Alan's Message, President Wilderness North

Celebrating 30 Years of Wilderness North  –          

A Precarious Partnership

At Wilderness North, we often get questions about water levels. Both the Ogoki and Albany watersheds are managed to some degree by upstream dams. These dam systems allow Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to manage water levels; of course, only to the extent that Mother Nature allows!

Did you know there are three main power grids in North America?

As one of the largest electrical power companies in North America, the hydroelectric resources managed by OPG play an important role in the reliability of electricity for both Southern Ontario and the US.

The Waboose and Summit dams, which you would have seen or heard about if you have visited our facilities at Mojikit Lake or The Ogoki Reservoir, diverts 4 billion cubic metres of water or 12% of the water flowing over Niagara Falls each year. This water generates electricity at many power generation facilities along the way. The water that has been diverted south would have other wise flowed east & north along the Ogoki River to Ogoki Lake and then eventually into the Albany River.

Timing of the spawn, for various species of fish, is one of the considerations when managing water flow and levels. During spawn, water flow rates would be kept lower in some areas of a system to ensure as many fish as possible migrate upstream to lay eggs.

So let’s examine the lakes on which we have facilities along Ogoki River, starting in the west at Whitewater. Whitewater Lake is naturally fed by many tributaries within the Ogoki watershed, with the main one being the Ogoki River; there are no dams upstream of Whitewater. We have seen the water level vary as much as 7 to 8 feet on Whitewater  Lake over the years. Normally, (if there is such a thing anymore) water levels will peak in early June and gradually go down over the year. There have been one or two years in which winter snow and spring rainfall has kept lake level averages high throughout the summer season. Other years we have started off low with peak water levels coming much later in June or early July, before retreating lower levels. Because it is a vast land area that provides runoff for Whitewater, when we get a few days of medium to heavy rain Whitewater’s lake level will rise for about two weeks afterward.

Downstream of Whitewater, our next facility is on the Ogoki Reservoir. Water from Whitewater naturally flows to The Reservoir through Whiteclay Lake. Because of the dams on the Reservoir, we often find the water levels rise for much longer time periods on this system, following precipitation. Unlike the “run of the river” water level changes on Whitewater Lake the power company may decide to hold off adjusting the flow south from The Reservoir (or north to the Albany for that matter) for other management reasons. Therefore the water level rises for a longer period and is sometimes held at these higher levels for extended periods, well into the normal dryer period of summer, for example.

Further east, at Ogoki Lake, we have found water levels are similar to those on Whitewater Lake. Usually the peak water level is experienced in the first couple of weeks of June and then gets progressively lower throughout the year. There is, of course, one big difference and that is the big holding tank called The Ogoki Reservoir. If there happens to be high water conditions in southern Ontario and The Reservoir level has risen to near high water marks, the power company may direct more water east & north (even though it would prefer not to) through Ogoki Lake. When this happens we have seen Ogoki Lake water levels rise by almost a foot every day.

As you can imagine, it is impossible to predict water levels at any time of the year. We usually see higher water levels first thing in the year, however, I can recall (only a few years ago) seeing rocks when we first opened our camps that were normally not visible until fall. We were beside ourselves with the fear of what global warming (or change) might do to our business that year. It turned out, only three weeks later, we were dealing with high water and we ended up having one of the wettest summers in recent history.

Like OPG, we manage our business only to the extent that Mother Nature allows. In a couple of weeks, Tyler will be addressing fishing tips and techniques for both low and high water conditions. He reminded me as he reviewed this column for distribution: Water levels impact the angler more than the fish. Good point Tyler.

Water levels are just one piece of the angling puzzle.  Although we can not manage these levels, we can ensure guests that we will keep them informed, to the best of our ability…and never put them in an unsafe situation.

As always, it’s great to hear from you!
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