This year goose island

How High’s the Water?

The Water level is rising at our Ontario cottage. We keep asking each other “How High’s the Water?”, which reminds us of a Johnny Cash song.

We are back at our summer Northern Ontario cottage. We arrived, turned on the electricity, struggled with the plumbing – but got it going – glanced at the garden – and are now dealing with disposing of acres of fallen and cut pine trees. Life is good – we have things to do!

Our main concern is the rising lake level. We regularly ask each other “How High’s the Water Mama?”


Our large lake’s water levels are affected by rain, evaporation, snowmelt, and runoff from surrounding watersheds. The lake’s depth and volume directly affect its ability to sustain fish, recreational activities, and shoreline erosion.

Last year - goose island
Goose Island 2022 water level – note the Goldendoodle rolling on the left side

The Canadian Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and local organizations monitor and regulate the water levels and control to some extent dam releases into and out of the lake.

This year goose island
Goose island 2023 water level

This is what we are told anyway! “Everything is under control” the authorities imply – and yet, we constantly eyeball the water rising. It is a few feet over our shoreline, but it’s Ok – it’s all protected by rocks – and we know the water will recede soon enough when our hot summer arrives.

Garbage can, towel and duct tape
Garbage can with towel and duct tape to keep boat from floating over dock

Our concern is with our dock – which is now level with the waterline. We hope the water will not raise further – as our boat will then float over the dock. We MacGyvered some garbage cans filled with water – wrapped in towels and duct tape – to keep the boat in place. Duct tape solves all the world’s problems. The towels keep the boat from getting scratched.

MacGyver video

Mac·Gy·ver – verb –make or repair (an object) in an improvised or inventive way, making use of whatever items are at hand.”he MacGyvered a makeshift jack with a log”

I am super-glad our contractor wasn’t able to rebuild our boathouse this winter – as it is now a few inches under water.

inside the boathouse
Inside the boathouse below water

Keeping the Water Pump above water

We are worried about our water pump and its’ electronics – which are in the boathouse – elevated temporarily on some blocks of wood (ANOTHER MACGYVER) – but we may have to disconnect and head home again if the water rises higher!

the water pump on blocks of wood
Water pump on wooden planks to keep above water

Keeping the Dock from Floating Away

All around the lake home and cottage owners have battened down their docks and boathouses with barrels filled with water. These are placed on docks to keep them from floating away! We have done the same.

water filled barrels on docks
Plastic barrel filled with water to weigh dock down

Checking the Water Level

These are things we never considered prior to owning a cottage. For us it’s not like a real flood of our home or land – but it is concerning. Enough that we constantly check the water level – both down at the shoreline – and online.

The Government of Canada's real time hydrometric data chart
The Government of Canada’s real time hydrometric data chart

It’s amazing that the water level can change by an inch or two in a few hours. This is a very large lake – and there have been much more dramatic floods over the years (every 4 years or so). In previous years homeowners and resorts lost their docks and shorelines, and in some cases unfortunately completely flooded out homes and cottages. Millions of dollars in damages occured. We are assured in the occasional news release that the water is not near those levels.

The government produces a chart for different lake locations – with measurements every 5 minutes – but by the time we read it the water level has already changed. It would be nice to know the projected water levels! The graph is all very high tech – and yet we get just as much information by going down to the dock to check the level ourselves.

Johnny Cash

As we check the levels – we say “How high’s the water?” – and think about Johnny Cash’s iconic song, “How High’s the Water, Mama?” The song was written by Cash about the 1937 Mississippi flood. His parents measured the severity of the flood by how many of the front steps were covered by water.

Johnny Cash – How High’s the Water Mama?

Our little flood will pass, and we will be inconvenienced, but this is nothing compared to the natural disasters that so many people face. Johnny Cash tells the story of his mother’s calmness and his father’s patience during these times. I just love the warmth and humour in his music.

Symbolism in Lyrics

The lyrics may be a metaphor for the challenges we all face in life, reminding us to stay resilient in times of hardship. The water represents the obstacles that threaten to overwhelm us, while Mama serves as a symbol of guidance and strength. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY by the way!

We laugh at ourselves for checking the water constantly and fidgeting with the dock and boathouse, but we are happy with our cottage life and enjoying the challenges. In the meantime, we have added Johnny Cash to our summer music playlist.

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