The story of Dahwamah Island is a story of nature, family, community, and a commitment to conservation. This largely uninhabited island has been the summer home of the Pemberton Family for multiple generations. Now, it is poised to become Lake Joseph’s latest conservation success story.

Dahwamah Island is nature. With thousands of feet of natural shoreline in an area where cottage lots are at a premium, a conservation easement over two-thirds of the island means that these shores will be kept in their natural state, a benefit for aquatic and terrestrial species who depend on the waterfront ribbon of life.

“It will never be developed in any way,” says Nick Pemberton. “For a lake in Muskoka, this is nearly unheard of, as this is prime cottage territory.”

In 1860 the island was deeded to Nick’s ancestors, who built a cottage on the southern tip of the island in 1902. Since then, each generation of the family has kept the island in a largely natural state.

In the early 2000s, the current owners, sisters descended from the original owner, realized they could not afford to maintain the cottage, nor could they pass the cottage on to the next generation due to the onerous capital gains taxes that would be levied. Their only choice, they thought, would be to create new lots on the island and sell them off.

Contact was made with a real-estate agent, and signs went up to gauge the market. There were several immediate bites, including a representative from the Muskoka Heritage Trust, a precursor to the Muskoka Conservancy. The suggestion put forward was to donate a large portion of the Island to the trust, which would eliminate capital gains. Since there was so much land involved, and the value of the land being donated so high, the trust further suggested raising money for the family from philanthropic families in the area and further afield. This money would be used to fix and maintain the old cottage, and pay property taxes on the donated land going forward.

For the next four years, contact was made with a large number of people that surround the island, that pass by the island on the way to their properties, or are on other parts of the lake who support conservation efforts, and the fund was created. At the same time, the Muskoka Conservancy became the organization under which the project operated, and the donation of land was changed to a permanent conservation easement, meaning the family still owned that land and paid the taxes on it, rather than the conservancy owning it and having to pay the taxes.

The result is the permanent protection of the old growth forest on the island, and the permanent protection of two-thirds of the shoreline, providing nesting grounds and fish habitats that can never be disturbed.

To direct your online donation toward the acquisition costs of this conservation easement, please go to the link below and select Dahwamah Island Conservation Fund from the Donation drop-down menu, and fill in the fields as prompted.


Or just call 705 645 7393 and we can process your credit card donation over the phone.

If you prefer to donate by cheque or cash, please mail or visit us at:

Muskoka Conservancy, 47 Quebec Street, Bracebridge, Ontario, P1L 1T8.