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The yellow buoys of Mississippi Lake are back.

The MLA cautionary buoy have once again been deployed thanks to our erstwhile volunteers lead by Brian Smith. Have a safe boating season.

The winter months are long, cold, and very quiet for our 50 iconic yellow buoys.  Attached to their 8-foot chains and their cinderblocks, they spend months lying in a grassy field. 

But then as May arrives, they begin to stir. Early one morning, a few volunteers arrive to check their chains and carry them to the shore. The buoys get loaded on board a 24-foot workboat and the season is underway.

Over the course of two mornings, 25 buoys will be placed in Big Lake, then 25 buoys in the lower parts of the lake.

Using GPS, the crew works to place the buoys in the same spot each year, to alert boaters about shoals. The cautionary buoys come with a warning: stay away 30 metres/100 feet.  And never pass between buoys.

Occasionally during the summer, a chain will break. Or a rogue wave will pull a buoy and its cinderblock off the bottom. For an hour or two, the wandering buoy may drift across the lake. But our buoys don't get lost. When they drift ashore, someone on the lake always spots them and contacts us.  Either by email ( or by facebook message

After Thanksgiving weekend, their season comes to an end. Another crew of volunteers will boat around the lake and collect them, this time dealing with shallower water and muddy cinderblocks. The workboat pulls ashore and the buoys are carefully hauled back to the field. There they will settle in for another quiet winter.

200320-Lake Buoy Map
Download PDF • 404KB

So how did this annual MLA service start?

The MLA has been instrumental in the development of the lake, as we know it, for 80 years. In 1944 it embarked on its first major project to clear channels thru the weeds that were choking out boat transit. 


During the late 1930s and early 1940s the two lakes nearest Carleton Place, known as the First and Second lakes had become virtually clogged with weeds. Weed growth had gained momentum and heavy masses of coon tail and other weeds took over large areas of these lakes. It was impossible to take a motorboat up the first and second lakes without wide detours to search for channels through the weeds.


The MLA, with the championship of Earl Ritchie, a manager at the Bates and Innes Woolen Mill in Carleton Place, developed a project to create channels through the weed growth which resulted in the purchase of a pontoon shaped boat with a device like

a hay cutter attached to its bow.


In 1945 the weed cutter was launched and watched with curiosity by both its supporters and detractors.  Initially channels were cut each year and the lakes opened to the ever-increasing host of watercraft.


Once channels had been cut through the weeds it became necessary to mark such

passages so that boats could easily find these paths. The MLA assumed the task and thus began the marker buoy program that continues today.  Since weed growth is less of a problem today the buoys only alert boats to under water hazards.


The task continues to this date with the MLA deploying approximately 50 yellow cautionary buoys each year to warn boaters of underwater hazards. In 2005 the MLA purchase an 18 foot “stripped down” pontoon boat. Christened the “Miss LA”, it was first used in October 2005 to remove the markers from the lake.  In 2020 the Miss LA was retired and a used 24 ft pontoon boat and motor was purchased.  The newly christened “Mississippi Belle” was stripped down and refurbished by a team of volunteers to become the work horse of the buoy program.


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