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Your Link to Muskoka's Water!


Geology & Ecology  

The entire Muskoka River Watershed is situated on the Canadian Shield, which dates from the middle to late Precambrian Age. Soils are generally sandy and shallow in depth atop the underlying bedrock. The watershed is mainly forested, with mixed hardwood (i.e. maple, birch and oak) and coniferous (i.e. White and Red pine, spruce, tamarack and hemlock) species.

Muskoka is an area of transition from the northern boreal forest to the mixed forests in the south.

The Muskoka River Watershed contains predominantly cool and coldwater fish species. In the upper part of the watershed, several lakes and streams are considered coldwater, and support species such as Lake trout and Brook trout.



The Muskoka River Watershed is located on the Canadian Shield. The shield is characterized by very thin soil with rocky outcroppings. The thin, nutrient poor soils and surrounding environment dictates the vegetation that can grow and limits the amount of nutrients that flow to waterbodies from the watershed.

The North (Algonquin dome in Huntsville and Lake of Bays) contains mainly conifers:

  • White pine
  • Black spruce
  • White spruce
  • Jack pine
  • Balsam fir

The South (the barrens in Gravenhurst, Muskoka Lakes and Georgian Bay) contains mainly hardwoods:

  • White Pine
  • Sugar maple
  • Yellow birch
  • Red oak
  • Beech

Vegetation plays a large part in determining soil characteristics. In conifer dominated forests the soil is likely to be acidic and in hardwood forests soils are more likely to be non-acidic. Muskoka contains both of these vegetation communities.


Forest Type

In Ontario, there are four main regions of forest types. They are the Hudson Bay Lowlands, Boreal Forest, Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forest, and Deciduous Forest. Muskoka is located in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forest region.

This region is a transitional zone between deciduous forests of the south and coniferous boreal forests of the north.

 In this region, coniferous trees include:

  • White pine
  • Red pine
  • Eastern hemlock
  • White cedar

Deciduous broad-leaved species include:

  • Yellow birch
  • Sugar maple
  • Red maple
  • Basswood
  • Red oak

Some species that are more common in the boreal forest also exist in Muskoka, such as:

  • White spruce
  • Black spruce
  • Jack pine
  • Aspen
  • White birch


Forest Health

Organizations such as the Ontario Woodlot Association have developed many resources to assist landowners who wish to explore management options for their forests, including:



Wetlands are a crucial part of a watershed. The primary function of wetlands include:

  • Control and storage of surface water and the recharge and discharge of groundwater
  • Maintain and improve water quality
  • Aid in flood control
  • Protect shorelines from erosion
  • Trap sediments which would otherwise fill watercourses
  • Provide wildlife habitat
  • Provide recreational opportunities


Fish and Wildlife 

Muskoka features:

  • Over 250 species of birds
  • Almost 50 kinds of mammals
  • 25 types of reptiles and amphibians
  • Dozens of species of fish

They all play a vital role in the ecology of the Muskoka River Watershed. Some of the common wildlife species you might spot in Muskoka include:


Wildlife within the Muskoka River Watershed 

The life cycle of many Muskoka wildlife species is directly related to the river (including its tributaries and lakes) and the land-water shoreline interface (to provide habitat and food sources).

An example of this complex linkage would be the wetland areas found along the shorelines of rivers and lakes. Some of the animals dependent on these wetlands include:

  • Waterfowl for their nesting and staging areas.
  • Furbearers and mammals for habitat, protection, and feeding areas.
  • Reptiles and amphibians depend on wetlands for all or parts of their life.
  • Osprey, eagles and herons benefit from the shallow water feeding opportunities.


Fish within the Muskoka River Watershed 

In the Muskoka River Watershed you are most likely to find cool and coldwater fish species.

In the cold water lakes and streams in the upper part of the watershed you may find:

The large lakes in the watershed are fairly deep (50+ m) and cold, and are sustainable for communities of:

Much of the lower part of the watershed (with the exclusion of the large lakes) is considered coolwater habitat, sustaining communities of:


Lake Trout Lakes in Muskoka 

Muskoka has many excellent deep coldwater lakes that sustain natural Lake trout populations. Many lakes also benefit from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) stocking program. The following lakes in Muskoka are managed as Lake trout lakes by the MNR:

Lake Area Municipality Lake Area Municipality
  Bella Lake of Bays   Lake of Bays Lake of Bays
  Bigwind Bracebridge   Mary Huntsville
  Blue Chalk Lake of Bays   Muskoka Muskoka Lakes
  Bonnie Bracebridge   Oxbow Lake of Bays
  Buck Lake of Bays   Peninsula Lake of Bays
  Camp Lake of Bays   Pine Bracebridge
  Cardwell (Long) Muskoka Lakes   Rebecca Lake of Bays
  Clear Bracebridge   Red Chalk Lake of Bays
  Clearwater Gravenhurst   Rosseau Muskoka Lakes
  Dotty Lake of Bays   Seventeen Mile Lake of Bays
  Eighteen Mile Lake of Bays   Shoe Lake of Bays
  Fairy Huntsville   Skeleton Muskoka Lakes
  Fifteen Mile Lake of Bays   Solitaire Lake of Bays
  Harp Huntsville   South Tasso Lake of Bays
  Jerry Lake of Bays   Vernon Huntsville
  Joseph Muskoka Lakes   Young Muskoka Lakes