Lake Description

Submitted by lwrawebmaster on Sun, 12/15/2019 - 14:18

A History of Lake Waseosa and Its Surrounding Area: Recollections of long time local residents

            The first people to arrive in the Huntsville area since the First Nations people were fur trappers. Fur-bearing animals were abundant along the waterways and lakes. In 1858, a party of men was dispatched from Lake Muskoka to map all the waterways that fed into the area.  They mapped as far as what is now known as Lake Vernon.


            The Free Grant Land Act was passed in 1868, drawing settlers who received one hundred acres of land and the option to purchase an additional one hundred acres for the sum of fifty cents an acre. During the period beginning in 1870, logging and lumbering were the most attractive activities.  Sawmills were erected adjacent to waterways and lakes.  During this time the first bridge across the Muskoka River was built in Huntsville.  The river was very shallow as the locks between Fairy and Mary Lakes were not constructed until 1877.  This raised the level upstream ten to twelve feet.


            In 1885 a decision was made to extend the railway from Gravenhurst to Huntsville. Early settlers traveling north of Huntsville followed the Old North Road to Melissa, which had a general store and post office.  Mail was obtained from the train as it passed by means of a collection arm.  A school on old Schoolhouse Road was also part of Melissa.


            The area around Lake Waseosa was logged around the turn of the century for white pine that was used for construction materials, and for hemlock bark for the Huntsville Tannery. There were few farms established around Lake Waseosa, as the land was gravel filled and steep at the shoreline.  One farm was owned by the Solave family, and was located on what is now Camp Huronda.  The farm was subsequently purchased by the Coventry sisters, who operated a girl's camp under the name of Camp Waseosa.  Later the property was purchased by the Ontario Diabetes Association, which presently operates Camp Huronda, a camp for boys and girls.  


            One of the early families on Lake Waseosa was the Norton family.  During the free land grant of 1868, brothers George and Nathan Norton obtained abutting 100-acre parcels between the 2nd and 3rd concessions of Chaffey Township.  This is now the area at the intersection of Highway 60 and Earl's Road. It is reported that in 1926, George Norton's son Ernie traded two pigs for 200 acres on the north end of Lake Waseosa. During the 1930's, 40's and 50's, Ernie operated "Waseosa Beach Resort," which had seven housekeeping cottages around the north end of the lake. Since properties adjacent to the lake were not valuable for farming, this is how development on Lake Waseosa began. A sawmill previously operated where Bill Norton's home is located now, close to the road leading to nearby Ripple and Palette Lakes.


            In 1920, a number of lakes in Muskoka had more than one name.  Several lakes were called Long Lake, including Lake Waseosa.  Ernie Norton petitioned the Ministry of Natural Resources in the late 1920's to see if another name was on record for the lake.  He was informed that the lake was also called Wasoo, or Waseosa, an Indian translation of "Lake of Shining Waters". From that time forward the lake was referred to as Waseosa.  Ripple Lake was previously known as Deep Lake, Palette Lake as Round Lake and Clark Lake as Hopkins Lake.


            The 1940's and 50's brought improvements to roads creating interest for those wishing to locate cottages on the lakes.  Waterfront lots, at a minimum of one hundred feet or greater were established on Waseosa.  At the present time, there are one hundred and thirty-two subdivided lots bordering Lake Waseosa, of which twelve are vacant.


The Lake Waseosa Ratepayers' Association was incorporated in 1964.  Over the years, the adjacent lakes, Jessop, Palette and Ripple, have joined the Association. Since its inception, the Association has provided social activities as well as representation for lake issues at local and district levels.

The Character of Lake Waseosa

Lake Waseosa is a small lake (approximately 157 hectares) which is not very deep (an average of about 20 feet), and which has relatively little flow of water.  There is one small stream that flows into another lake (Ripple Lake).  There are two swampy areas from which a very small amount of water flows to Lake Waseosa from two other lakes (Jessop and Clark).  There are also a number of springs that feed the lake.  Ripple, Palette, Jessop and Clark Lakes are considerably smaller. 


            Lake Waseosa has been a closed lake for almost 30 years.  The major reason that it was originally closed to further development is that its phosphorus level puts it in the "middle" category of lakes that are vulnerable, but are not yet at a critical stage.  However, its "closed" status has been instrumental in creating a unique character for the lake which has come to be known by residents who have a right to believe will be protected from further unanticipated development.


            As far as can be determined, most of the current residents of Lake Waseosa have purchased their properties since the lake was deemed closed to further development.  One of the attractive aspects of the four lakes covered by this lake plan is that they are small.  This fact - and, for Lake Waseosa, its "closed" status - are the reasons that many owners purchased their properties, having an assurance that the lake they viewed at the time of purchase would be there in the future.  Lakes Waseosa, Ripple, Palette, and Jessop now attract those who are moving from larger lakes to the smaller lakes because they enjoy the character of the smaller (and closed) lakes.


            The homes on the lake vary considerably, from seasonal to year-round, from vacation homes to permanent residences.  The fact that a number of owners have chosen to retire at their cottages on these lakes is a testament to the quiet nature of the lakes, which they have come to expect will continue.  It is safe to assume that the original modeling, which designated Lake Waseosa as "closed" to further development, is almost certainly out-of-date due to the increased use of the lake year round by an increasingly large number of people.  Similar increased use of the lake has occurred on the other lakes. This adds to the stress on the lakes, which is one example of an evolutionary change that is accepted by the current owners.  The changing and increased use of existing dwellings (as permanent residences) contributes to the economic health of the Town of Huntsville.


            The community at Lake Waseosa and the other three lakes is protective of its quiet, peaceful setting.  There are no formal restrictions on the types of boating that can take place on the lake.  However, because they are small lakes and had no obvious "destinations", they have not attracted large fast boats.  Similarly, personal watercraft only appear occasionally on the lake, in part because of the nature of community at Lake Waseosa and the social pressure (expressed informally from time to time at Annual meetings of the Lake Association) to limit their use.  On summer weekends, however, there is a fair amount of boat traffic. (EG., for water-skiing).


            There is a children's camp (Camp Huronda), which serves diabetic children.  It is an important - and growing - part of the community at Lake Waseosa.  It is the only camp in Ontario dedicated solely to the needs of diabetic children. Its future is obviously dependent on the health of the lake on which it is situated. The children at the camp are heavily involved in swimming, canoeing, and sailing.  They do not use motorboats and do not water ski. 


            There are no commercial facilities on the lake and because it is a small lake in relation to other larger lakes in the vicinity it does not attract members of the public to use it for "day" recreation purposes.


            If there were one word that could be used to describe Lakes Waseosa, Ripple, Palette, and Jessop lakes, it would be "stability".  Changes do occur.  Houses are built on existing lots.  People build new docks, or change their lake frontages from time to time.  But for close to 30 years, Lake Waseosa residents, in particular, have lived with an expectation that there would be no major changes in the manner in which their community around the lake would evolve.  Evolutionary changes are expected; the nature of the use of the lake has changed, homes change, lake use within the limits of a small lake changes.


            It is well known by most residents that there a number of legal housing lots that have not yet been built upon, and their inevitable development will increase the traffic use on the lake.  In addition, smaller homes are expanded or torn down and larger homes take their place.  What would become a dramatic change in the character of the lake, however, would be the expectation that Lake Waseosa or the other lakes were "open for development".  There are, however, a number of large properties on Lake Waseosa, the development of which would unalterably change the nature of the lake (and, quite likely, the quality of the lake water) and the community. The present status of Lake Waseosa as a "closed" over-threshold lake has served Lake Waseosa, its residents, and Huntsville for well over 30 years.  Any change in this status would set in place forces that inevitably would change the character of Lake Waseosa in ways not foreseen or expected by anyone for almost three decades.



Maps, Reports and Data


            Lake Waseosa is identified as a small inland cold-water lake located approximately three miles west of Highway 11 within the boundaries, and under the jurisdiction of, the Town of Huntsville in the District of Muskoka.  It is approximately 7 miles north of the business district of the Town and is in the Ward of Chaffey, a former municipal township in the District of Muskoka and presently a Ward of the Town. 


Lake Waseosa is the largest of the five lakes[1] in its immediate area and mapped in greater detail in Appendix A.


Maps of Lakes

Lake Waseosa                      -             Maps A1, A2 and A3

Ripple Lake                -             Maps A4 and A5

Palette Lake                -             Maps A6 and A7

Jessop Lake                -             Maps A8 and A9


The four lakes referred to above, other than Lake Waseosa, are located in the same general area of Lake Waseosa and generally surround Lake Waseosa.  They are considerably smaller in size, however they have the same general characteristics as Lake Waseosa. Jessop (Jingo) Lake drains into Lake Waseosa by way of a small non-navigable stream through a marsh at its southern end. Clark Lake also drains into Lake Waseosa through a small non-navigable stream through a marsh at its western end.


            Lake Waseosa drains into Ripple Lake through a small non-navigable stream that is manually controlled by means of a dam.  Palette Lake drains into Ripple Lake through a small non-navigable stream which then flows into the Little East River and eventually on towards Arrowhead Lake.


More data is available from the Town and the District for Lake Waseosa than is available for the other lakes. Ripple and Palette Lakes are generally not covered by the District of Muskoka in connection with water quality, although some information is available through Secchi Disk Testing. This is periodically carried out by lake residents and submitted to the Ministry of the Environment Water Testing Program in Dorset, Ontario.


Ministry of Natural Resources Data of the Above Lakes

The older black-and-white maps, which were prepared in 1971 for fisheries management purposes, show only the following in detail:


    1. surface areas
    2. maximum depths
    3. mean depths
    4. perimeters
    5. the various depths from shorelines to the center of the lakes





Surface Area

Maximum Depth

Mean Depth

Wetland Area


1.567 km2

63'/19.2 m

21.4'/6.5 m



0.195 km2





0.162 km2





0.259 km2





0.27 km2

16.4'/ 5 m

9.8'/3 m


* Included here only because it is in the immediate watershed.


Land Use Descriptions


Natural sources and the natural environment affect water quality. But in addition, the number of people living in a lake's watershed and the number using the lake for personal and recreational purposes will also affect water quality and, more generally, the quality of life on the lakes. When seasonal dwellings are converted to permanent occupancies, lake use will increase which naturally puts the lakes at additional risk from, for example, phosphorus runoff from septic systems.


Since the current land use of Lake Waseosa and the lakes within the immediate area is, with one exception (a children's camp), residential in nature, this type of conversion from seasonal to permanent can have a direct stressful effect on the water quality of all the lakes because of their inter-connection.


The surrounding lands are primarily forested rural lands with many residential properties located on a number of town and private roads leading to the lakes above referred to.  A substantial amount of land located in the rural parts of the area and on Lake Waseosa is presently undeveloped due to the zoning by-laws of the Town of Huntsville although there have been more recent residential developments on the North and East Lake Waseosa Roads which lead primarily to Lake Waseosa and on the other roads which lead to the smaller lakes.


            There have also been a number of recent re-developments and upgrades by owners of properties from seasonal to increased seasonal and permanent year round full time use.  There are no municipal sewer and water services and, as a result, all residences are serviced by permanent septic tank and tile bed installations.  Water for residential purposes is obtained either directly from the lake or from dug or drilled wells.

Vacant Residential

            In addition to the developed lots, there are a number of undeveloped lots on each of the four lakes.  Currently, each of these can be developed without any special permission from the Town other than normal site plans and building permits.  Of course, as these are developed they will place additional stresses on the lakes.


  Country Inns and Small Inns

            None of the properties on these lakes is properly described as an inn. However, Camp Huronda, on Lake Waseosa, is placed in this category. The camp is home to hundreds of residents during the crucial summer months and is planning on increasing this number considerably over the next few years to ease their long waiting lists.

Property Code Descriptions, Reports and Data

            The following table is a summary of documentation received from the records of the Town of Huntsville and shows the various categories of the lands surrounding the lakes (e.g. vacant residential/recreational land on water, road allowances and the number of residential properties on water).





Vacant Residential Recreation Land on Water

Single Family Detached on Water

Country Inns and Small Inns



122 - 124*

1 (summer camp)
















2 (campgrounds)

* Official estimates vary. Some lots may have been merged.           

** Included here only because it is in the immediate watershed.

            Refer to Appendix page B2 for complete Property Code Descriptions.


[1] Although Clark Lake is not covered by this lake plan, we have included it in much of the discussion of the physical characteristics of the lakes because it flows into Lake Waseosa, and, therefore, has the potential of contributing to the vulnerability of that lake.

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