Lake Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Ontario -

Also known as:  Muskoka Lake, Muskoka Lakes Region

Lake Muskoka, located in Ontario’s Muskoka Lakes Region, is one of Canada’s most famous lakes. Actually a chain of lakes, Muskoka joins Lake Joseph and Lake Rosseau, along with several smaller lakes, to make up what Canada calls “Cottage Country.” The chain of rocky-shored lakes contains many islands, bays, inlets and coves teeming with some of Canada’s best fishing. Just two hours north of Toronto, Lake Muskoka is where many dream of spending their vacation, their summer or their retirement. Hollywood has made note of Lake Muskoka — some of the rich and famous who have had summer homes there are Eddie and Alex Van Halen, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Martin Short, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. That doesn’t mean that the shores of Lake Muskoka are off limits for others; for many years, the middle class has maintained summer homes on this scenic series of lakes.

The name Muskoka is thought to derive from the name of a Chippewa chief, Mesqua Ukee. Certainly the Lake Muskoka area was a favored fishing and hunting ground at the time of the first European explorations. Trappers visited the area sporadically from the 1700s. In 1868, the passage of the Free Grants and Homestead Act brought some settlement to Muskoka. Settlers could receive free land if they agreed to clear the land, have at least 15 acres under cultivation, and build a 16 by 20-foot house. It was soon found that the heavy clay soil didn’t lend itself to farming, but logging activities discovered the region very quickly. Lack of reliable water transportation prevented full utilization of the forest logging reserves until the Ontario government opened the entire Muskoka lake system to navigation by installing locks in Port Carling and opened a cut between Lake Rosseau and Lake Joseph at Port Sanfield. By 1871, steamers had full access to the entire lakes region.

Logging quickly brought adventurous souls to Lake Muskoka who quickly capitalized on the demand for summer resorts. The first lake resort was opened in 1870 at the head of Lake Rosseau. When the railroad reached Gravenhurst in 1875, the area grew rapidly. By the turn of the century, resort visitors came to spend the entire summer along the rocky shores, including the wealthy Americans who inhabited Millionaires Row. As visitors began to build their own cottages, and with the advent of automobile transportation to the area, the large resort hotels gave way to cottages large and small. Still today, the area has far more residents in summer than in winter.

Fishing has always been a popular pastime at Lake Muskoka. Lake trout, rock bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, pickerel, northern pike, muskellunge and pan fish ( black crappie, pumpkinseed, bluegill and rock bass) mean there is a game fish to suit every angler’s tackle and tastes. Guides are available in the area to help the new visiting fisherman identify the best spots for his favored prey. Tournament fishing events occur with regularity and ice fishing takes center stage in winter.

All types of water sports are enjoyed at Lake Muskoka. Canoes and kayaks glide across bays and hug the shoreline for fantastic bird and wildlife watching. Power boating, water skiing, jet-skiing, tubing, sailing, windsurfing, pontooning and peddle-boating allow every visitor to enjoy the lake at just the right speed. A self-operated lock at Port Carling allows access from the Indian River to Lake Joseph and Lake Rosseau. There are sandy bays and sheltered swimming areas to enjoy and hidden picnic spots in abundance in isolated spots along the shore. Sailing clubs on the three largest lakes offer sailing lessons for children and adults and hold races and regattas throughout the summer. And, for those who wish to cruise the lakes under professional captains, 19th century cruise ships provide boat tours much like resorters enjoyed a century ago.

Although Lake Muskoka visitors years ago often had to arrive by canoe and go for groceries by rowboat, roads have been built to access nearly all areas of settled shoreline. However, those residing on the main islands — Acton, Bala Park, Browning, Eilean Gowan and Tonderson — still reach the main shore by boat. These roads and the lanes leading off them provide excellent spaces for hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and mountain biking. An extensive series of trails has been developed by the Province of Ontario for these same uses in a natural setting where nature lovers can view deer, squirrel, rabbits and the occasional moose or black bear. The longest multi-use trail system in the world, the Trans-Canada Trail, passes right through the heart of Muskoka with sections in Gravenhurst and Bracebridge. The entire Muskoka area contains over 40 trail systems with 1600 lakes stretching from the Georgian Bay on Lake Huron to Algonquin Provincial Park.

Several towns border Lake Muskoka and its adjoining lakes. Both Gravenhurst and Bracebridge make excellent home base locations for south Lake Muskoka, while Port Carling embraces the lock area and acts as gateway to Lake Joseph and Lake Rosseau. Bala commands the western Bala Bay of Lake Muskoka near the outlet of Moon River, where two city-owned dams control lake levels. These dams formerly generate hydro power, though all are eager to accommodate visitors and have museums and local attractions to acquaint the tourist with area history and local lore.

Come to “Cottage Country,” one of the most beautiful lake environments on the North American continent. All types of vacation rentals are available, from fishing resorts to bed-and-breakfast establishments, private cottages and luxurious lakeshore homes. The towns along the lake offer motels, condos and other lodgings. Real estate is available in this pristine wilderness setting, where moose come to the shore to drink and loons break the stillness of dusk. One visit is all it will take to convince you that Lake Muskoka is where you belong.

Things to do at Lake Muskoka

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Provincial Park
  • Museum

Fish species found at Lake Muskoka

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Lake Trout
  • Muskellunge
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pickerel
  • Pike
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Lake Muskoka Photo Gallery

Lake Muskoka Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Town of Bala

Surface Area: 22,091 acres

Shoreline Length: 177 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 739 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 736 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 742 feet

Average Depth: 51 feet

Maximum Depth: 220 feet

Water Volume: 1,124,459 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 158 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

Spread the word! Share our Lake Muskoka article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.