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

Cooking Lake

    1.Introduction
    2.Drainage Basin Characteristics
    3.Lake Basin Characteristics
    4.Water Quality
    5.Biological Characteristics
    6.References
    7.Appendix

1. Introduction

Map Sheets:83H/6, 7
Location:Tp51 R20 W4
Lat/Long:53°25'N 113°03'W

Cooking Lake is a large, shallow lake located about 25 km east of the city of Edmonton in the County of Strathcona. Highway 14 skirts the southern shore and Secondary Roads 629 and 630 skirt the northern and eastern shores (Fig. 1). The closest population centres are three hamlets-South Cooking Lake, North Cooking Lake and Collingwood Cove - located around the lakeshore.

The lake's name is a translation of the Cree opi-mi-now-wa-sioo, which means "a cooking place". The lake was a favourite Cree campground (Holmgren and Holmgren 1976; Redecop and Gilchrist 1981).

The hamlet of South Cooking Lake is the oldest settlement on Cooking Lake. In 1892, Sheriff Robertson of Edmonton set up a summer camp for his family there, and in 1893, he built a permanent cottage (Touchings 1976). In 1894, a group of Edmontonians formed a company to develop an exclusive recreation club on Koney Island, in the southwest part of the lake (Fig. 1). By 1905, South Cooking Lake had a store and post office, and in 1909, a school. The hamlet of North Cooking Lake became an important recreation area after 1909, when the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway line from Edmonton was completed. Special weekend trains from Edmonton brought tourists to the north end of the lake, and passenger boats from the hamlet transported the visitors to sandy beaches on the south shore (Redecop and Gilchrist 1981). Subdivision of the shorelands and islands at the north end of the lake was rapid, and there was a large demand for cottages prior to World War I. After the war, demand continued, but at a reduced rate.

The Cooking Lake Moraine was the setting for Alberta's first conservation and reforestation projects. Most of the virgin timber had been removed from the area by the late 1890s, either by fire or by timber cutting. A particularly devastating fire in 1895 was caused by settlers clearing land. In 1899, Alberta's first forest reserve, the Cooking Lake Forest Reserve, was opened. It included all of the present-day Elk Island National Park and the Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Grazing, Wildlife and Provincial Recreation Area (Fig. 1) and extended south and west of Cooking Lake to the area around Ministik Lake. William Stephens, the province's first forest ranger, built a ranger station on the reserve in 1899, and the province's first forest fire lookout tower was constructed there in 1913. In 1910, a tree nursery was started on the shore of Cooking Lake, where the soil was sheltered by tall poplars. The nursery failed, however, when spruce and pine seeds did not germinate. In 1919, the Cooking Lake Forest Reserve also became the site of Alberta's first large-scale forest plantation (Touchings 1976).

The water in Cooking Lake is very fertile, and dense algal blooms occur from mid- to late summer. Consequently, there are few recreational facilities at the lake. In 1988, the only public facility on the lakeshore was South Cooking Lake Park, a County of Strathcona day-use area and boat launch in the hamlet of South Cooking Lake (Fig. 2). The facilities, which include picnic tables, firepits and a picnic shelter, were to be upgraded, starting in 1989. Future plans include a concrete boat launch, a washroom/changeroom building, trail construction and cleanup of the beach area. Access to the northeast end of the lake is available in North Cooking Lake, where a small boat or canoe can be launched. Ministik Campground, which is located just south of Cooking Lake on Highway 14, is operated by Alberta Transportation and Utilities. There are 15 campsites, picnic tables, a picnic shelter and a water pump. The North Cooking Lake Natural Area is located on Secondary Road 630, just north of Cooking Lake (Fig. 2). The land was reserved in 1961 as a wilderness area for hunting and recreation, and was established as a natural area in 1987. It features rolling moraine, ponds and wetlands, and an abundance of waterfowl. There are good opportunities for bird watching, nature observation, hiking and cross-country skiing (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1987).

The other recreational facilities at Cooking Lake include Camp Van Es and Lakeview, both located near the peninsula just east of the hamlet of South Cooking Lake (Fig. 2). Camp Van Es is a summer camp operated by the Moravian Church. In 1988, the church received a grant to build a retreat centre at the camp. Lakeview, which is located east of Camp Van Es, was formerly a commercially operated resort that is now owned by the County of Strathcona. In 1988, part of the land was leased to the South Cooking Lake Sail Club, and members plan to build facilities there. The county will sell or lease the remaining land to a private developer.

The Cooking Lake Seaplane Base was established on Crown land on the northwest shore of the lake in 1935 (Fig. 2). It is used for recreational and industrial air traffic. Facilities include a lodge, several buildings, and mooring wharves. An ancillary land runway operated by Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife is also part of the base (Alta. Envir. 1977).

Cooking Lake is most popular for wind surfing, sailing, power boating and bird watching. It is considered regionally significant as a breeding, moulting, staging and migration stopover area for waterfowl (Strathcona Co. 1987). There are no boating regulations specific to the lake, but general federal and provincial regulations apply (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988). Small freshwater invertebrates are abundant, but there are no sport fish in the lake because there is not enough oxygen to overwinter fish.

Physical Information
Area (km2)36.0
Max. Depth (m)4.6
Mean Depth (m)1.7
Dr. Basin Area (km2)158
Dam, WeirNone
Drainage BasinNorth Saskatchewan River Basin

Recreational Information
Camp GroundNone
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishNone

Water Quality Information
Trophic StatusHyper-Eutrophic
TP x (µg/L)251
CHLORO x (µg/L)83.4
TDS x (mg/L)1,019

2.Drainage Basin Characteristics »

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