Watermark by Katie Moore

For as long as I can remember I have had a deep connection to water. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment that sparked my love for the water because it has been deeply ingrained in my life since I was young. But thinking back to my childhood, I suppose my love for the water all began from visiting our family friends’ cottage every summer on Skeleton Lake in the Muskoka region of Ontario.

Each summer, usually only for one weekend (which felt like a long time as a kid), we would pack up our family’s minivan and head up to the lake just east of Huntsville, Ontario. I have fond memories of these summer days filled with swimming in the crystal clear waters, cliff-jumping from the large rocky outcrops, endless tube rides, and fishing for smallmouth bass from the public dock.

Skeleton Lake has always held a sense of mystery to me. The lake is located on the traditional territories of the Anishinabek, Ojibwe, and Huron-Wendat First Nations. As kids, we were told of the legend behind the lake’s name. A local First Nations band had camped on the lake one winter and food was scarce. A mother and her young son died of starvation and their bones were found together on the shore years later. It is said that the lake was named in memory of the mother and son. The vastness of the lake always intrigued yet terrified me, I can remember being scared to swim in the water every time I heard this story. But eventually, the clear waters and hot summer days would wear me down, and I couldn’t help but jump back in.

(left) Me when I caught my first ever fish. A tiny smallmouth bass. I was too scared to hold it, hence the hand holding it in the picture for me as I smiled for the camera. (right) Flash forward about 17 years. This is me working for Conservation Halton surveying fish species in streams in the area. This rainbow trout was one of the bigger fish we caught that summer, and I am no longer afraid to hold a fish!

I was able to return to Skeleton Lake in 2014 when I was attending the University of Waterloo. I spent the summer working with the volunteer lake association groups to begin a long term water quality monitoring program of lakes in the region, which included Skeleton Lake. This experience allowed my personal connection to the water to coincide with work that I was passionate about. From then on I knew I wanted to pursue further education and work in the aquatic field. Before I knew it I was monitoring fish species in southern Ontario, completing my Master’s research on restoring Quamichan Lake on Vancouver Island, and eventually working with Fraser Riverkeeper and Swim Drink Fish.

I am so grateful to have spent those summer days out on Skeleton Lake, and feel forever indebted to it for sparking my passion for water which has rippled through all areas of my life.


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Banner Image: Patty O'Hearn Kickham

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