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Home » Lakes of the Atlas » Peace and Athabasca Region » Smoky River Basin » Sturgeon Lake

Sturgeon Lake

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

1. Introduction

Map Sheets:83N/3, 4
Location:Tp70, 71 R23, 24 W5
Lat/Long:55°06'N 117°32'W

Sturgeon Lake is a regionally important recreational lake situated in Improvement District No. 16. It is located 90 km east of the city of Grande Prairie and 15 km west of the town of Valleyview. Highway 34, which joins these two population centres, skirts the southern shore (Fig. 1). The lake and the two provincial parks on its shores are destination points for about 50,000 local and regional visitors annually. This is a substantial number in an area with a population of just over 100,000 people. Sturgeon Lake has a reputation for good quality lake whitefish, and is popular for all types of boating and water sports. Development pressures and concerns about water quality have led to a series of intensive studies of the watershed and the effects of various land-use policies on the sediment and nutrient loads entering the lake.

It is unlikely that sturgeon have ever lived in Sturgeon Lake. Speculation on the origin of the name has given rise to two possibilities. One is that a family named Sturgeon once lived nearby; the other is that a visitor who paddled up the outlet creek named the lake for the sturgeon, which also travels upstream (Alta. Cult. Multicult. n.d.).

Indigenous peoples have lived in the area since prehistoric times. Beaver Indians inhabited the area prior to the Cree (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1987[b]). The fur trade brought the first Europeans to the Peace Country. Sir Alexander Mackenzie arrived in 1792, but the area was not settled for more than a century. In 1905, St. Francis Xavier Mission was established on the east side of the lake (Mallandaine 1980). The first steady influx of settlers into the area began in 1911, when the Edson Trail was opened; it ran from the present day town of Edson to Grande Prairie via Sturgeon Lake (Odynsky et al. 1956). Sturgeon Lake and Calais settlements, which are located on the southern shore, were surveyed in 1914, and a small settlement was established at Valleyview in the same year (S Peace Reg. Plan. Commis. and ID No. 16 1985). A graded dirt road from Grande Prairie to Calais was completed in 1929, and extended beyond Calais as far as the town of High Prairie in 1933. This road, known as Highway 34 until the new highway was built, still runs close to the south shore of Sturgeon Lake (Fig. 1). The discovery of the Sturgeon Lake Oil Field in 1952 brought about the rapid development of Valleyview, and the completion of Highway 43 to Valleyview in 1962 greatly increased access to the Sturgeon Lake area.

The two provincial parks at the lake are Williamson and Young's Point (Fig. 2). Day-use facilities at both parks are open year-round and camping facilities are open from 1 May to Thanksgiving Day. Williamson Provincial Park occupies 17.4 ha of land on the south shore. It was established in 1960 and named for Alexander Williamson, a former owner of the land. The park is surrounded on three sides by Sturgeon Lake Indian Reserve 154 and bisected by old Highway 34. Access to the park is available via the old highway or via a road built in 1971 from new Highway 34. Park facilities include 61 campsites, tap water, a sewage disposal facility, a concession, a boat launch and pier, picnic shelters, a change house, a playground and a swimming area. The 425-m-long shoreline has a 15-m-wide beach with good quality sand. The lake bottom is firm and slopes gently, so that 90 m offshore the water is only about 2 m deep (Alta. Rec. Parks n.d.). In addition to swimming, popular activities at the park are boating, fishing and picnicking.

Young's Point Provincial Park was named for Frederick Campbell Young, who homesteaded in the area in 1920. It is a large park, located on 1,089 ha of land on the north shore. It can be reached from Highway 34 by a 9-km-long local road at the west end of the lake (Fig. 2). Park facilities include 57 campsites, a sewage disposal facility, a change house, 2 playgrounds, a boat launch, picnic areas, a beach and swimming area, walking trails and a viewpoint. Recreational activities enjoyed by park visitors include swimming, boating, fishing, picnicking, hiking, skating, snowmobiling, tobogganing and cross-country skiing.

Other recreational developments around the lake include the Sturgeon Lake Bible Camp, a commercial campground just north of Williamson Provincial Park in Indian Reserve 154, a commercial campground and marina on the southern shore of the west bay, a Girl Guide camp and a Navy League of Canada camp on Crown land on the eastern shore, and a commercial resort within Calais (S Peace Reg. Plan. Commis. and ID No. 16 1984). The island in Sturgeon Lake's west basin (Fig. 2) was designated a natural area in 1987. Mature stands of trembling aspen and white spruce and stands of paper birch grow on the island, and the shoreline is surrounded by emergent vegetation (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1987[a]).

Sturgeon Lake is rich in nutrients and supports extensive blooms of blue-green algae during summer. In some winters, dissolved oxygen concentrations have become critical for fish; winterkills were recorded in 1976 and 1977. The sport fish in the lake are walleye, northern pike and yellow perch. There are no sport fishing regulations specific to Sturgeon Lake, but provincial limits and regulations apply. Goose Creek, the main inflow to Sturgeon Lake, is closed to sport fishing during April and May to protect spawning walleye (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989). The lake also supports commercial and domestic fisheries, which mainly catch lake whitefish. Aquatic vegetation is abundant along most of the shoreline; it can hamper motor boats at the western end of the west bay, in the cove at Young's Point, and in scattered areas along the north and east shores of the main basin. There are no boating restrictions over most of the lake, but in posted areas such as designated swimming areas, all boats are prohibited, and in other posted areas, power boats are subject to a maximum speed of 12 km/hour (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988).

Physical Information
Area (km2)49.1
Max. Depth (m)9.5
Mean Depth (m)5.4
Dr. Basin Area (km2)571
Dam, WeirWeir
Drainage BasinSmoky River Basin

Recreational Information
Camp GroundPresent
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishWalleye, Yellow Perch, Arctic Grayling, Northern Pike, Lake Whitefish

Water Quality Information
Trophic StatusHyper-Eutrophic
TP x (µg/L)Main: 92
West: 103
CHLORO x (µg/L)Main: 45.2
West: 38.8
TDS x (mg/L)Main: 82

2.Drainage Basin Characteristics »

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