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Home » Lakes of the Atlas » South Saskatchewan Region » Red Deer River Basin » Buffalo Lake

Buffalo Lake

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

1. Introduction

Map Sheets:83A
Location:Tp40 R21, 22 W4
Lat/Long:52°28'N 112°54'W

Buffalo Lake is a large, shallow lake in central Alberta, 40 km northeast of Red Deer in the counties of Camrose, Stettler and Lacombe (Fig. 1). To reach Buffalo Lake from the town of Lacombe, drive east on Highway 12 for 68 km to the hamlet of Erskine, then turn north on Secondary Road 835 and drive for 15 km to Rochon Sands Provincial Park. Access routes to other recreation areas are shown on Figures 1 and 2.

There are four public recreation areas on Buffalo Lake (Fig. 2). Rochon Sands Provincial Park offers a campground with 69 sites, tap water, a telephone, a boat launch, change houses, a sand beach, picnic shelters, a playground and sewage disposal facilities. The Narrows Recreation Area on the southwest end of the lake is operated by Alberta Recreation and Parks. It offers a 72-site campground, pump water and picnic shelters. Buffalo Lake Recreation Area (previously Boss Hill Park) is on the east end of the lake. This area is also operated by Alberta Recreation and Parks and offers a campground with 25 sites, pump water, a sand beach, change houses, picnic shelters, a playground and a boat launch. Pelican Point Park is on the north shore near the east end of the lake. It is operated by the County of Camrose and offers a 100-site campground, pump water, a sand beach, change houses, a boat launch, a playground and a concession (Alta. Hotel Assoc. 1988).

The lake is naturally divided into four areas (Fig. 2). Main Bay at the east end is the largest and deepest (maximum depth of 6.5 m) and supports most of the recreational activity on the lake. Secondary Bay, to the west of Main Bay, is smaller and so shallow (maximum depth of 2.5 m) that it was possible to drive wagons across it when water levels were extremely low in the 1930s. The Narrows is the channel west of Secondary Bay and is a popular fishing area. Parlby Bay is the small bay west of the Narrows; because it is very shallow (maximum depth of 1.1 m) and densely filled with aquatic plants, it provides excellent waterfowl habitat.

The lake was labelled Buffalo Lake on David Thompson's map of 1814. It was so named for its resemblance to the profile of a buffalo with the legs to the north and the head to the east (Alta. Cult. Multicult. n.d.). Palliser named it Bull Lake on his 1860 map, but Thompson's name is still retained (Holmgren and Holmgren 1976). The trembling aspen and fescue grassland habitat around the lake likely attracted herds of buffalo. The lake was also a favourite Cree and Blackfoot camping area (Lamerton Hist. Soc. 1974). In 1858, Father Lacombe, then a young missionary, travelled for two days in bitter weather to help a group of Blackfoot Indians dying of scarlet fever in their encampment on the east shore of Buffalo Lake. After treating them for 20 days, he too almost died from the fever, but later recovered to become a leading figure in Alberta's history (Lamerton Hist. Soc. 1974). Buffalo Lake Settlement on the southwest side of the lake was one of the earliest settlements in central Alberta. It was established in 1883, well before the mainstream of settlers arrived between 1891 and 1905 (Lamerton Hist. Soc. 1974). The beach within Rochon Sands Provincial Park was a popular picnic spot for the early settlers, who called it "Hannah's Beach". The name of the area was later changed to Rochon Sands, when land owned by Mr. Rochon was subdivided (Finlay and Finlay 1987). The land for the provincial park was set aside in 1933 and 1934, and the park was officially established in 1957 (Alta. Rec. Parks n.d.).

By 1923, 23 cottages had been built on the lake; this remained unchanged until 1951 (Red Deer Reg. Plan. Commis. 1977). By 1982, there were 650 cottages in 4 subdivisions and 2 summer villages, all located on Main Bay (Fig. 2). Two new subdivisions remained undeveloped as of 1982 (HLA Consult. 1982).

The water in Buffalo Lake is moderately saline. It is generally quite clear, but algae may become conspicuous in late summer, especially in the western half of the lake. Buffalo Lake is popular for boating, swimming and beach activities. All boats are restricted from some posted areas and power vessels are restricted to speeds of 12 km/hour or less in other posted areas of the lake (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988). Northern pike provide a locally important sport fishery. The Narrows (Fig. 2), which is the most popular area for angling, is closed to fishing from late March to late May each year to protect spawning pike. Angling in inflowing Parlby Creek is restricted during the same period (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989). The lake is one of the most important waterfowl breeding and staging areas in Alberta.

Physical Information
Area (km2)93.5
Max. Depth (m)6.5
Mean Depth (m)2.8
Dr. Basin Area (km2)1440
Dam, WeirNone
Drainage BasinRed Deer River Basin

Recreational Information
Camp GroundPresent
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishNorthern Pike

Water Quality Information
Trophic StatusMain: Mesotrohpic
Secondary: Mesotrophic
TP x (µg/L)Main: 59
Secondary: 77
CHLORO x (µg/L)Main: 5.4
Secondary: 9.4
TDS x (mg/L)Main: 1683
Secondary: 1420

2.Drainage Basin Characteristics »

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