Forced Change by Nature — And the Challenge to Adapt

Minnows over the Dock — Lake of the Woods 2022

Looking down at the dock and seeing minnows swimming above the deck, who would typically have been three or four feet below the dock, was one of those striking signs of the “change” that people faced across Lake of the Woods and other water systems this summer in Northwestern Ontario.

The damage has been devastating for many. Much of the work may not even get started, let alone completed before the lakes freeze up again late in the year.

The one thing that strikes me, in the face of this natural crisis, is how we adapted to the change that was forced upon us.

Watching the water rise to higher than 2014 levels was particularly impactful to us. In 2014, our dock was merely lapping over with water for a couple of days, before it receded. This summer we have been underwater for months with water levels dropping below the docks in mid-August.

The other factor was that our floater system broke off in a severe thunderstorm. The blessing there was that we moved the floater around and ramped onto land — taking the shin-deep water out of play on the crib docks.

Facing the change went from placing barrels on the crib docks, to strapping on rubber boots, to strapping on water sandals (when the water rose about the tops of boots), to occasionally brushing to prevent slippery build-up on the planks, to modifying boat docking systems (a lot less visiting), to parking in areas you never thought of travelling because of underlying precarious rocks and things, to new growth or wild rice and water lilies, to the unfortunate loss of guests due to slippery and dangerous conditions, to a need for absolute caution on the water after dark — due to a heavy influx of floating objects from shorelines and docks (including small structures and fridges!), to securing old log booms from shorelines that hadn’t floated in over 70 years, to adjustments to ramps, floaters and docks in attempts to put them back in place as the water goes down.

Our circumstances were minor, in comparison to many family and friends who have seen their dock systems totally ravaged by the rising waters.

These are just some of the causes of new habits and approaches to dealing with high water, not to mention the cost of fixing, repairing, replacing or redoing docking structures.

It was also somewhat sad to see many familiar structures collapse, due to the conditions. Many majestic boat houses were dealt a blow. Several platforms were seen to have collapsed over weakened crib systems.

What Mother Nature sends us!

Nature adjusted — swamps were flooded, weeds grew where weeds never grew, shorelines eroded, nests of loons disappeared, bird habits changed drastically, sand bars disappeared, beaches shrunk to slivers or no beach at all, and channel markers disappeared under the surface.

Families adapted as best they could for this summer of 2022 challenge.

Here’s hoping for a continued outflow and less rain as we approach the autumn season so that docks can be refitted, repaired, replaced or rebuilt before freeze up.

The minnows will return to below the dock and we will return to chairs on the dock to enjoy the morning sunrises and evening sunsets on Lake of the Woods as summer winds down.

Ferg Devins

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Ferg Devins

Communications Strategist — connecting you with your community