A year like no other…

An update from John McDowell, URLA President
Screen Shot 2019-09-02 at 10.40.53I hope that everyone is keeping healthy and well.  I’m sure that you are looking forward to the warm weather and enjoying the beauty of Upper Rideau Lake and region.  The ice has now been off the lake and spring has started!

This year, however, is so far like no other.  The coronavirus has disrupted the lives of all, and ended the lives of some, Canadians.  Our governments tell us this virus will continue to be dangerous and a personal challenge for some time to come.

Speaking personally, I find the worst of “social isolating” is the uncertainty – we don’t know how long this will last.  So, we tend to live almost day to day, and look forward the day when normalcy, perhaps a temporary “new normal” will return.

To some extent, this “uncertainty” affects certain decisions and operations of our lake association.  And yet, like every year, most things remain relatively certain and predictable.

Here are some tangible examples of activities that the Board is working on.

Boating on our lake. 
We are determining the best way of placing our shoal markers on our lake, as we do every year.  However, the municipality of Rideau Lakes has ordered public boat launches closed for now, and all Parks Canada facilities are temporarily closed.

Tree and seedling program
Many of you have ordered young trees (seedlings and saplings).  We are confirming delivery logistics with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority – stay tuned on when, where and how these can be picked up, later this spring.

Thanks to our volunteers. Volunteers will continue with our lake water testing, in ongoing support of watershed management and a healthy lake.

We will have an Annual General Meeting – it is scheduled for July – and we will let you know as soon as we can when it will occur and who our keynote speaker will be.  We are very much looking forward to this event – even more than usual – and seeing everyone of you!

I should also flag two important administrative items.  First of all, there will likely be a few openings for volunteers on our Board, for the year ahead.  The Board is a good and fulfilling place to volunteer.  While special skills are always valuable, two attributes that contribute to a successful Board are a willingness and availability to lead work in one’s specific area, and a passion for serving Upper Rideau Lake!

If you or a friend would like more information on volunteering for our Board, please send me an email.

The URLA also needs to receive membership renewal – this year, the household membership is $40, due by the end of June (and ideally remitted earlier).  Membership can be paid by online here.  If people have questions, please contact our membership coordinator Anne Carter

Please feel free to pass on information about our Association to neighbours, and new arrivals on our lake, to help us recruit new members.

Take care everyone, and best wishes for the spring!
President, Upper Rideau Lakes Association

URLA 2019 Tree and Shrub Programs

Naturalized lake shorelines trap runoff effectively,  acting as a buffer to absorb contaminants that keep lakes cleaner and also reduce algae and weed growth.

Additional vegetation reduces erosion and provides better overall habitat for may fish species.

Planting more trees and shrubs along your shoreline is among the easiest and most beneficial things you can do as a property owner to help protect the lake for future generations.

To encourage more planting along the lake, the Upper Rideau Lakes Association (URLA) with the support of the Rideau Lakes Environmental Foundation and Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, is pleased to announce a new program for property owners on Upper Rideau Lake.

The program will provide low-cost potted trees and shrubs, and bareroot seedlings for planting in May, 2020. The cost for URLA Members is $3 / tree or shrub ($12 for non-members). The bareroot seedlings are FREE for URLA members.

“We are grateful to the support of the Rideau Lakes Environmental Foundation and the help of the Rideau Valley Conversation Authority in helping to defray the cost of these trees and shrubs,” said John McDowell, URLA President. “Planting trees or shrubs near the lakeshore will make a huge difference to the quality of the lake for years and years to come.”

McDowell said this is the first year of the potted tree program, and he is excited about the reaction he has received to date. If there is sufficient demand, he said the URLA will consider continuing the program in subsequent years.

Two Gallon Potted Trees / Shrubs
These two-gallon potted trees and shrubs are ready to plant. The saplings are 45 cm to 1.5 meters depending on species.

Silver Maple, Sugar Maple, Bur Oak, White Birch, White Pine, Spruce, Larch / Tamarack

Serviceberry / Juneberry, Highbush Cranberry, Black Elderberry

Bareroot Seedling Program
Seedlings are only available in bundles of 10 and should be planted soon after delivery as they are perishable and require refrigeration. FREE to URLA Members.

Red Maple, Bur Oak, Red Oak, Silver Maple, White Birch, Eastern White Cedar, Eastern White Pine, Hard Sugar Maple

Pussy Willow, Sandbar Willow, Red Osler Dogwood, Highbush Cranberry, Nannyberry, Buttonbush

Contact URLA Lakeshore Director Steve Moretti.

Upper Rideau Lake Water Quality

Water Safety and Safe Water

By Dave Counter
URLA Director of Water Quality

The winter of 2019 left us with an abundance of water. High water levels come with strong currents and when you add some unpredictable wind it can be disastrous for boaters. This combination of high water and wind delayed the opening of some Rideau Waterway locks this spring. The Narrows lock  was closed to boaters several times due to high winds this summer. The Lockmaster makes the decision to close a lock by following strict protocols. The high water and wind stayed with us for most of the summer, which made it harder for our many volunteers to complete their tasks.


Our Water Sampling Program

The unusual wind patterns of the spring summer and fall made finding a calm sampling period challenging. Our volunteer water samplers only sample when lake conditions are safe.

Our Lake Partner Program volunteers include Jayne MacDonald and Tim Nash who take samples in McNally’s Bay, Brian and Diane Wilkinson who do Mulville’s Bay and Mason and Layla Cheikh, who have taken over for Colleen Holmes in Kanes Bay.

The Secchi disc shows water clarity

The results are sent in to the program and will be available to us after January 2020.

The water was quite clear for the entire season in McNally’s Bay this year. The Kanes Bay secchi disc readings showed an average of 6.0 meters over the season, also indicating very clear water. There was a report of some algae blooms near Kanes Bay but it didn’t seem to spread or cause a large problem. We were not able to get a reading in October on Kanes Bay because of inclement weather.

Sarah MacLeod-Neilson, the  Surface Water Quality Coordinator of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA), also does periodic water sampling throughout the spring, summer and fall. This data is sent to Jayne MacDonald for her analysis. Starting in 2020 the URLA will be providing a volunteer and a boat to assist the RVCA in their sampling of Upper Rideau Lake.

The Leeds, Grenville & Lanark Health Unit monitors recreational water quality at Foley Mountain Beach. Sampling season started on June 22 and ended September 3.  All sampling results for 2019 passed.


Our Hazard Buoys Program

Never drive your boat between 2 White Buoys on our lake!

 The White Hazard Buoys on our lake are owned by URLA and positioned and maintained by our volunteers. They are known as Private Buoys. They comply with all regulations, but are not seen on the Rideau Waterway Small-Craft Chart 1513 sheet 2 which includes Upper Rideau Lake. The hazards the URLA white buoys mark can be deduced by studying this chart.

Knowing where you are on the lake and on the chart is the only way to safely navigate. The Canadian Hydrographic Service Chart 1513 can be purchased at the Narrows Lockstation.  It includes 5 sheets that cover navigation from Smiths Falls to Kingston.

Every season I see  boats driving between our two private white  buoys at the Little Brothers shoal at the edge of Kanes Bay. The two green navigational buoys NW1 and NW3 by Second Island are maintained by Parks Canada and I have also spotted boats traveling between them.  If boaters are correctly following Chart 1513 they would know to avoid the Little Brothers area and to stay north of the two green buoys at Second Island.  This is the recommended route to and from Westport according to the chart, which is marked as a safe channel in red dashes.

The high water and wind made launching our 10 white hazard buoys before the opening of the Rideau Canal Locks (May 17) a challenge, first in locating them and then when attaching them to their anchors. Trying to locate a bunch of large rocks in a lake with my wife’s new boat was unnerving. Thanks to George Ingram’s GPS coordinates and a steady hand on the Garmin we found them and marked the anchor chains on Monday May 13. The lake was too rough to attach the buoy and weights to the anchor chain that day, so we put it off until a calmer time. We eventually got the buoys in position on May 17 at 10:00 AM just as the locks opened for the season. Not having the buoys marking the hazards on opening day could lead to potential harm to boats and crew.


George Ingram and Dennis Duncan load freshly cleaned and painted buoys onto
Dennis and Joan’s pontoon boat at their dock.

The crazy winds this summer were so strong they actually moved 3 buoys off their positions. Dennis Duncan reports each event to the Canadian Coast Guard ASAP so a “Notice to Shipping” can be sent out over VHF Marine radio to mariners. This information is also posted in the online Notice to Mariners website www.notmar.gc.ca.

adjustDavid McKinney and Trudy Counter recover a stray buoy in August.  It was back in position the next day.

Removal of the hazard buoys after the closing of the locks (the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving) presented similar hassles to the ones we had in the spring launch. The weather was fine Thanksgiving Day for pulling up the buoys, but they can’t come out until after Thanksgiving when the locks close. The lake was rough for the next few days. Many phone calls and messages were sent back and forth trying to decide when it was safe to remove them. On Thursday October 17 we finally pulled them out. It was still a bit rough and the wind picked up just as we lifted the last buoy.

When removing the Round Island buoys we noticed that the anchors were slightly off their mark and will have to be repositioned next spring. Once all the buoys are out, we clean them off and make repairs as required so they are ready for next spring’s launch.

URLA maintains 10 Hazard Buoys:

  • 6 in McNally’s Bay
  • 2 at Round Island
  • 2 over The Brothers shoal

Peter Newgard and sons-in-law Marc Robichaud and Paul Byrne maintain the buoys in McNally’s Bay. Dennis Duncan and Dave Counter maintain the others. When a buoy runs astray, any 2 of us can return it to  its anchor using GPS coordinates. This is only done when the lake permits safe working conditions.


Be safe when towing skiers, wakeboarders and tubes.

These activities should take place away from the main channels going to Westport, Newboro, or The Narrows. These routes can be congested and wake from boats and larger cruisers make it difficult to see a fallen tuber/skier. As well, the sudden U-turn of a ski boat can cause a cruiser to quickly change course. This combination of boats changing course and heavy wake leaves the skier in jeopardy.

Be safe out there when enjoying our lake!

14 people died in 13 accidents on Ontario waterways so far in 2019


If you have questions or comments contact:


Photo contest!


URLA Members:
Go through your photos of our lake in 2019 and submit your best to our contest.

Contest Rules:

  1. Photos must be from around our lake accompanied with a short description, the photographer’s name, and email address.
  2. Contest closes December 31/19. Winners will be contacted by email and prizes issued. Winning photos will be displayed at our 2020 AGM.
  3. Enter often. All photos will appear in our newsletters
  4. Send photos to: waterquality.urla@gmail.com


 Gift Certificate Prizes of:

1st $50 | 2nd $30 | 3rd $20

Busy summer… now full steam ahead!

Screen Shot 2019-09-02 at 10.40.53Message from the President

I hope that all of you have had a wonderful summer and fall, out “at the lake”.  I always find this a very busy – and poignant – period, as we store away our summer furniture, winterize equipment, and otherwise get ready for the coming frost!

It is a busy period as well for the URLA.

The canal navigation season ended shortly after Thanksgiving.  So, once again, our lake Association volunteers removed the 11 white shoal marker buoys, to store them until next spring.  Placing and maintaining the shoal markers (which can sometimes blow off in high winds, and then need to be replaced in their proper spots), all through volunteer efforts and personal boats, is one of the key contributions our Association makes to the safety of our lake.

We have also launched a new tree sapling program.  The URLA has for many years provided indigenous “bare root” seedlings – free of charge – to our members.  And over the years, the bare root program has resulted in many trees being planted on properties around the lake.

The new “sapling” program adds to the choices available to Members.  It is an excellent program   – two gallon potted saplings of indigenous trees and shrub species will be available for pick up in the spring, at a very competitive price of $3 each.  Orders must be placed by November 15th.  This is the first year of this “experiment”- so there is a real opportunity to order great trees now, to be picked up in the spring.

Additional information can be found at the following link.

We are also continuing to work with the Township of Rideau Lakes and other area lake associations to input into the new Township Official Plan.  Overall, we are advocating that EXISTING protections for the waterfront and lake environments be retained, and that, if at all possible, there be ADDITIONAL protections for waterfront vegetation in the development process.  Many of you will have already provided your input directly to the Township through its consultative processes.

The Township will issue a complete draft of the new Official Plan in mid November.  Please continue to stay in touch with our Board, and/or the Township itself, if you wish to share any concerns or comments.

The Association is also very pleased with the decision taken by the Township to “register site plan conditions on Title”.  This means that once a site plan is approved, it will be part of the title to the property.  Not only will this process be more transparent, it should result in more lasting protections for our lake water quality, particularly that arising from shoreline vegetation.  The efforts to persuade Council to modernize its development policies were the result of hard work by many committed people, not only on our lake, but throughout the watershed.  And, we should also recognize the support of our Ward Councillors and our Mayor.

Earlier this year, Mayor Hoogenboom and Council established a Committee of Council, called the “Rideau Lakes Lake Associations Committee”.  This group draws together volunteers from the various lakes across the Township, to share information, and  voice concerns directly to the Council.  The meetings are public, and the next meeting is November 14th.  This initiative has already proven to be very valuable – as it creates a network of lake associations that we can work with, and learn from, as well as direct access to Council.  So, I am grateful to the Township for its support in this regard, too.

As we look ahead to the URLA Board over the winter, I expect that we will be doing some homework on sound administration – planning ahead, renewing our contact with you, our Members, setting our budget for next year, etc.  We always appreciate receiving any comments that you have.

Finally, I would like to recognize the support of two people leaving our Board.

David McKinney resigned from our Board a few weeks ago.  Many of you will have seen David at our AGM.  David was much of the “magic” behind our modernized website, and our social media presence.  During his two plus years as a Board member, David McKinney – largely singlehandedly-  modernized the IT of our Association.

John Cottril only joined the Board last summer.  However, his wise presence, too, was immediately valuable, given his background as a retired senior planner with many years working for conservation authorities.  John and his wife, Colleen Walker are moving away from our lake.

We owe each of these people our thanks, and we wish them well for the future!

In closing, I hope that all of you have a fulfilling and safe winter season.  As I suspect you all are, I too, am already looking forward to the spring! Take care, and please contact us if you have questions or concerns.

John McDowell

Have your say onthe future ii for Foley Mountain

Oct. 10, 2019 – We’re updating Foley Mountain Conservation Area’s management plan, and we want your input on the future of Westport’s favourite outdoor oasis. The updated plan will guide the next 10 years of resource management, habitat enhancement, programming, infrastructure upgrades and other developments at Foley Mountain to best meet the needs and desires of visitors, donors, nearby businesses and other stakeholders. “We welcome public input, especially from our regular visitors and supporters who spend a lot of time in the park,” said Rebecca Whitman, site supervisor at Foley Mountain. “This is your chance to tell us what you love… 

Electors may be able to vote in their cottage riding.

An elector can only vote once. You may be able designate your cottage as your “ordinary residence” and vote in this riding.

In a federal election, even if you own property in more than one place, you may vote only once, in the riding of your “ordinary residence.” If you intend to designate your cottage riding as your ordinary residence for the purpose of voting in the federal election, FOCA recommends that you start the process early, to ensure everything goes smoothly when you go to vote.

FOCA asksFOCA asked Elections Canada to confirm how a voter can designate their cottage riding as the place where they intend to vote in the federal election. Click here to read the full response from Elections Canada, which involves designating your place of “ordinary residence.” Here’s an excerpt:

An elector can change their place of ordinary residence at the Voter Registration page of [Elections Canada’s] website, by contacting the local returning office during an election, with appropriate identification and proof of address. This can also be done at the polls, but it can take additional time. MORE

Conservation 2020: Fundraising campaign to protect local natural spaces

The Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation is excited to launch Conservation 2020: a major campaign to raise $125,000 toward keeping our natural areas in public hands forever.

Donors of large investments (between $10,000 and $25,000+ over five years) will be recognized in our media outreach and on the Foundation’s donor board. They’ll also receive some fun extras for the office, like complementary annual passes to our conservation areas, free facility rentals and even a staff retreat.

To invest in the region’s natural lands, contact Foundation executive director Diane Downey at 613-692-3571 ext. 1126 or diane.downey@rvcf.ca.

For more information about how the endowment works or to donate online, visit www.rvcf.ca.