Campsite and Visitor Survey - 2001

The State of Outdoor Recreation in and around Lake Temagami

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Photo: Defaced tree on a campsite on Boat Islands in Northeast Arm of Lake Temagami

Defaced tree on a campsite on Boat Islands in Northeast Arm of Lake Temagami.

Photo: Ian Huggett




The campsite survey transpired between July 7  and August 20, 2001.  A solo  15.5'  ABS Swift canoe was used to access backcountry campsites within Lake Temagami and surrounding lakes. Popular canoe routes such as the Diamond/Lady Evelyn Lake/ Obabika   and Wasaksina/Cross lake  circuits were also inspected for comparative purposes to determine if Parks Ontario ( in the former case) had adequately maintained sites inside provincial park boundaries.  

Biophysical Indicators And Predisposing Factors

Certain physical characteristics predispose a campsite to anthropogenic ( human induced) disturbance. They include shorelines dominated by granite bedrock, thin soils  and a predominant ground cover of  reindeer moss ( Cladina rangiferina), blueberry ( Vaccinium angustifolium, V. corymbosum), and bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) . Campsites with a combination of thin soils over sloping bedrock exposed to prevailing  winds ( or large expanses of open water), near heavily used travel corridors, exhibited the most erosion.

Docking attributes such as flat rocks were also positively  correlated with heavy user impacts.

Campsites situated on small islands where fuel wood is limited and human activity centralized are  also impact sensitive ( see photo# 1 Wasaksina Lake). Fire-pits focus activity in a central area which  reduce trampling elsewhere. However, campers construct new  fire pits according to wind direction or to permit better shelter from rain. It is not unusual to encounter 4-6 stone fire pits per campsite. Consequently, a large percentage of the camping area is hardened, rendered impermeable and exacerbates sheet erosion ( see photo# 2 Wasaksina Lake). Not only does this produce barren camping areas, and reduce water quality, but trees are more readily uprooted by high winds or die from soil compaction.

During the spring and autumn overturn bottom sediments and nutrients are redistributed throughout the epilimnim and  hypolimnium( water depths)  reducing water clarity and quality. Nutrients adhere to soil particles, feed algae and encourage eutrophication (  causing a decrease in dissolved oxygen). Despite the apparent water clarity during summer, the profundal zone ( lake bottom) of Lake Temagami  was covered in a 2-4 cm layer of slippery algae ( pers. observ.). This could suggest an elevated level of nutrient influx probably exacerbated by shoreline erosion ( see photo # 3 South Arm). The wake of motor boats, campsite erosion and cottages with leaking septic tanks  would all contribute to these conditions. Several make-shift privies were found within four metres or less of the water's edge ( sites # UTM 721988 south of Temagami Island, UTM 735905 Outlet Bay, UTM 750994 Denedus ls.). These would be expected to elevate localized fecal coliform  levels.

Aspects of water quality  remaining to be tested are:  oil and gas from the lake's increasing motor boat activity which introduces petroleum based residues into the lakes. Lead sinkers used by sport fishermen, the largest single user group in Temagami, known to transmit this toxic heavy metal up the food chain including water birds. (In northern Ontario a recent autopsy of a  Common Loon uncovered  seven lead sinkers in its gut). Finally, a pervasive and little documented form of water contamination linked to mine tailings, drains into the northeast arm from Tetapaga Lake west of Temagami's town site.


The following three point scale ( n-3) was used to assess each of the eight criteria at  the 348 campsites.( soil loss, vegetation removal, root damage, vandalized trees, garbage accumulation, feces,  furniture and privy condition).  A description of the measures is provided below:

Soil Horizon

(n)- Marginal soil loss. Herbaceous and vascular plants may/may not be present but less than 10-20% of the mineral soil and duff layer is missing.

(1)- The main camping area ( usually dominated by the fire- pit) demonstrates > 30% soil loss. This is often  experienced in recently cleared sites where the dominant ground flora ( blueberry, reindeer moss, bracken fern) is beginning to wear away to expose loose soil ( A-Horizon).

(2)- Half (50%) of the campsites central area has experienced soil loss and exhibits the beginning signs of soil compaction.

(3)- 100% of the campsites central area has experienced irreversible soil loss often exceeding a  depth of 15cm on granite slopes, or rendered impermeable from compaction, exposing underlying bedrock in many instances ( see photo # 4).  Ground vegetation is usually absent except between rock fissures.

Vegetation Loss

(n) - No loss of ground vegetation

(1) - No more than 30% of ground vegetation removed.

(2) - Half (50%) of the campsites central area is devoid of ground vegetation.

(3) - The site has little or no surface vegetation remaining, leaving exposed soil, bare rock or compacted dirt.

Root Damage

(n)- Root exposure of dominant shade trees is marginal or non-existent.

(1) - Roots of many dominant shade trees are exposed above ground.

(2)- Exposed roots  frequently show signs where root bark is warn away

(3)- One or several of these conditions are present: i) several inches of soil loss have dramatically exposed the root system of dominant trees ( see photo #5 Lake Obabika ). ii) Root bark is absent. iii) Soil has been undermined both above and below the roots, trees often show signs of tip-die back from soil compaction causing roots to suffocate,( partial or complete death of effected trees is expected useless remedial measures are applied).

Vandalized Tress

(n) - Lesions on campsite trees are limited to simple blaze marks.

(1) - A single dominant/mature shade tree has experienced a lesion with an area exceeding 25 x10cm.

(2) - Between two-five trees show signs  of vandalism, such as girdled birch or axe slashed in the bark exceeding 25 x 10cm in area ( see photo # 6 NE Arm).

(3) - The majority of campsite trees have been damaged by ax marks, girdling and the removal of large portions of bark exposing the sap wood. (The long term survival of trees ranked 3 are severely compromised by being exposed to disease, carpenter ants, bark beetle infestation , fungus  and heart root) ( see photo # 7 Kokoko Bay).

Garbage & Litter

(n) - No surface ground litter found on site.

(1)- Marginal pieces of litter left in fire pit or discovered outside the immediate campsite ( see photo # 8).

(2)- Garbage evident both inside the fire pit and around the site.

(3)- Garbage consists of solid food wastes including items such as  abandoned plastic or metal appliances, plastic cups and plates, beer cans, broken bottles or the existence of a solid waste dump on site.

Fecal Matter

(n)- No evidence of human fecal matter in or around the campsite.

(1)- Evidence of one or two occurrences of exposed human excreta.

(2)- Evidence of three-five, or more occurrences of human excreta usually marked with abundant  toilet paper ( see photo # 9).

(3)- The surrounding area has been subjected to severe  hygienic abuse. Sanitary waste products frequently consist of non-biodegradable female sanitary items. Fecal matter can also consist of dog excrement. Human health is at risk from bacterial or viral contamination following contact with human waste, blood products, and infant diapers.


(n)- No evidence of human-made appliances such as tables and chairs. (Single logs and stumps used for sitting were not classified as appliances).

(1)- A single table or chair found on site.

(2)- Two items of furniture found on site.

(3)- Three or more tables, chairs including introduced appliances such as plywood filleting tables, nylon lawn chairs, over- turned plastic buckets ( see photo 22 Kokoko Lake).

Privy Boxes or Outhouses

Privies where classified as either absent or "n" (none), "ms" ( makeshift), or present ("yes") and ranked according to the level of their contents:

(1)- Excrement  is below ground level.

(2)- Excrement is at or exceeds ground level.

(3)- Excrement is at  or above capacity. Privy requires maintenance immediately( photo # 10 Diamond Lake).

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