It is that time of year again, where the snow pack melts and at the same time the spring rains are coming in; the annual freshet is almost behind us!
We had our share of snow this year, with very little melting in between. Freezing rain events during February and March hardened the snow pack, so the snow cover in Muskoka was deep and melted slowly. Temperatures during the early spring stayed low, especially overnight. The Algonquin snow pack was estimated to have been 50% higher this year, but the moisture content was 300% higher than last year.
This all changed April 17, with a massive Colorado low depositing unusual rain amounts in Muskoka. Within 4 days we got over 61 mm, sometimes gentle rain but mostly heavy rain pelting the still frozen ground. Water was running over frozen rivers and lakes, taking out culverts, flooding low lying areas, roads and homes. At the same time the temperatures went up, between 15C and 19C for a couple of days. That was all it took to bring on a very quick melt! Bracebridge declared a Flood Emergency on Wednesday, April 24, Huntsville declared on April 25, and Township of Muskoka Lakes did the same on April 28, as they believed the Muskoka River and the 3 big lakes were still going to rise, close to or above flood levels from 2013. As you have probably seen in the news, Lake Muskoka went up approximately 6ft and Joseph and Rosseau both rose about 4ft. A lot of damage has been documented to boathouses, docks that are still underwater, and boats were crushed inside boathouses. But by far the most devastating damage was done along the Muskoka River, where permanent homes were flooded, streets washed out and people had to be evacuated.
Here on Brandy Lake, we have not been spared. Our water levels went up very suddenly; the lake rose 8” inches overnight on April 20th. The 4 culverts at the Falkenburg Road crossing of Brandy Lake were running at capacity. The waterfall, that is usually a trickle, could be heard from 2 km away. The wetlands were flooded. There was only about 3ft of space left under the bridge on Hwy 118. The beaver dam and beaver baffler were completely submerged; you would have had a hard time saying exactly where the beaver dam was located! The water was then pressed through the rock cut just before it reaches Lake Muskoka.
Between April 21 and May, the Brandy Lake water levels have gone down 36”, but additional spring rains are going to mean more ups and downs in the very “fluid” situation!
The Brandy Lake ice was out completely April 27, compared to last year May 1, which is a bit later than the average mid-April date. I believe Brandy Lake did not reach the flood levels of 2013, and so we are lucky, that our watershed is not connected to the Muskoka River.
On April 30, Transport Canada issued an interim order prohibiting navigation on Lake Muskoka, the North and South Muskoka Rivers and the Moon River. They also warn of large debris floating around and suggest to use idle speed for the special permit boaters. The Transport Canada interim order has now been lifted.
We ask you also to be very vigilant about debris floating around on Brandy Lake and PLEASE if you have to be boating, leave NO WAKE, as our shorelines are still very vulnerable. The public dock is not yet installed by the town, which means also that they have not inspected the boat ramp for any wash-outs.
For that reason we have not been able to install our buoys yet, so please be very careful when you are out on the water.
Daniela von Bredow
BLA President, May 12, 2019