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Photo: Inch-thick off Garden Island, Lake Temagami, December, 2006

                                                                                                                                                                GLEN TOOGOOD

Inch-thick off Garden Island, Lake Temagami, looking north toward Rabbitnose Island in the background. Glen Toogood, a resident of Garden Island, says the ice was forming this morning when he got up. 


DECEMBER 29, 2006


With the temperature dropping to minus 23 C last night, freeze-up accelerated through the night and during the day today. Glen Toogood, Ottertooth's official freeze-up observer, called freeze-up this afternoon.  More ice actually formed than can be seen from the satellite. Clear ice less than an inch thick and lacking snow, does not normally show up.

Low temperatures in the forecast should continue to thicken the ice over the next few days to the four inches necessary for travel.

This is a late freeze-up and may be a record. There were record-setting open areas over New Year's Day during the winter of 2003-04, but most areas were frozen, and there was ice travel on the lakes. Our official observation is taken on Garden Island and it was closed by ice that year.

 SATELLITE PHOTO:  December 29 


  Photo: snow in Temagami, December 28, 2006

DECEMBER 28, 2006                                                                    PHOTO: JUNE RUMNEY

Snow today

9 a.m. Snow at the Rumney's on O'Connor Drive in Temagami.


DECEMBER 28, 2006

Drop in temperature renews freeze-up

With temperatures staying below freezing since Monday evening, freeze-up has renewed. And there is snow on the ground.

 SATELLITE PHOTO:  December 28

Photo: paddling canoe on Christmas Day on Kukagami Lake, 2006

DECEMBER 26, 2006

Paddling on Christmas Day

A bit nippy, but lake conditions were perfect for a holiday paddle by Mike McIntosh on Kukagami Lake.









DECEMBER 21, 2006                                                                    

Parks and rec plan released

The preliminary parks and recreation plan (TIP) for Temagami has just been released and is available for downloading at the TIP website.

WEBSITE:  Temagami Integrated Plan (TIP)

DECEMBER 20, 2006                                                                    

Freeze-up setback

There has been a freeze-up reversal in the midst of this warm spell, and it is reminiscent of 2003-04.

On December 9, the temperature officially tipped above freezing where it has been since lingering. Today, it is forecast to stay a degree or two below freezing.

 SATELLITE PHOTO:  December 19

                               Freeze-up 2003-04  

DECEMBER 18, 2006                                                                    

Youth camps threatened by MNR rule

There are nine youth camps on Lake Temagami, one of the highest concentrations on any lake in Ontario, a province regarded as a hub of world youth camping. Keewaydin Camp on the North Arm of Lake Temagami is the oldest camp in Canada and the oldest canoe-trip operator in the world.

Most of Temagami's camps are specialized canoe-trip operations focussing on education and character-building. They paddle in 12-person groups: 10 campers and two qualified leaders. That's the way it has been for over a century because that ratio is perfect for safety and education, and financial viability.

Photo: A Keewaydin Camp canoe trip, c. 1910.

A Keewaydin Camp canoe trip, c. 1910.                      KEEWAYDIN ARCHIVES

Now, the foundation of these operations is threatened by a rule the Ministry of Natural Resources intends to impose on all overnight campers in the backcountry parks, and probably all of Temagami: the nine-person rule.

No group larger than nine people will be permitted to camp overnight on any campsite in a


backcountry park. The predominant users are canoeists, and the predominant canoeists are the youth camps. Through the Temagami Integrated Plan (TIP) the Crown land recreation plan currently in the making, the rule may also apply in conservation reserves and on Crown land.

Viability threatened

"It threatens the viability of our camp," says Neil McDonald of Camp Temagami, on the Southwest Arm of Lake Temagami.

Under the nine-person rule the camps will have to eliminate three campers per trip. Accreditation rules require two qualified staff for all groups of seven to 10 campers, so a reduction of 10 campers to 7 will require the same staff, but with a loss of fees from three campers.

Everything from camp accreditation to insurance is dependent on the staff-to-camper ratio. "We can't budge on qualified leaders. We'll need more staff and staff have to be paid. We'll be pricing ourselves out of business," says Bruce Hodgins of Camp Wanapitei.

Why nine?

Temagami canoeists travel in pairs, not triplets. Where did MNR get a nine-person limit? The alien number was given its first breath of life in Algonquin Park by park planner Bill Calvert in 1972. There canoe trips traditionally travel with three in a canoe each canoe has a mojo, or middle paddler and there was an attempt to reduce stress on campsites by keeping the visitor number under 12 (a by-the-seat-of-the- pants choice). Nine was the next step down.

A significant portion of the damage seen on Algonquin's campsites came from firewood scavenging, without axe or saw, for deadwood on the ground or low hanging limbs. In the early 1970s this was turning campgrounds into deserts. It is the complete opposite of Temagami, where the axe and saw have always been king among the skill-intensive youth camps. Freed from scavenging small wood, they take down standing deadwood along their route and bring it to campsites.

The rule has become further dated as many canoeists are travelling with gas stoves.

In 1975, the nine-person limit was included in the park plan. In the late 1980s, a bureaucrat in Toronto, knowing little about the rest of the province and seeing a quick-and-dirty solution for growing campsite use seen in some parks, arranged for the nine-person rule to be extended across all Ontario parks. Until now, Temagami's parks were non-operating, so no rule was enforced.

In Temagami, where logging roads are popping up all over and illegal access follows, chainsaw-wielding day users are common. As Bruce Ingersoll of Keewaydin points out, they are the major enemy of campsites. They will cut anything within feet of a fireplace, living or dead, but the nine-person rule does not apply to them as they do not stay overnight. Slapping the camps misses the problem. 

Personalized law

MNR staff told the youth camps in a meeting this summer that there won't be an exception for them because the rule is law. In fact, rather than being embedded in legislation, the rule is a regulation set by Cabinet. A glance at park regulations is enlightening. There are oodles of regulations with all kinds of special exemptions, exceptions and modifications. So many that exception is the norm.

One regulation actually changes the nine-person rule for Frontenac Provincial Park, setting it at five, except for campers that are a family. Motorboats are banned by regulation from Algonquin Park, but youth camps get a whole section exempting them. One solitary operator, Bartlett Lodge, gets its own modification. The park regulations go on and on with all variation of sizes and colours. There are so many that they make uniqueness into fairness.

Over the last century, as the Temagami First Nation abandoned life on the land, and the fire rangers abandoned Temagami, the camps remained the surviving force keeping the portages open and the campsites clean (though until the last few decades there was little outside traffic trashing the sites). Now Temagami is a canoeing Mecca in no small measure from the century-long effort put in by the camps. No good deed goes unpunished.

LIST: Lake Temagami camps

MAP:  Youth camps then and now

DECEMBER 7, 2006                                                                    

Lady Evelyn closed and Lake Temagami starts freeze-up

A big progression can be seen in the satellite photo from Monday to Tuesday.


DECEMBER 5, 2006                                                                    

Smaller lakes frozen

Freeze-up progress can be seen in this satellite photo from yesterday.


DECEMBER 4, 2006                                                                    

Potential parkland identified for Sturgeon River

The Ministry of Natural Resources is proposing land to replace two areas to be removed from the Sturgeon River Waterway Park.

As reported last month on Ottertooth, the park, along with a planned addition, will shrink by 737 hectares over conflicts with mining claims.

The replacement will be added to this park, not to other Temagami parks, as was intended by Ontario's Living Legacy Strategy in 1999, according to Dave Payne of MNR's North Bay office.

The proposal will be taken to the timber license holder in the area and neighbouring First Nations for discussion.

Creating protected areas is fraught with potential conflicts with many interests, any of which can scuttle plans. MNR has set strict criteria "to avoid further complications with logistics with this planning process," wrote Payne in a letter to Ottertooth.

The land must be:

1. Attached to the 2005 addition to the Sturgeon River Waterway Park (ie. the park area south of Lower Goose Falls);

2. Within the same local forestry license area North Bay Forest Sustainable Forestry License (SFL) see map;

3. Within the same First Nations traditional territory: border with Temagami and Wahnapitae; and

4. Free of mining lands, and blocked by Provincial Mining Recorder from new claim staking.

The land it is proposing, known as the 984-hectare Sturgeon River Sand Dunes Enhanced Management Area, fits the criteria. It lies just south of sand dunes protected in the 2005 addition. Only 737 hectares could be selected, if it is chosen.

  WEBSITE: Sturgeon River Sand Dunes EMA

 BACKGROUND:  Sturgeon River Park to shrink


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