High Water Summer

Over a decade ago the discussion was all about low water levels in Nottawasaga and Georgian Bay. The discussion was back on the table in 2012. Then, in 2017 and 2018, the discussion was all about the exact opposite situation.

Water levels are rising.

In 2003, if someone had told you to “go jump in the lake” there would have been a danger that you might hit bottom.

Above – Photo taken heading into the summer of 2003 at Sunset Point Park
Below – Same location, heading into the summer of 2018


Above: Today, if you stand on either of the bottom two steps, you will get your feet wet. Water levels are extremely high in Nottawasaga Bay. This was not the case in 2003 (pictured below) because of extreme low water levels




Above photos were all taken in 2003, just before summer. In June 2018, (pictured below) water levels continue to rise, approaching record levels


Water levels across the Great Lakes are above their long-term average levels for June 2018.

The US Army Corps Engineer’s June report states Lakes Michigan-Huron, St. Clair, and Erie are all above their levels from last year by 3 to 4 inches.

It is interesting to note Lake Ontario is 23 inches below last year when it reached its record high and caused so much flooding on Toronto Island.

“In the last month, lakes Superior, Michigan-Huron and St. Clair rose 3, 2 and 1 inches, respectively, while lakes Erie and Ontario have declined 1 and 4 inches, respectively. In the next month, lake Superior is forecasted to rise another inch, while lakes St. Clair, Erie and Ontario are forecasted to continue to fall, by 1, 3 and 4 inches, respectively. Lake Michigan-Huron is forecasted to remain at its current level into the next month.”

The Government of Canada’s “LEVELnews” report tells the same story.

LEVELnews is a newsletter that provides a monthly update on Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River water levels.

“Water levels of all of the Great Lakes are well above average going into summer. The month of May was dry for Lake Superior, continuing the trend seen in the previous two months, and resulting in a below-average rise in May. The rest of the Great Lakes saw above-average water supplies resulting in above-average rises for Lakes Michigan–Huron, Erie and Ontario through the month of May.”

The report stated Lake Huron (Georgian Bay) was relatively the wettest of the lakes with a rise 13 cm over May 2018, higher than its average rise of 8 cm.

Lake Huron

— May 2018 monthly mean level

Compared to monthly average (1918-2017):
44 cm above
Compared to one year ago:
12 cm above

— Beginning-of-June 2018 level

Compared to beginning-of-month average (1918-2017):
46 cm above
Compared to one year ago:
12 cm above


Both Lakes Superior and Michigan–Huron are expected to rise through the month of June relative to their beginning-of-month levels

The report states that even if very wet conditions are encountered, it is unlikely that any of the lakes will hit their record high levels this summer.

“Everyone around the Great Lakes should remain prepared for higher water levels, however all the lakes in the coming months will likely begin their seasonal declines typical for the late summer and fall period.”

The high water has certainly made life easier for local marinas. In 2003, docking was a problem because of low water.

Low water issues were a big concern again in 2012. The drop in water levels that year hit west end residents very hard. Where Collingwood meets Grey County at Craigleith, cottage and home owners had docks that were totally out of the water. Tall vegetation took over the shoreline where the water used to be.

Many old-timers said at the time that the low water levels being experienced was all a part of a cycle. Some people weren’t so sure the water would come all the way back.

It did, and then some.

In the Fall of 2012, water levels were at an historic low. The photo at Sunset Point shows steps leading to where the water once was.

Again, as pictured above in 2012, water had all but disappeared along the Sunset Point shoreline

Looking back to shore at Sunset Point. Today, you’d be up to your neck in water trying to take this photo!

Then and Now. Low water levels made it impossible to launch a boat at Harbourview Park in 2012, but today water levels are very high

You may remember the installation of new docks in Collingwood harbour was necessary because low water levels forced some boats to find alternate docking facilities at the Collingwood Yacht Club. Similar issues faced marina operators around Georgian Bay.

Those issues are gone and mariners are enjoying the many benefits of higher water levels as they set out for another season on the water.

It appears that the old timers were right. Drastic changes in water levels are a part of a never-ending cycle.

Hard to argue with them.



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