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

Elkwater 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:72E/9
Location:Tp8 R3 W4
Lat/Long:49°39'N 110°18'W

Elkwater Lake is a popular recreational lake located on the northwest corner of Cypress Hills Provincial Park. The closest population centres are the city of Medicine Hat, 65 km northwest, and the town of Irvine, 40 km north. Highway 41 provides easy access to the eastern arm of the lake and to the hamlet of Elkwater on the south shore (Fig. 1).

The lake's name is a translation of the Blackfoot name Ponokiokwe (Alta. Cult. Multicult. n.d.). Historically, the lake was a favourite drinking spot for the many ungulates that inhabited the Cypress Hills.

The earliest inhabitants of the Cypress Hills were Plains Indians (Cree, Blood, Assiniboine, Stoney, Peigan, Blackfoot and Gros Ventre), who used the area for hunting, fishing and semipermanent habitation. Anthony Henday, the first European explorer to reach the Cypress Hills, arrived in 1754. The first white settlers arrived at the lake in 1883 and established a lumber mill on the north shore, floating logs across the water. Logging continued until 1912, when most of the timber had been removed (Michael and Johnson 1981). Cattle ranching began in the early 1880s and grazing continues to the present day. The townsite of Elkwater was founded in 1913 when a subdivision was completed on the south shore; by the 1920s, the Elkwater Lake area was a major summer camping spot.

Cypress Hills Provincial Park was originally established in 1929 as Elkwater Resort. It was transferred to the province in 1945, and was designated a provincial park in 1951 (Alta. Rec. Parks n.d.). The present facilities include several launch ramps, boat docks and a marina, which provide boaters with excellent access to the lake (Fig. 2). The launch ramp and dock in the eastern bay are for nonmotorized boats only, and there is a 12 km/hour speed limit in the bay (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988). Power boating and water skiing are allowed in the north and west bays. Children's playgrounds, picnic sites, parking, interpretive trails, overnight camping facilities and a swimming area are also available on, or adjacent to, the south shore.

The water in Elkwater Lake is clear and the sandy beach is clean. The lake supports a year-round sport fishery for northern pike and yellow perch, and is a popular area for swimming and wildlife and waterfowl viewing. Hiking, cross-country skiing and downhill skiing are activities pursued in the surrounding park. There are no sport fishing regulations specific to the lake, but general provincial limits and regulations apply (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989). Users of the marina and boat launches are often concerned about the extensive beds of aquatic plants in the lake, which can foul propellers.

Physical Information
Area (km2)2.31
Max. Depth (m)8.4
Mean Depth (m)3.5
Dr. Basin Area (km2)25.7
Dam, WeirWeir
Drainage BasinSouth Saskatchewan River Basin

Recreational Information
Camp GroundPresent
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishYellow Perch, Northern Pike

Water Quality Information
Trophic StatusMesotrophic
TP x (µg/L)43
CHLORO x (µg/L)5.9
TDS x (mg/L)255

2.Drainage Basin Characteristics »

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