Water is Muskoka’s most valuable asset. Lake Muskoka is part of a large watershed called the Muskoka River Watershed. The Muskoka River Watershed covers a large area on the eastern side of Georgian Bay. Its headwaters are found on the western slopes of Algonquin Park. The Flow is southwesterly for a distance of approximately 210 km. It discharges into the southeast corner of Georgian Bay. The watershed basin encompasses many of Muskoka’s most well known lakes including Lake of Bays, Mary Lake and of course Lake Rosseau, Lake Joseph and Lake Muskoka.
The Watershed Area
The watershed measures over 62 km at its widest point and is approximately 120 km long. It encompasses an area of approximately 4,660 sq. km. The watershed is divided into three drainage areas, the North Branch, South Branch, and Lower Muskoka. The North and South Branches make up the eastern two-thirds of the watershed. The Lower Muskoka sub watershed covers approximately the western one-third of the watershed. It receives the inflow from both the North and South Branches as well as Lakes Joseph and Rosseau. This combined flow passes through the Moon and Musquash Rivers and discharges into Georgian Bay.
There are over 2,000 lakes within the watershed area covering about 17% of the total basin. They are what makes Muskoka “Cottage Country”. Hundreds of thousands of visitors and recreational property owners come to the region to enjoy the beauty. The Muskoka River descends approximately 345 metres in elevation along its 210 km journey from its headwaters to its mouth at Georgian Bay.
Watersheds are nature’s way of cleaning our environment, they have three primary functions: to capture water, to filter and store water in the soil and to release water into a water body. You could think of a watershed as a giant sponge. As precipitation falls, it is stored in the watershed’s land and water bodies and slowly released through shallow water discharge into the river.
Why Does it Matter
Why is understanding the watershed important, you may ask? Well, as all living things in our region, including us humans, depend upon this ecosystem we need to be invested in its well being. The effects of forestry, agriculture, industry and urbanization are all recorded in the water as it flows along its path. For better or worse, each tributary stream, wetland or spring which joins together reflects the health of the region. We need to make sure our footprint on it is minimal.
How can you be a positive contributor to its well being? By doing little things like selecting phosphate free detergents and cleaners if you are on a septic system. Make sure your septic is inspected regularly and serviced when needed. Using all natural insecticides and pesticides in your garden and making sure your boat motor is well tuned up and not leaking oil and fuel into the lake.
Water is Muskoka’s most valuable asset. I am sure you can think of more ways to preserve this beautiful region. If we all take on the mind set of caring to protect what we all value, it will be here for future generations. There is a great deal of information about all things to do with our waterways including information about the Muskoka Watershed.