The Muskoka Watershed

21 Feb 2018

The Muskoka Watershed

As a Realtor who lives and works in Muskoka I am acutely aware of the magnificence of our lakes. I am convinced that, as a resident of this area, I have a small but vital role to play in protecting them. That requires that I have a good understanding of how they function so I have made every effort to learn all about them so I can be a good steward and promote good stewardship to my clients.

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, and flow southwesterly for a distance of approximately 210 km to discharge into the southeast corner of Georgian Bay. It encompasses many of Muskoka’s most well know lakes including Lake of Bays, Mary’s Lake and of course Lake Rosseau, Lake Joseph and Lake Muskoka.

The watershed measures over 62 km at its widest point and is approximately 120 km long, encompassing 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, and 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 2000 lakes within the watershed of all sizes covering about 17% of the total area. They are what makes Muskoka “Cottage Country” bringing hundreds of thousands of visitors and recreational owners to the region to enjoy the beauty. The Muskoka River descends approximately 345 m 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 (the giant sponge) and slowly released through shallow water discharge into the river.

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 wellbeing. 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 in which it is found and we need to make sure our foot print on it is minimal.

How can you be a positive contributor to its wellbeing? I say by doing little things like selecting phosphate free detergents and cleaners if you are on septic system, make sure your septic is inspected regularly and replaced 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.

I am sure you can think of more but you can see how if we all take on this mind set of caring, things cannot fail but to protect what we all value. There is a great deal of information about all things to do with our waterways including information about the Muskoka Watershed at

-Sharon Aiken