No doubt, the one thing that brings all
the residents of Lake Joseph North together is the lake itself. We enjoy it in
many ways from swimming to boating, water skiing to canoeing and much, much,
more. And the best part? The water quality at the north end of Lake Joseph is
the greatest in Muskoka! Couple this with the remarkable clarity and minimal
presence of algae and aquatic vegetation along the shoreline and you can see
why this lake is holds a special place among its residents, cottagers and
In order to appreciate the importance
of water quality and to understand the issues, here are some key insights that
residents should be aware of and that LJNA takes seriously:
There are a couple reasons why the
water quality is so high in the north end of Lake Joseph including the lake’s
location at the top of the watershed and the fact that until relatively
recently, the north end of Lake Joseph was rather undeveloped compared with the
south end of the lake and the other two big Muskoka lakes (Rosseau and
Muskoka). This began to change with the completion of the 400 series highway up
the west side of the lakes during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The
historical high quality standard is a big reason why cottagers and residents at
the north of Lake Joseph remain vigilant regarding water quality.
Lake Joseph, like most lakes located on
the Canadian Shield, as oligotrophic - meaning the lakes have a naturally low
nutrient level. This gives the lake its clarity and accounts for the minimal
presence of algae and aquatic vegetation along the shoreline. Yet, the
low-nutrient status of Lake Joseph also means that the aquatic ecosystem is
also very sensitive to slight fluctuations in phosphorous content.
Phosphorous is the limiting nutrient in
oligotrophic lakes. The low concentration of phosphorous in the lake translates
into low levels of ‘food’ for aquatic plants. If more phosphorous is added,
more aquatic plants will grow, reducing the oxygen content and disrupting the
ecosystem conditions that most species of invertebrate and fish rely on.
Compounding the issue is the fact that
the water in Lake Joseph changes very slowly, taking several years to entirely
flush out. In other words, any extra phosphorous that is added to the lake can
only be removed through natural processes very slowly. It is therefore critical
that cottagers and residents on Lake Joseph carefully monitor the concentration
of phosphorous in the lake and strictly manage the amount of phosphorous
entering the lakes.
for water quality
In 2002, the Muskoka Lakes Association
(MLA) began sampling sites in Hamer Bay as part of their Water Quality
Initiative. Testing for phosphorous and bacteria (especially E. coli) has
continued in the bay every year since. In 2004, sites in Gordon Bay were
sampled and has since continued intermittently as needed. Sampling was also
started in Stanley Bay in 2004, and has been continued every year since.
Copies of the MLA’s Water Quality
Reports, which include area summaries of the testing done at the north end of
the lake can be obtained at PDF downloads from the MLA’s
Over the last decade, Hamer Bay has
been the only area at the north end of Lake Joseph that has demonstrated
worrying data. Hamer Bay has exceeded the acceptable upper limit of phosphorous
concentrations in nine of the thirteen years since testing began by the MLA.
In the fall of 2012, the LJNA and MLA
partnered to initiate a study of the stream entering Hamer Bay from Rocky Crest
Golf Course property (the outlet of this stream enters the west side of Hamer
Bay Marina). The findings of this study are forthcoming for the winter of 2015.
The LJNA is also very eager to enlist
more volunteers in the water testing program. If you are available to collect
water samples one weekend per month between May and August, please contact us