Hello, I am writing to you as a 40-year seasonal resident of the Oxtongue River. The Oxtongue River is a timeless area of beauty. The wildlife is unique and plentiful. The river offers many unique experiences that one cannot enjoy on a lake. Any guests that have stayed with us are always enchanted by the beauty the river offers.
As you all know, tourism is ever increasing in the area. This is a good thing for the local economy – merchants, resort owners, restaurants, service providers and the list goes on and on. The area is an awesome place for vacation and relaxation and should be promoted. Unfortunately, with the increased seasonal population up here, there is bad that comes with the good.
We have noticed that in the last few years the traffic on the river has increased. Again, this is a good thing. Majority of boaters that come up the river adhere to speed limits and are courteous. The one problem that the increased traffic on the river has also brought are jet skiers. Majority of them have no regard for the posted speed limit signs or any regard to the preservation of the river. I am no prude and, actually, I am bit of speed demon myself. I understand when you are 20 something years old, sitting on your jet ski on vacation, it’s a beautiful sunny day, the water is the right temperature and in your mind, you see the river as an awesome race track with it’s windy curves and the idea of taking that machine full throttle gets the blood pumping. I get it. The problem is that this mindset has caused some near misses. The most recent one involving my adult children.
This incident occurred on July 4, 2020. We watched 8 or 9 of them speed up the river. We heard them at Marsh’s Falls and, knowing they were going to turn around to head back to the lake, my daughter got into the canoe and was determined to ask the to slow down on the way back. My son grabbed his GoPro and hopped into our paddle boat to try and catch some footage. Of course, on their way back, my daughter was yelling to slow down, but all she got were either rude gestures or one jet skier in particular almost ran her over. It was very disturbing to say the least. This incident is what broke the straw for me to write. I know you’re all thinking, “Well it’s not the first incident and not the last.” Unfortunately, you are correct. I did call the OPP communications line on that day to report the incident, but I told them not to bother sending anyone over as they were gone and we had no other solid information we could offer them.
My family and I are convinced that there will eventually be a tragedy on this river. On the July 1 holiday, we took a cruise down the river on our own boat. It was a beautiful day and it was a busy day on the river. When we rounded one of the many blind corners we came across a family (approximately 8 to 9 people with children) with 3 canoes. They had stopped on one of the many sandy banks for a break and a swim. Everyone was frolicking in the water. This particular area they were in has blind corners approximately 30 feet each way from where they were swimming. If a group of jet skiers (or even one) comes down the river at full throttle, there is no way they would be able to stop or clear them in time. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.
I also understand that the OPP does not have the funds to constantly be monitoring activity on the river. I remember as a teenager (approximately 40 years ago) we would witness OPP Marine Units on the lake and river several times over the summer monitoring the area, especially on long weekends. In the last few years, we are lucky to see them once a year. The last time was on a rainy Saturday when there was truly no one on the river. Again, I get it. They were booked to go that day and it happened to be a rainy day. Bad luck, Murphy’s law – whatever the case, it was a waste of time and money for those officers.
I see a few solutions that perhaps could be considered:
- Increased OPP presence on the river – perhaps not viable from a financial perspective.
- Increase in signage posted on the river – the government posted signs are not enough and do not do the river justice. The sign posted at the mouth of the river by the Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation is great, and I would certainly entertain the idea of putting one on our property.
- Banning jet skiers from the river – I understand that monitoring this would be a nightmare.
- Entering into some dialogue with the company who rents jet skis in Dwight (and other locations) to inform their customers of what is expected of them if they decide to cruise the river.
I truly hope that something can be done to ensure everyone’s safety before we see a tragedy.
The opinions of the writer of the above letter does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Muskoka411.