 2022, showing an adjustment of +10.4%.
Median price of 2023 waterfront dwelling is $780,000.00 versus $260,000.00 showing an adjustment of +200%.
Days on market this year average 94, last year average 23.
Gravenhurst’s -63% is alarming until you realize that this is based on two sales only, and therefore not statistically significant.
To summarize, sale prices are down slightly overall and price adjustments are becoming more common.
Your local, experienced, competent realtor has access to individual, specific, sold listings to help you determine value as you buy and sell Muskoka real estate.
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.
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.
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!
Muskoka is a unique, highly sought after and magical place. There are many different kinds of buyers and sellers here. Some merely want a little piece of paradise to escape and camp out in the woods. Others want a mansion on one of the ‘Big Three’, or one of the 2200+ lakes in the district.
And the rest of us are somewhere in between. Waterfront or not, permanent residence or not, we all appreciate being surrounded by water and granite and pine and to do a little swimming, boating, hiking and star gazing.
The privilege can be costly, especially since the pandemic.
Overall prices are up year over year, and have gone up a median value of about $350,000 for waterfront properties since the beginning of 2020.
There were 499 new listings in July and 377 sales. The average DOM (days on market from listing to sale) is 14. Last year the average DOM for July was 23. July 2019 24. July 2018 was 30. We are seeing a trend here.
In terms of dollar volume:
There were 44 sales in Muskoka Lakes. 37 were waterfront and 7 non waterfront. The total dollar volume was $95,220,518.
There were 57 sales in Huntsville. 19 were waterfront and 38 non waterfront. The total dollar volume was $41,870,436.
There were 31 sales in Bracebridge. 10 were waterfront and 21 non waterfront. The total dollar volume was $21,252,027.00.
There were 29 sales in Gravenhurst. 7 were waterfront and 22 non waterfront. The total dollar volume was $19,314,650.00.
There is only a 2.5 month supply of residential properties available currently. The definition of supply refers to the number of months it would take for the current inventory of homes or cottages on the market to sell. Historically, six months of supply is associated with a balanced market between buyers and sellers and a lower level of months’ supply is considered a seller’s market and therefore they can expect to sell faster at a better price. In any market a substantially overpriced property will linger. The key to proper pricing is listing at a reasonable price and encouraging competition. Buyers will only compete when a property is appealing both in terms of features and price.
The trend has been toward less inventory for the last few years – with the exception of a small spike this year due to sellers wanting to cash in on this crazy market.
We do not see the ‘bubble’ bursting. We do not think that there is a bubble. It is a case of supply and demand. And those demanding having a lot of liquidity right now, due to many months of not spending in restaurants, on travel, services like spas, house cleaners, clothing, commuting etc. Interest rates remain low. Cottage buyers for the most part have not been negatively impacted financially by the pandemic.
Inventory has been relatively low for the past several years and we can see why when we look at the relatively low total number of cottages versus the potential buying pool. The Golden Horseshoe has a population of over 7.8 million. Say you considered just one percent of that number – that is 78,000 people in the market for a cottage. And that doesn’t count international buyers or buyers in the rest of Canada.
Some buyers are interested in purchasing to rent their places out. There is a lot of money to be made, but buyers should beware. For those who are perking up their ears, these purchases tighten off an already limited supply. Carefully vet your renters. Property damage is a real risk, as is annoying the neighbours with loud and boisterous behaviour. Enough of that, and the townships may decide to ban rentals.
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.
We all know the frustration. You’re trying to open an email attachment with a photo of your grandkids, look at a real estate listing, get some work done, or even just check the weather… and you’d like to not spend all day doing it! While newer internet technologies like fibre are trying to make that a thing of the past, the coverage is majorly lacking. In many areas the fastest high speed internet is just across the street from near-dial-up speeds, and due to the cost and difficulty of rewiring it doesn’t look like that will be changing any time soon.
Should we just give up and disconnect? No way! Enter SpaceX, with their new Starlink Satellite Internet service. This satellite service will operate via a satellite constellation of at least 12,000 satellites, with more pending approval. According to SpaceX, Starlink will offer speeds up to a gigabit per second – a far cry from rural cottages which often max out at a speed of up to 5Mpbs (a 995Mbps difference!). During the beta testing phase, customers are expected to experience speed variations from 50 – 150Mbps. Even places that currently have no internet availability at all will finally be brought into the 21st century.
This is not traditional satellite service – Starlink’s satellites are in low earth orbit, which will not only make the service more reliable, but will also help keep down space debris. Each satellite is fitted with an onboard propulsion system to deorbit at the end of its life, and in the unlikely event that system becomes inoperable the satellite will burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere within 1-5 years. At the higher altitudes used by traditional satellite services, this could take hundreds or even thousands of years. Satellite service also means that unlike fibre, you won’t have to have anything wired to your home to receive the fastest speeds available.
Though it is not fully ready for consumers yet, it is operational! Check out this tweet from Elon Musk, sent in October 2019 via Starlink internet!
He followed up with a second Starlink tweet – “Whoa, it worked!!” According to SpaceX, “Starlink is now delivering initial beta service both domestically and internationally, and will continue expansion to near global coverage of the populated world in 2021.”
While we truly do look forward to being able to work online at less molasses-like speeds, I, for one, will be celebrating laser-fast internet with a good ol’ Netflix marathon in my PJs!