Campsite and Visitor Survey - 2001

The State of Outdoor Recreation in and around Lake Temagami

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(1) Crowding And Inter-Party Encounters

Resident youth camp directors expressed  unanimous concern over non- resident outfitters ( canoe groups) which routinely saturate canoe routes. Brad Sablosky a Director at Camp Langskib  observed;

      "Crowding is especially prevalent  along routes involving Maple Mountain,  the North Branch of the Lady Evelyn River and  Obabika Lake. Invariably,  trippers of resident camps  end up cleaning campsites and portages in the footsteps of outside groups which have little incentive to clean-up after themselves."

These concerns were shared by Bruce Allan, a senior guide for Temagami Clearwater Expeditions:

"Campsites were never intended to accommodate the large number of   campers  when youth camps attempt to cut costs by  amalgamating canoeists into large groups. Its not uncommon to encounter 25 campers loaded onto a single site. Permits designed to  limit group size should be made mandatory".

Photo: Overflowing privy on Diamond Lake, east section

Overflowing privy on Diamond Lake, east section.

Photo: Ian Huggett

The social science literature indicates that as use densities increase some recreationists become dissatisfied and alter their patterns of recreational activity to avoid crowding, ultimately moving to less densely used areas. In this manner, they are displaced by users more tolerant of higher densities (Studies in Outdoor Recreation, R.E. Manning, 1986 p. 58-60 ).  This is evident on Lake Temagami where  sport fisherman and family outboard campers have succeeded and displaced wilderness canoeists seeking privacy and solitude. This pattern of recreational "invasion and succession" has produced congestion on formally remote waterways with canoe groups forming queues in preparation to  run rapids.

A middle-aged couple from Toronto/Espanola expressed their frustration in being squeezed out of limited campsites between rapids by large organized youth groups traveling the North and South branches of the Lady Evelyn River.

"A councilor guiding a large group of kids tried to convince us a  better campsite existed around the next set of rapids. He simply wanted to seize the single campsite we intended to camp at."

Moreover, they complained their privacy was violated;

" After dark my husband and I were inside our tent preparing to sleep  when we heard someone moving around outside. A teenager  appeared  knocked against the tent walls  and begged for a cigarette light. We hadn't realized that another camping area was situated on the opposite side of our island campsite".

They suggest regulating and coordinating groups to avoid congestion and inter-party encounters.

(2) Houseboats

Although the exact number of houseboats is constantly increasing and is therefore unknown, at least 26 commercially  leased houseboats dominate Temagami's shores and lakes ( pers. comm. T. Gooderham)( see Photo# 15. Sandy Inlet). The vacationers attracted to the comfort, convenience and leisure marketing strategy of commercial houseboat companies do not seek the simplicity and  subtleties inherent in outdoor living and appreciation. The skyline reserve essentially acts as a backdrop for sedentary social activities.

The  presence of houseboats remains the major contention of all user-groups. Houseboat franchise operations such as 3-Buoys have been driven from less lenient communities along  watercourses such as eastern Ontario's Rideau Lakes System. Regardless, tolerance remains low for this  business sector which is compromising the enjoyment of the vast majority of lake users. It is anticipated that this industry will eventually be eliminated from Lake Temagami as public opposition grows.

Reports of  soiled diapers being thrown overboard, holding tanks being discharged into the lake or at campsites, loud music, and depreciative social gatherings are common.  Franchised operations such as 3-Buoys operate about seven houseboats which frequently travel in flotillas entering a bay such as Sandy Inlet (photo #16 Sandy Inlet) commandeering all available space and remaining for up to two weeks.

Cottage owners also complain of houseboats tying up out side their boat houses or cottages  where they frequently remain for several days or even weeks.( pers. comm. M. Shardelow). Outfitters have lost clients complaining that house boats symbolize the antithesis of wilderness ( pers. comm. B. Hodgins Director,  Camp Wanapitei). Following an exhausting day of paddling with a young cohort of paddlers,  counselors from Camp Wanapitei  were denied access to their destination campsite by a houseboat occupant who refused to dock elsewhere in  Kokoko Bay. This  is not an isolated incident ( see photo #17). Despite their ability to dock virtually anywhere along the shore, house boats were found monopolizing campsites and displacing legitimate campers ( photo# 18 ). One father traveling with his family by outboard acknowledged that his family might as well stay home rather than camp in the midst of a house boat.  Two PWC which formed an escort for three houseboats into Ferguson Bay spent the next few days constantly driving in circles to the annoyance of canoe campers ( pers. observ.).  Finally, the additional space allowed in a houseboat permits occupants to transport  destructive appliances such as ATVs and chainsaws.

During the hunting season the operators of a houseboat transporting an ATV commenced discharging a shot gun in Cross Bay ( pers. observ. 1996). Only  in Sharp Rock Inlet were house boats not  a problem since access was problematic (pers. comm. B. Sablosky, Camp Langskib). It would be unfair to label all house boat operators as irresponsible, however. During the fire ban five houseboats and their occupants were gathered around what appeared to be an open fire in Sandy Inlet. On closer examination by law enforcement official(s) the apparent fire was merely the glow produced by a citronella candle in a bucket  ( pers. comm. G. Vanleeuwen, MNR). Several occupants of small houseboats agreed favorably to donating their campsite to canoe trippers  should the situation arise. ( pers. observ.).

(3) Noise

Noise is classified as the planets most invasive polluter. Transport truck traffic off Hwy. 11  can easily be heard up to 10 km  from Temagami townsite down the Northeast Arm. Trains and commercial aircraft can be heard up to a distance of 20 km . As elsewhere in Canada, motorboat  sales and activity on Lake Temagami has increased exponentially. Boat traffic, attracted by services offered at Loon Lodge, the Mine Road Landing, Boatline Bay Marine and Bear Island,  has escalated over the past decade to intolerable levels for many cottagers. Despite  numerous marked buoys  and regulations requiring speed limits within 100m from shore to reduce wakes,   Lake Temagami's "hub" sound levels are comparable ( 80-90 dB) to any major urban expressway.

Again, canoeists are driven elsewhere leaving motorized activities to expand throughout the lake.  Boat trailers parked adjacent to the Temagami Access Road ( Mine Road)  on any single day exceed 300. It is  indicative of the number of outboards used by visitors. This figure doesn't include the number entering Lake Temagami from  Temagami Townsite at Hwy. 11, nor resident boaters docked at Boatline Bay. Motorboat traffic is heaviest between  7:00 AM and 2:30 PM   between the Temagami Road access point and Bear Island and into the Northeast Arm and north toward Ferguson Bay. Areas with limited through traffic and hence less noise are Sharp Rock Inlet, the Southwest Arm and Cross Bay.   Float plane traffic, especially repeated take offs and landings used for training purposes on Lake Temagami sparked several complaints. Finally, the use of generators is considered  a slightly lesser annoyance in the areas of Lake Temagami  (and a single case on Obabika Lake) where electricity is unavailable.

Cottagers owning Personal Water Craft were identified  at   island #803 Phillip's Bay, Island# 182 west of Bear Island, on Narrows Island #660,  Island #1058 (entrance to Kokoko Bay), Island #705 east of Cattle Island and elsewhere. Many vacationers rent PWC's in conjunction with a houseboat during their holidays.

During the study period amplified music was heard originating from 3-Buoy houseboats, the Canadian Adventure Camp- a children's outdoor amusement centre on island # 110; the heavily populated eastern peninsula of Temagami Island ( 234 & 203)  and the south shore of  Denedus Island # 300.

(4) Privy Boxes

Many visitors complained of the condition of campsites in Lady Evelyn Smooth Water Park noting the difficulty  of finding a clean site. Privy boxes were at over- capacity which required leveling - redistribution of fecal matter inside the box to permit continued use ( pers. comm.   Project DARE, South River). These complaints corresponded to survey results which revealed box privies  at over- capacity, with extreme levels of fecal matter distributed around campsites in the south end of Lady Evelyn Lake  Diamond, Wakimika, Obabika Lakes ( see photo # 19  Diamond Lake).

      The author followed up on  a complaint from C. Von Flotow a  Senior Guide at Camp Keewaydin, on the condition of site #  WA-5  (UTM 504224 Map 41/P1)  in Wakimika Lake:  Half the island  was contaminated with feminine sanitary products, toilet paper and human excrement. Non-biodegradable plastic feminine sanitary appliances are turning up everywhere at campsites. Since these products never break down, they accumulate over the years to present a serious littering and biological waste hazard. Although the majority of toilet paper distributed behind campsites is  buried, rodents dig it up exposing it to the surface. 

      A  family from southern Ontario abandoned their intention to camp here as a consequence.

Finally, the installation of privy boxes ( see photo# 20, Cross Lake) by using heavy equipment such as a" Bob Cat"  to excavate privy holes may be an appropriate construction practice in the front country, where impacts to the  campsite's naturalness is within acceptable limits to the visiting public. However, heavy equipment use in the interior as a substitute to manual excavation has damaged several sites to allow equipment through. This   further damages trees and reduces privacy, ( UTM 787882 Map 31/L13).

(5) Garbage

Garbage was found to be within acceptable limits by the author along most canoe routes with the exception of Kokoko,  Cross and Wasaksina Lakes. Inland Lakes detached from major canoe routes  and accessible by portage or ATV were found to be in the worst condition ( see photo # 21  Cross Lake). An investigation of camp sites on Kokoko Lake following a complaint from J. Lehrman, Trips Coordinator at Camp Keewaydin, uncovered large amounts of garbage and lawn furniture (See photo #22). Similarly campsites on Wasaksina were heavily littered with garbage. An abandoned shelter with decomposing insulation bats was discovered at one site ( UTM 840993 Map 31/L13).

Resident youth camps have organized themselves to clean up litter prior to vacating a site. Of special note is an incident recorded by a group of trippers from Camp Wabun.

On July 23, 2001 on Lady Evelyn Lake an outboard carrying a full garbage can of domestic food and fish wastes was observed leaving a campsite.  The boat operator drove to a second site (UTM 595445 Map 41/P8) where he dumped the container's contents before returning to his camp.

A municipal sized landfill site was  uncovered behind  a campsite opposite the boat line marina on the Northeast Arm (UTM 747028 41/I16). Apparently several other abandoned  dump sites exists throughout Lake Temagami ( H. Wilson).

(6) Permanent Camps/Squatters

Two permanent tent camps have been erected on Kokoko Lake ( UTM 732142, and UTM 427152 Map 41/P1) and a single permanent camp in Kokoko Bay (UTM 730055 Map 41/P1).   The impression was that these temporary structures had been in place beyond the 21 day duration permitted on crown land. The question remains to what extent  semi-permanent camps impact the environment and traveling public. Of greater concern are sites consistently used by resident youth camps on an  almost daily bases during July to mid-August for "Counselors in Training"  Campsites in Shiningwood Bay (UTM 752000 Map 41-1/16) and  Cross Bay (UTM 764973 31-L/13)  used for training purposes  showed higher levels of  soil compaction than most permanent squatter camps.

On Wasaksina Lake (UTM 848985 Map 31L13) a campsite has been monopolized  by a commercial tourism outfitter where a canvas kitchen tent is erected for his sport fishermen clients ( see: photo #23 ).

A group from Rochester New York complained of plastic cooking oil bottles anchored throughout  Wasaksina Lake to mark shoals. Evidence suggests the markers had been installed by the same commercial  fishing outfitter to prevent his clients from running aground. Youth groups completing the  canoe circuit  #4 through Wasaksina Lake  complained of limited sites, a situation exacerbated when designated campsites have been taken over by commercial interests.

(7) Lumber Waste

Abandoned lumber was discovered on several camp sites on Lake Temagami ( photo # 24).  Initially the author suspected the waste wood  had been dumped by cottage owners,  following dock or verandah restoration or repairs. According to one witness, during the 1980's MNR dumped dimensional lumber from old buildings onto campsites. The purpose was to provide campers with ample firewood( pers. comm. G. Burbidge). However, the long  2x4's and planks  required substantial work to saw up unless the camper had a chainsaw. More than one group including a  family camping by outboard, rejected several sites as a consequence of the unsightliness produced by the abandoned lumber. Camp sites south of Temagami Island were mostly effected.

(8) Cached Aluminum  Boats

Cached outboards are plentiful at the end of  portages. Even the most remote overgrown portages encountered during the study period had boats cached. Many appear to have been there for decades. This illustrates the reality that no inland lake separated from main waterbodies is immune to motor boats and fishing pressure. In some cases boats blocked access into the lake for canoe trippers, In most instances the cached boats were owned by  commercial outfitters including Lake Herridge Lodge, Papa Johns, Happy Isle, Garden Island Resort, Loon Lodge, and Ket-Chun-Eny. The following inventory helps illustrate the extent of the problem:

Kokoko Bay into Kokoko Lake- (11 boats)

Driftwood into Iceland Lake- (17 boats) (. Herridge Lodge, Papa Johns, Happy Isle)

Iceland into Herridge- (9 boats)

Iceland into Driftwood ( > 6 boats)

Lady Evelyn into Welsh Lake-(3 boats) (. Garden Island Resort)

Diamond into Lady Evelyn lake (3 boats)

Loon Bay into Spitzig Lake (5 boats)

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