Drought
On the Eastern Side of Algonquin Park

Some photographs of the effects of the drought of the summer of 2012 in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park.

2012 August 01

This year (2012) has been characterized by a low snow pack, an early spring and subsequent early ice-out, and minimal rain. Renfrew County has declared a level 2 drought. The situation in Algonquin Park, particularly in the eastern pine forests, is similar, if not worse. On 2012 July 18, Algonquin Park was declared a Restricted Fire Zone. On 2012 July 20, eastern Algonquin Park was closed and evacuated due to a forest fire in CFB Petawawa on the Orange Road adjacent to the park boundary. Over the next ten days or so, ten fires ignited by lightening burned in the evacuated area. By 2012 July 31, all the fires in Algonquin Park were extinguished and the eastern access was reopened with the restricted fire zone designation remaining in effect.

On 2012 August 01, Bob and Diana ventured in to Achray on a day trip to scope out some locations -- we had been turned back at the Sand Lake Gate on a similar quest 12 days earlier. Achray was eerily quiet; the camp ground was still essentially empty. Over the course of the day, we saw one other canoe and a kayak. All the interior campsites we saw were unoccupied. Not at all what we are used to in mid summer.

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

When we arrived, we immediately noticed apparently dead (or dying) trees on the hill across from the dock at Achray. While it may be that these trees are simply shutting down to protect themselves from the effects of the drought, we are inclined to believe that they are dying. We are used to seeing scattered red leaves in mid-August in normal years, from the early turning of stressed maple trees, but this was different.

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photo by Diana: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

As we approached the mouth of Carcajou Bay, we noticed a reddish hue to the forest. The red hue wasn't everywhere, but was quite pronounced at this particular location, which is a very harsh environment - bedrock with only a very thin veneer of soil and reindeer moss.

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

Dying junipers and red blueberry bushes. Yet adjacent are some still green junipers in a slightly moister site.

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

The wet area on the rock is from the previous day's rain, enough moisture to temporarily wet things down, but not enough to break the drought.

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

Dead jack pines and reindeer moss on bedrock. While not directly attributable to the drought, this illustrates the fire hazard and harsh environment present in this location.

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

Moss, blueberry bushes, and oak saplings. The oaks appear dead, but may just have shut down to wait out the dry spell.

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

These leaves look to us to be dead and dried out rather having shut down early for winter. (Young oaks maintain some of their leaves over winter, but their healthy colour is a deep rich brown).

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

The brown ground cover here is sweet fern, a common (and fragrant) associate of jack pine on dry sites. It is usually green, however.

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

Jack pine.

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

Dead and dying jack pine, an explosive fire potential.

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

Back in our canoe and about to head into Carcajou Bay.

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

The eastern shore of Carcajou Bay, another harsh environment with minimal soil over the bedrock. The vegetation is faring better here than on the point at the mouth of the bay.

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photo by Bob: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

This is the weir between Grand Lake and Stratton Lake. There is no flow over it, but we could hear some water trickling through cracks in the concrete. There may also be some seepage around and under it. It makes us wonder how much flow there is at the water slide (we did not travel that far downstream on this outing).

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

Looking downstream from the weir. While we didn't try, there seems to be enough water to launch a canoe after portaging around the weir. However, under normal conditions, the trickiest bit to get through without grounding is farther downstream. We have no doubt that you can get through, but you might have to get your feet wet.

drought in the vicinity of Achray on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-08-01 - map - explore

As we returned to the dock at Achray, the light was better on the hill across the way.

Notes

Above, we may have misidentified the undergrowth plants in some photos. However, on the ground in this general area, we noted in particular blueberry bushes, bearberry and sweet fern, all red or brown.