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

Lake Newell

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

1. Introduction

Map Sheets:72L/5, 12, 82I/8
Location:Tp16, 17 R14, 15 W4
Lat/Long:50°25'N 111°57'W

Lake Newell is one of Alberta's largest reservoirs. It is situated in the County of Newell about 200 km southeast of the city of Calgary and 125 km northwest of the city of Medicine Hat. Kinbrook Island Provincial Park is located on the eastern side of the lake (Fig. 1). The closest population centre is the town of Brooks, located about 14 km north of the provincial park. To reach the park from either Calgary or Medicine Hat, take Highway 1 to Brooks, then Secondary Road 873 south to the park entrance road.

Early settlement of what is now the County of Newell followed the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1883 (Gross and Nicoll Kramer 1985). Rainfall was limited, so the first settlers were mostly ranchers rather than farmers. In 1903, the railway company became owner of most of the land in the area, which it named the Eastern Section. To bring settlers to the land, the company initiated construction of an irrigation system in 1910. The Bassano Dam, located on the Bow River about 6 km southwest of the present-day town of Bassano, was the focal point of the project. All water for the irrigation system is diverted from the Bow River by means of this structure. Dam construction began in 1910 and was completed in 1914. Most homesteaders settled in the area between 1915 and 1919, many of them buying land from the CPR. During the agricultural depression of the 1920s and the general depression and drought of the 1930s, many people abandoned their farms and others could not meet mortgage payments to the railway. Meanwhile, the CPR was suffering heavy operating losses and hopes dwindled for recovering their investment in the irrigation project. When the farmers offered to assume responsibility for the irrigation works, the CPR welcomed the suggestion. In 1935, the CPR transferred the irrigation works, the existing land contracts and $300,000 to the farmers' organization and the Eastern Irrigation District was formed (Gross and Nicoll Kramer 1985). The Eastern Irrigation District covers about 604,000 ha of land, and its boundaries are almost the same as those of the County of Newell. Individual water users in the irrigation district own 345,000 ha of land, and the remaining 259,000 ha is collectively owned by the 1,180 water users in the district's membership (Gross and Nicoll Kramer 1985).

Construction of Lake Newell, the Main Canal and the East Branch Canal was concurrent with construction of the Bassano Dam. The area where the lake is now located was originally a large depression holding a small lake, Crooked Lake, which was fed by a small intermittent stream (Alta. Rec. Parks n.d.). When the reservoir was completed in 1914, it was named for T.H. Newell, an American irrigation expert who had bought half a township of land west of Crooked Lake in 1911 (Gross and Nicoll Kramer 1985). The water level of Lake Newell was raised in 1939 in order to extend irrigation to the Rolling Hills District, southeast of the lake (Alta. Rec. Parks n.d.). The outlet structures and the East Branch Canal inlet were further modified in 1978 to raise the lake's water level by another 0.91 m to increase live storage. Between 1988 and 1992, the East Branch Canal will be enlarged to increase inflow. This will stabilize lake levels and increase outflow for a planned expansion of irrigation (Clark 1989).

The history of Kinbrook Island Provincial Park dates back to 1944, when the Kinsmen Club of Brooks obtained a recreational lease for Kinbrook Island, which they named for their club. Recreational facilities were developed, and in 1951, the island became a provincial park. In 1952, the park was enlarged to include all of the other islands in the lake so that nesting sites for White Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants and Canada Geese would be preserved. Pelican Island, at the southwest end of the lake, is now a seasonal sanctuary, and access is prohibited from 15 April to 15 September each year. The rest of the park is open year-round. The park has 209 campsites, sewage disposal facilities, tap water, playgrounds, two boat launches, picnic areas and shelters, a concession and a swimming area. During summer, popular activities in the park and on the lake are swimming, motor boating, sailing, fishing for northern pike and lake whitefish, birdwatching, windsurfing and canoeing. Several sailing regattas and fishing derbies are held during the season. Boating is prohibited in some posted areas, such as designated swimming areas, and power boats are restricted to a maximum speed of 12 km/hour in other areas (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988). In winter, ice fishing, ice sailing and skating are popular activities. There are no special regulations for the sport fishery, but provincial limits and regulations apply (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989).

The water in Lake Newell turns green during July and August, but the concentration of algae during the remainder of the open-water season is frequently quite low and the water is moderately transparent. Large annual water level fluctuations result in low densities of aquatic vegetation near shore. In addition to the sport fishery, the lake supports a commercial fishery for lake whitefish and northern pike.

Physical Information
Area (km2)66.4
Max. Depth (m)19.8
Mean Depth (m)4.8
Dr. Basin Area (km2)84.6
Dam, WeirDam
Drainage BasinBow River Basin

Recreational Information
Camp GroundPresent
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishLake Whitefish, Bull Trout, Walleye, Yellow Perch, Brown Trout, Northern Pike, Rainbow Trout

Water Quality Information
Trophic StatusEutrophic
TP x (µg/L)29
CHLORO x (µg/L)11.0
TDS x (mg/L)196

2.Drainage Basin Characteristics »

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