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Home » Lakes of the Atlas » South Saskatchewan Region » Bow River Basin » Chestermere Lake

Chestermere Lake

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

1. Introduction

Map Sheets:82P/4
Location:Tp24 R28 W4
Lat/Long:51°02'N 113°49'W

Chestermere Lake is a small offstream reservoir situated 7 km east of Calgary on Highway 1 in Municipal District No. 44 (Fig. 1). Its proximity to over one-half million people and its ease of access result in tremendous recreational pressure. It is popular for sailing, windsurfing, swimming, skin-diving, fishing and skating.

The derivation of the lake's name is uncertain. The reservoir was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) for irrigation purposes. One of the company directors at the time was Lord Chester. The name may also come from the Latin castra meaning "camp" and mere meaning "lake" (Holmgren and Holmgren 1976). Before settlers arrived, Blackfoot Indians roamed over the dry plains. The first ranches were developed near the Bow River to the south, but cattle and horses grazed as far north as the Chestermere area. Homesteaders arrived between 1883 and 1900 to fence the open prairie and break the rich land (Peake 1982).

When the CPR built its trans-Canada railway line in the 1880s, the Canadian government gave the company alternate sections of land along the right-of-way. In southern Alberta, the CPR exchanged the alternate sections for two large blocks of land; one near the town of Brooks and one near the town of Strathmore, which is just east of Chestermere Lake (Thompson 1971). The CPR developed these blocks into agricultural showcases and sent brochures to Europe to inspire immigration. Hundreds of Russian, Dutch, French and Scandinavian people soon arrived. Mortgages were signed with the CPR, and in return the CPR agreed to supply irrigation water at 50¢ per acre. By 1943, the CPR was losing money in the Strathmore block and offered to cancel the mortgages if the farmers would cancel their water rights. Not all farmers agreed to this, and in 1944 the CPR cancelled the mortgages and gave the farmers $400,000 plus all the irrigation equipment in place at the time. The block of land at Strathmore became the Western Irrigation District (WID). Similar events had occurred in the Brooks block, which became the Eastern Irrigation District in 1935 (Chestermere Hist. Soc. 1971; Thompson 1971).

Part of the irrigation system built for the Strathmore area by the CPR in 1910 included a weir on the Bow River within Calgary and a canal and two dams and headgates on a natural slough which became the impoundment now known as Chestermere Lake. The original purpose of the lake was to act as a balancing reservoir to quickly meet fluctuating demands in the irrigation system. Now the reservoir is operated for both irrigation and recreation. The WID still operates the reservoir. Water flows into secondary canals at the north and south ends of the reservoir to irrigate over 36,000 ha of land and to supply stockwater to more than 800 farms (West. Irrig. Dist. n.d.).

The secondary canals and reservoir right-of-way are owned by the WID. The land around Chestermere Lake is almost all privately owned and most of it is within the summer village of Chestermere Lake (Fig. 2). In 1988 there were 443 developed lots, of which 340 front on the shore; 200 were permanent residences. The best public access is at John Peake Memorial Park on the northwest end of the lake, just north of the Highway 1A crossing (Fig. 2). This day-use area, operated by the summer village of Chestermere Lake, provides a boat launch, washrooms and picnic tables for a small fee. In 1988, a beach was developed at the park. There are two other small day-use areas on municipal reserve land. Anniversary Park is on the west shore, and Sunset Park is on the east. Both offer picnic tables and washrooms and both are very popular with windsurfers. The maximum speed for power boats on the entire reservoir is limited to 12 km/hour (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988).

The water in Chestermere Lake is usually clear and algal blooms are not often a problem. However, aquatic plants are widespread and are a nuisance to boaters and anglers. Sport fishing for perch and pike is popular both in summer and winter. Provincial sport fishing regulations are in effect, but there are no additional regulations specific to Chestermere Lake (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989).

Physical Information
Area (km2)2.65
Max. Depth (m)7.0
Mean Depth (m)3.47
Dr. Basin Area (km2)5.00
Dam, WeirDam
Drainage BasinBow River Basin

Recreational Information
Camp GroundNone
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishRainbow Trout, Yellow Perch, Northern Pike

Water Quality Information
Trophic StatusMesotrophic
TP x (µg/L)32
CHLORO x (µg/L)6.0
TDS x (mg/L)175

2.Drainage Basin Characteristics »

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