Muskrat Lake

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Muskrat Lake
LocationWhitewater Region, Renfrew County, Ontario
Coordinates45°40′41″N 76°54′29″W / 45.678°N 76.908°W / 45.678; -76.908Coordinates: 45°40′41″N 76°54′29″W / 45.678°N 76.908°W / 45.678; -76.908
Basin countriesCanada

Muskrat Lake is located in the Whitewater Region of Renfrew County, Ontario, Canada. Said to be the home of the lake monster Mussie. Muskrat Lake drains into Muskrat River. Other than a few cottages and campgrounds, Cobden, is the only community on the lake's shore. Along its eastern shores is Sturgeon Mountain

Like many other lakes Muskrat Lake was formed about 10,000 years ago when the glaciers of the last ice age receded. At that point it was superseded by the much larger Champlain Sea. Due to glacial recession the sea was brackish, its salt levels rising and falling over the years making it somewhat salty and somewhat fresh. About 6,000 years ago the water level dropped and the Champlain Sea disappeared, leaving behind the present day lakes and rivers.


The Muskrat Lake region was originally inhabited by the Nibachis, a sub-division of the native, Algonquin speaking, tribes of North America. The first European explorer to reach the area was Samuel de Champlain and a description of his encounter with the natives survived from his chronicles:

"...we reached a lake, six leagues long and two wide, very abundant in fish, the neighboring people doing their fishing there. Near this lake is a settlement of savages, who till the soil and gather harvests of maize. Their chief is named Nibachis, who came to visit us with his followers, astonished that we could have passed the falls and bad roads in order to reach them. After offering us tobacco, according to their custom, he began to address his companions, saying, that we must have fallen from the clouds, for he knew not how we could have made the journey, and that they who lived in the country had much trouble in traversing these bad ways: and he gave them to understand that I accomplished all that I set my mind upon; in short, that he believed respecting me all that the other savages had told him. Aware that we were hungry, he gave us some fish, which we ate, and after our meal I explained to him, through Thomas, our interpreter, the pleasure I had in meeting them, that I had come to this country to assist them in their wars, and that I desired to go still farther to see some other chiefs for the same object, at which they were glad and promised me assistance. They showed me their gardens and the fields, where they had maize. Their soil is sandy, for which reason they devote themselves more to hunting than to tillage..."
--Samuel De Champlain

In 1837 explorer David Thompson set out to mark a route for a proposed canal from the Ottawa River to Georgian Bay. The canal was to travel up Muskrat River and through Muskrat Lake, but never materialized. Thwarted by lack of supplies, Thompson never completed his survey. By the 1850s Railways were more fashionable for transport and so interest in the idea fizzled. In the 1870s Muskrat Lake was being used as a means to avoid rapids in the Ottawa River such as the Calumet rapids and the dangerous stretches of the river between Lac des Chats and Coulonge Lake. This route, traveled by steamers owned by Mr. Jason Gould, led to the establishment of villages such as Beachburg which was founded in 1840 and Cobden in 1849.


Muskrat Lake has a thriving ecology which, to the disdain of local swimmers, encourages the growth of notoriously lush seaweed. Obviously though this has the opposite reaction on fishing enthusiast who come year round to catch pike, walleye, pickerel, and lake trout. It is not recommended to eat the fish in this lake due to high levels of phosphorus and green algae. The municipal dock, located at the south end of the lake, is a regular meeting spot for bird watchers; who have caught sight of Franklin's gull among other birds.

Notable Tributaries Include: