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Home » Lakes of the Atlas » North Saskatchewan Region » North Saskatchewan River Basin » Beaverhill Lake

Beaverhill Lake

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

1. Introduction

Map Sheets:83H/7, 8, 9, 10
Location:Tp51, 52 R17, 18 W4
Lat/Long:53°27'N 112°32'W

Beaverhill Lake is one of the most important bird habitats in Alberta. It is recognized as an internationally significant water body for shorebirds and waterfowl, in particular, as a staging area for migratory birds flying to and from the arctic. During May and September each year, the lake hosts thousands of birds. In the spring, most of the birds move on, but many others stay and nest. Beaverhill Lake and the surrounding area have been Ducks Unlimited (Canada) projects since early 1969. In 1981, the Canadian Nature Federation designated the lake as a National Nature Viewpoint in recognition of its importance to birds and birdwatchers, and in 1982, the lake became part of the Wetlands for Tomorrow Program. This is a joint program between Ducks Unlimited (Canada) and Fish and Wildlife Division for the management and enhancement of waterfowl populations and habitats. In June 1987, the lake was designated a Ramsar site. The Ramsar Convention of 1971 is an international agreement that identifies and protects wetlands of importance to migratory birds. By 1988, the convention had been ratified by 45 countries. The secretariat for the convention is the Switzerland-based International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Beaverhill Lake is situated in the counties of Beaver and Lamont. It is easily accessible from the city of Edmonton, as it is located only 65 km east of the city, just north of Highway 14 and east of Secondary Road 834. The closest population centre is the town of Tofield, 4 km southwest of the lake on Highway 14 (Fig. 1).

The lake's name is a translation of the Cree name, amisk-wa-chi-sakhahigan (Holmgren and Holmgren 1976). The lake appears on the Thompson map of 1814 as Beaver Lake. This map also shows the nearby Beaver Hills, now known as the Cooking Lake Moraine, which were named for the large number of beaver found there.

According to legend, the lake was a favourite camping spot for Cree when they came to the area to hunt buffalo. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, settlements were established in four areas near the lake. The western shore was first settled by Métis, who came to hunt buffalo in the early 1870s (Touchings 1976). Many of the Métis families later filed for homesteads and began farming. White settlers arrived in the area during the 1880s and occupied land along the western shore. One of the first settlers to acquire land legally was Robert Logan, who operated a store and trading post and owned land near the lake. The district soon became known as Logan, and the Logan post office was established in 1892. Robert Logan's son, John, promoted the lake as a pleasure resort, and operated a steamboat that carried vacationers across the water (Lister 1979). The second area, Beaverlake Settlement, was located on the northeast shore just east of the lake's outlet, Beaverhill Creek. This area was settled sometime after 1873, and by 1892, the settlement boasted a school and a one-man detachment of the North West Mounted Police. The third area, Bathgate, was located on the southeast shore; it was settled around 1900. The Bathgate post office opened in 1906 but closed in 1927 after the community failed to expand. The fourth settlement was the village of Tofield, located 4 km southwest of the lake. It was the fastest growing community in the area in the 1900s. In 1907, Tofield was incorporated as a village, and in 1909, after the arrival of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad, it became a town (Touchings 1976). At the present time, Tofield is the only one of the four communities that still exists.

The birds of Beaverhill Lake have been studied by many ornithologists since the beginning of the twentieth century. In particular, long-term observations were made by the late Professor William Rowan and the late Robert Lister, both from the Zoology Department of the University of Alberta. Beginning in 1920, Rowan spent 37 years collecting, sketching and banding birds and making extensive notes on their behaviour. He combined two contradictory attitudes toward wildlife: that of the hunter/collector and that of the naturalist/conservationist. In 1925, the lake was declared a Public Shooting Ground, but by 1948, when the Edmonton Bird Club was founded, most visitors to the lake were more interested in identifying and observing birds than shooting them (Lister 1979). The Edmonton Bird Club has contributed much to the knowledge of the species of birds at the lake. In 1983, another group of birding enthusiasts began the Beaverhill Lake Bird Banding Station to encourage research and to provide instruction in ornithology. The group was named the Beaverhill Bird Observatory in 1985. Members carry out many projects, including daily counts of birds, construction of nesting boxes, banding, and research on the behaviour and habitat of individual species (Ebel 1988).

During the 1970s, management of the Beaverhill Lake area became a subject of concern to the Fish and Wildlife and Public Lands divisions of Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife, Alberta Agriculture, local leaseholders and the general public. In 1981, the Beaverhill Lake Integrated Resource Plan was approved (Alta. En. Nat. Resour. 1981). It allocated the approximately 4 450 ha of Crown land around the lake according to 5 land-use themes: agriculture, agriculture-wildlife, wildlife-agriculture, wildlife and recreation. Theme areas are used to prepare a local development plan for each disposition. The local development plan then forms the basis for range improvement agreements between the government and the lessee or permittee, or for wildlife habitat enhancement or recreation projects.

In 1987, Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife established the Beaverhill Natural Area to protect parts of Beaverhill Lake and the surrounding area (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1987). The natural area comprises the Dekker and Pelican islands at the north end of Beaverhill Lake and land surrounding Robert Lister Lake, also known as "A" Lake (Fig. 1). It is managed through the cooperation of the Fish and Wildlife and Public Lands divisions of Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited (Canada) and the Beaverhill Bird Observatory. Although the natural area is conserved and managed to maintain its wilderness and wildlife qualities, recreational and educational use is encouraged. Popular activities are birdwatching, photography and hiking.

There are several points of access to the shore of Beaverhill Lake, but most of them must be reached on foot. The route to the southern side of the lake begins in Tofield (Fig. 2). Turn left off Highway 14 and then immediately right onto the Tofield access road. Turn left again at the gas station. The Beaverhill Lake Nature Centre is located next to the gas station. It provides field checklists for birds, nesting boxes, seed and tourist information. Once over the railroad tracks, turn east onto Rowan's Route, which is also called 51 Avenue within Tofield, and Secondary Road 626 outside the town. About 5 km east of Tofield, a north-south road allowance provides a short, direct route to Francis Point on the southern side of the lake. The turnoff is marked with a sign. At the far eastern end of Rowan's Route is the access to Robert Lister Lake and the natural area. When you have driven almost 9 km from Tofield, turn north off the road. Close the gate upon entering the pasture, then drive northeast over a cart-track that ends in an informal parking area at another gate. Motor vehicles are not allowed past the parking area. There is a large sign on the other side of this gate that shows a map of Beaverhill Lake. A cart track leads from the sign along the western shore of Robert Lister Lake, and terminates at a Ducks Unlimited (Canada) weir. Another trail runs from the weir along the southern shore of Beaverhill Lake to Francis Point.

Robert Lister Lake is an impoundment developed by Ducks Unlimited (Canada) to control water levels and provide nesting habitat for waterfowl. Approximately 26 islands have been built around the southern and eastern sides of the lake; they have been well used by nesting ducks and geese since their construction. The headland on the western side of the weir is one of the best locations for viewing shorebirds. The Beaverhill Lake Banding Station is situated near the western side of the weir, as well.

Kallal's Ponds are located at the Kallal Dam on Amisk Creek, just south of Robert Lister Lake (Fig. 2). During migration, waterfowl, blackbirds, marsh-dwelling birds and sandpipers congregate on the ponds (Heath et al. 1984). Another area enhanced by Ducks Unlimited (Canada) is a marsh called "C" Lake, which is located near the southeastern shore of Beaverhill Lake, approximately 2.2 km northeast of the weir on Lister Lake. To create waterfowl nesting habitat, about eight islands were built around the perimeter of the marsh. The marsh is connected to Beaverhill Lake by a drainage ditch.

Access to the Beaverhill Lake Recreation Area, midway along the eastern shore, can be gained from Secondary Road 855 (Fig. 1). This area is operated by the County of Beaver, and has a picnic shelter and outdoor toilets. In 1988, however, they were in need of repair. Motor boats are not allowed on Beaverhill Lake, but canoes and rowboats are permitted (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988). The lake is popular for waterfowl hunting, but hunting restrictions are in effect over the southern half of the lake. Hunting game birds on the southern portion of the lake and the southern islands, or hunting within 0.8 km of the edge of the water of that portion of the lake, is prohibited until 1 November each year (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989).

Physical Information
Area (km2)139
Max. Depth (m)2.3
Mean Depth (m)No Data
Dr. Basin Area (km2)1,970
Dam, WeirNone
Drainage BasinNorth Saskatchewan River Basin

Recreational Information
Camp GroundNone
Boat LaunchNone
Sport FishNone

Water Quality Information
Trophic StatusHyper-Eutrophic
TP x (µg/L)No Data
CHLORO x (µg/L)54.0
TDS x (mg/L)922

2.Drainage Basin Characteristics »

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