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

Tyrrell Lake

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

1. Introduction

Map Sheets:82H/8
Location:Tp5 R17, 18 W4
Lat/Long:49°23'N 112°16'W

Tyrrell Lake is an elongate, saline lake lying in a shallow coulee on flat plains. It is located 45 km southeast of the city of Lethbridge in the County of Warner. To reach the lake from Lethbridge, drive southwest on Highway 4 until you are 3 km past the hamlet of New Dayton. Watch for signs and turn east onto a secondary road and drive for 1.5 km to a county-operated day-use site at the northwest end of the lake (Fig. 1, 2). The facilities include a concrete boat launch, a fish cleaning stand, picnic tables and toilets. There is also a day-use site at the south end of the lake; few facilities are provided and the boat launch is quite muddy.

Tyrrell Lake was named for Joseph Burr Tyrrell, a member of the Geological Survey of Canada from 1880 to 1897 (Wrentham Hist. Soc. 1980). The lake is located on the mixed-grass plains, an area that once supported enormous herds of buffalo. The lake was a campsite for Indians when they travelled between the Cardston area and Montana (Warner Old Timers' Assoc. 1962). In the early 1900s, a wave of settlers came to farm the area, and in 1909, the Tyrrell Lake School was built near the southwest shore of the lake (Wrentham Hist. Soc. 1980).

Tyrrell Lake is a natural water body, but historically, the water level has fluctuated greatly. During the dust-bowl years of the 1930s, the lake reputedly became a dry mud flat (Fitch 1980). In the early 1950s, a canal was built from Milk River Ridge Reservoir via Middle Coulee to Tyrrell Lake to help stabilize levels. However, drainage near the lake was still inadequate, so in wet years farmland was flooded; during prolonged droughts the water level of the lake and associated marshes dropped and jeopardized valuable waterfowl habitat. In 1985, the Tyrrell-Rush complex became the first Wetlands for Tomorrow project built in Alberta. Joint funding was provided by Alberta Environment, Ducks Unlimited (Canada) and Fish and Wildlife Division. The County of Warner and the St. Mary's River Irrigation District (SMRID) provided enthusiastic cooperation. The canals and structures that were built have allowed water levels to be stabilized in Tyrrell Lake, in nearby Rush Lake and in a large marshland south of Rush Lake to form a major wetland area in a region where waterfowl habitat is scarce and drought is common. Agricultural interests are met because the project included an efficient drainage system to move excess runoff from farmland and direct it into the improved Rush Lake drain, which conveys water to Etzikom Coulee (inset, Fig. 1).

Tyrrell Lake is nutrient rich and supports occasional algal blooms. These blooms and the muddy lake bottom discourage swimming. In posted areas of the lake, power boats are restricted to maximum speeds of 12 km/hour (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988). Because of high salinity, the only native fish species are salt-tolerant minnows. However, the lake is stocked annually with rainbow trout, which exhibit one of the fastest growth rates in North America and provide an excellent sport fishery. Fishing with bait fish is not permitted (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989). The lake is also known for its population of tiger salamanders, although their numbers have been severely reduced since the introduction of trout.

Physical Information
Area (km2)3.99
Max. Depth (m)6.1
Mean Depth (m)3.8
Dr. Basin Area (km2)122
Dam, WeirDam
Drainage BasinSouth Saskatchewan River Basin

Recreational Information
Camp GroundNone
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishRainbow Trout, Northern Pike, Lake Whitefish

Water Quality Information
Trophic StatusNo Data
TP x (µg/L)150
CHLORO x (µg/L)No Data
TDS x (mg/L)7,450

2.Drainage Basin Characteristics »

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