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Home » Lakes of the Atlas » Beaver River Region » Beaver River Basin » Cold Lake

Cold Lake

    2.Drainage Basin Characteristics
    3.Lake Basin Characteristics
    4.Water Quality
    5.Biological Characteristics

1. Introduction

Map Sheets:73L/8, 9
Location:Tp63-65 R26, 27 W3
Tp63-65 R1, 2 W4
Lat/Long:54°33'N 110°06'W

Cold Lake is one of Alberta's largest and deepest lakes, and offers excellent opportunities for fishing, boating and camping. The lake is located on the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan, just south of the Primrose Lake Air Weapons Range (Fig. 1). The Saskatchewan side of the lake is located in Meadow Lake Provincial Park and the Alberta side is part of Improvement District No. 18. To reach the lake from Edmonton, take Highways 28 and 28A northeast for 295 km to the town of Cold Lake on the southwest shore.

The lake was originally named Big Fish Lake by Chipewyan Indians who hunted and trapped in the area (SATA Systems Inc. 1983). Early fur traders and Cree Indians called it Coldwater Lake, and it was named so on the Turnor map of 1790 (Holmgren and Holmgren 1976). The name is indicative of the relatively cool water that persists throughout the year.

The original inhabitants of the Cold Lake region probably were the nomadic Beaver, Blackfoot and Slavey tribes. During the late eighteenth century, these tribes were displaced by the Cree, who arrived in the area in search of furs to supply to traders. Cold Lake was part of a fur trade route into Alberta's northern lake region. The route ran west from Saskatchewan through Waterhen Lake, Lac des Isles and Cold Lake, with a portage from the south end of Cold Lake to the Beaver River (McMillan 1977). The first trading post in the area, Cold Lake House, was established by the North West Company in 1781 near the present day hamlet of Beaver Crossing, about 10 km south of Cold Lake. It was maintained for only a few years, and became a Hudson's Bay post in 1821 when the two companies merged (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1978). Cree and Chipewyan Indians settled in the vicinity of the post, and in 1876 they were assigned Cold Lake Reserve 149, located just south of Beaver Crossing. Two other reserves, 149A and 149B (Fig. 2), were established on the shore of Cold Lake in 1909 and 1911, respectively. In 1984, 1,045 band members lived on the three reserves (Alta. Native Aff. 1986).

The first official land survey at Cold Lake was undertaken in 1900 and more detailed surveys were conducted in 1909 and 1914 (McMillan 1977). Settlers arrived soon after, and Cold Lake settlement was established. The settlement became a village in 1953 and a town in 1955 (Acres Consult. Serv. Ltd. 1973). In 1988, the town's population was 3,445 people.

Cold Lake is a deep, clear body of water that supports a relatively large number of fish species, including lake trout, which are not present in many Alberta lakes. The provincial size record for lake trout was set in 1929 by a 23.9-kg specimen from Cold Lake (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989). Rainbow trout, yellow perch, walleye, lake whitefish and northern pike are 5 of the 23 other species that inhabit the lake. Algal biomass in Cold Lake is low and aquatic vegetation is restricted to areas sheltered from excessive wave action and ice scour. One of the sheltered areas, in Centre Bay, supports a colony of Western Grebes.

The main recreational activities at Cold Lake are fishing, swimming, motor boating, sailing, canoeing, camping, picnicking, hiking and cross-country and downhill skiing. There are no boating regulations over most of the lake, but in posted areas, boats are either prohibited or subject to maximum speeds of 12 km/hour (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988). Sport fishing regulations prohibit fishing for lake trout from 15 September to 15 November. As well, the entire lake (except that portion lying in Tp62 R2 W4) and all inlet streams are closed for a designated period during April and May each year (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989).

There are seven areas around the lakeshore that provide recreational facilities for the public (Fig. 2). Three of the areas are operated by Alberta Recreation and Parks: Cold Lake Provincial Park (398 ha), Frenchman's Bay Provincial Recreation Area (449 ha) and English Bay Provincial Recreation Area (18 ha). The provincial park is open year-round and the two recreation areas are open from the Victoria Day weekend to Thanksgiving Day. In total, they provide 154 campsites, pump water, 2 picnic shelters, 3 boat launches, 2 playgrounds and 3 beaches. The provincial park also provides group camping, tap water, a change house, flush toilets, showers, two viewpoints, trails and an amphitheatre.

Three recreational areas are located within the town of Cold Lake (Fig. 2). The first area, Cold Lake Municipal District Park (27 ha), is operated by the Municipal District of Bonnyville. It is open from 15 May to 15 September and provides 40 campsites, flush toilets, tap water, showers, a sewage disposal station, a playground, a sandy beach and swimming area, a boat launch and walking trails. The second area, Kinosoo Park, is operated by the town of Cold Lake. It has washrooms, a playground, a sandy beach and swimming area, a launch for windsurfers and sailboats, picnic tables and a fitness/exercise course. The third area includes a breakwater, marina and boat launch.

On the Saskatchewan side of Cold Lake, Meadow Lake Provincial Park provides Cold Lake campground at the mouth of the Cold River (Fig. 2). This small campground has four random campsites, picnic tables, a small sandy beach and a boat launch for small boats.

Physical Information
Area (km2)373
Max. Depth (m)99.1
Mean Depth (m)49.9
Dr. Basin Area (km2)6140
Dam, WeirNone
Drainage BasinBeaver River Basin

Recreational Information
Camp GroundPresent
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishRainbow Trout, Walleye, Yellow Perch, Lake Whitefish, Northern Pike, Lake Trout

Water Quality Information
Trophic StatusOligotrophic-Mesotrophic
TP x (µg/L)14
CHLORO x (µg/L)3.2
TDS x (mg/L)140

2.Drainage Basin Characteristics »

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