Musreau Lake

Basic Info
Map Sheets83L/10
Lat / Long54.5500000, -118.6166667
54°32'N, 118°37'W
Area5.49 km2
Max depth13 m
Mean depthNo Data m
Dr. Basin Area101 km2
Dam, WeirNone
Drainage BasinSmoky River Basin
Camp GroundPresent
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishRainbow Trout, Bull Trout
Trophic StatusMesotrophic
TP x22 µg/L
CHLORO x4.5 µg/L
TDS x99 mg/L
Photo credit: unknown


Musreau Lake is a lovely, popular trout-fishing lake situated in rolling hill country in the County of Grande Prairie. It is located 70 km south of the city of Grande Prairie, 119 km northeast of the town of Grande Cache and 545 km northwest of the city of Edmonton. To reach the lake from Edmonton, take Highway 16 west until you are just past the town of Hinton, then drive northwest and north on Highway 40 for about 250 km. A sign indicates the gravel secondary road that leads to Musreau Lake Forest Recreation Area on the northwest side of the lake (FIGURE 1). Prior to the opening of Highway 40 in 1986, Musreau Lake was served by a narrow, local gravel road and was considerably more isolated.

The name of the lake is probably a French translation of a Cree or Stoney word meaning "noisy" or "devil". The name describes the lake in winter, when pockets of gas that form under the ice cause the ice to break and emit loud cracking noises. As a result of these sounds, the Indians feared the lake (Alta. Cult. Multicult. n.d.).

The first fur trader to arrive in the area was Ignace Giasson (Twardy and Corns 1980). In 1820, he and his Iroquois guide, Téte Jaune, began a voyage up the Smoky River to acquire new fur-trapping territory for the Hudson's Bay Company. They travelled south from St. Mary's House, near the present-day town of Peace River, to the location of the present-day town of Grande Cache. Their route brought them very close to the lake, which is located only 15 km east of the Smoky River. There has been no settlement around Musreau Lake. Until the 1960s, the main activities in the region were trapping, some coal mining, and lumbering on a small scale. The area became more accessible in the 1960s, when seismographic crews were active and hunters and anglers made frequent trips to the area. As well, the Alberta Resources Railway was constructed between Grande Cache and Grande Prairie in the late 1960s. It follows a route similar to that taken by Ignace Giasson and Tete Jaune 150 years earlier. In 1973, Procter and Gamble Cellulose Limited opened a pulp mill near Grande Prairie. This accelerated timber harvesting in the region, and construction of forestry roads improved public access to large areas of wilderness that have recreational potential (Twardy and Corns 1980).

Musreau Lake Forest Recreation Area (FIGURE 2), operated by Alberta Forest Service, was created in 1978 and upgraded in 1986. It provides 69 campsites, pump water, a day-use area with 13 picnic tables and fireplaces, a small sand beach, 2 boat launches, equestrian trails and all-terrain vehicle trails (Alta. Hotel Assoc. 1989). The main recreational activities enjoyed at the lake and in the vicinity are fishing, canoeing, swimming, hiking, snowmobiling and riding all-terrain vehicles.There are no boating restrictions over most of the lake, but in posted areas such as the designated swimming area, all boats are prohibited, and in other posted areas, motor boats are restricted to a maximum speed of 12 km/hour (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988).

During summer, the concentration of algae in Musreau Lake remains quite low. The water lacks clarity, however, because it acquires a brown tint from muskeg in the drainage basin. Aquatic vegetation is present along most of the southern and western shores, but is less abundant on the windward shores. Rainbow trout are the primary sport fish in the lake. There are no sport fishing regulations specific to Musreau Lake, but general provincial regulations and limits apply (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989).

Drainage Basin Characteristics

Musreau Lake drains a fairly large area that is about 18 times the size of the lake (Tables 1, 2). Most of the watershed lies to the south and west of the lake (FIGURE 1). There are six inlet streams, of which the three largest flow into the southern and western shores. The outlet, Musreau Creek, is located at the north end of the lake. It flows in an easterly direction until it enters the Kakwa River, which flows into the Smoky River. Musreau Lake's drainage basin is part of a physiographic division of the Interior Plains called the Alberta PlateauBenchlands (Twardy and Corns 1980). This division is characterized by isolated, elevated plateaus separated by long, gently sloping benchlands. Most of the land in the drainage basin is level to undulating (0 to 4% slope), although areas near the north shore are gently rolling (5 to 9% slope).

Musreau Lake lies within the Boreal Foothills Ecoregion (Strong and Leggat 1981). The most common soils throughout the watershed are Orthic Luvic Gleysols, Mesisols, Orthic Gray Luvisols and Solonetzic Gray Luvisols (Twardy and Corns 1980). Orthic Luvic Gleysols are poorly drained soils that developed on glaciolacustrine deposits. They have a silty clay to heavy clay texture and lie in depressions or on flat, poorly drained areas near the margins of organic soil areas. The dominant vegetation on these soils is white spruce in areas that have been free of fire for many years, lodgepole pine in areas that are imperfectly drained, and black spruce and willow in areas with poor drainage (TABLE 1). Mesisols are very poorly drained soils derived from mosses. They are mainly located along inflowing streams and support a plant community characterized by stunted black spruce, tamarack and Sphagnum moss. Orthic Gray Luvisols are moderately well-drained soils that developed on glacial till deposits. They characteristically support trembling aspen and lodgepole pine forests. Solonetzic Gray Luvisols are moderately well-drained soils that developed on glaciolacustrine deposits. They are present mostly on the southeast shore of the lake. Trembling aspen is the main tree on these soils, although white spruce is common on moister sites.

The northern two-thirds of the watershed is completely forested, but much of the southern third has been cleared by the forest industry (FIGURE 1). There has been no agricultural development in the area, as agriculture is limited by a short frost-free period, poor soil structure and excessive soil wetness.

Lake Basin Characteristics

Musreau is a shallow, medium-sized lake with a surface area of 5.49 km2 (TABLE 2), a maximum length of 4.2 km and a maximum width of 2.7 km. The lake basin slopes gently to a maximum depth of 13 m in the centre of the basin (FIGURE 2). The shallowest areas are located in the large southern and western bays. The lake's elevation has been monitored only since 1986. The maximum water level for the period from 1986 to 1988 was 871.91 m, recorded in August 1987, and the minimum was 870.56 m, recorded in October 1988.

Water Quality

The water quality of Musreau Lake was studied by Fish and Wildlife Division in July 1974, December 1981 and August 1984 (Schroeder 1974; 1984), and jointly by Alberta Environment and Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife during 1986 and 1987 (Alta. Envir. n.d.[a]).

The lake has fresh water; in 1986, the average concentration of total dissolved solids was 94 mg/L (TABLE 3). The water has lower alkalinity and hardness than the water in many prairie lakes. The major ions are calcium and bicarbonate. In 1974, turbidity was low (25 NTU) and the water was highly coloured (120 mg/L Pt). The brownish colour is typical of lakes in muskeg areas and is reflected by the low average transparency measured in 1986 and 1987 (TABLE 4).

In July 1986, the water column was thermally stratified (FIGURE 3) and the concentration of dissolved oxygen declined from 9 mg/L at the surface to 5 mg/L at the bottom. In July 1974, no stratification was detected and dissolved oxygen concentrations were almost uniform (7 to 8 mg/L) throughout the water column. Since the lake is fairly shallow, stratification may be intermittent throughout the summer. In February of 1987, the water column was well-oxygenated to the bottom (FIGURE 3).

Musreau Lake is mesotrophic. During 1986, chlorophyll a levels were highest in September (10 mg/L), and the Secchi transparency was correspondingly low (FIGURE 4). The total phosphorus concentration reached a maximum in late July, possibly because exceptionally heavy rainfall caused an increase in runoff. More than 25% of the total annual precipitation in 1986 fell during July (Envir. Can. 1986).

Biological Characteristics


No data are available for the phytoplankton community in Musreau Lake.

Fish and Wildlife Division conducted a brief survey of aquatic vegetation in August 1984 (FIGURE 5). Emergent plants, particularly water lily (Nuphar sp.), bulrush (Scirpus spp.) and horsetail (Equiseturn sp.), were common along most of the southern and western shores. They were less prevalent along the windward northern and eastern shores. The most common submergent species were Richardson pondweed (Potamogeton richardsonii) and Sago pondweed (P. pectinatus).


No data are available for the zooplankton community in Musreau Lake.

The benthic fauna from nine depth zones was sampled by Fish and Wildlife Division in July 1974 (TABLE 5). The average standing crop was calculated to be 3.6 g/m2 wet weight, or 0.40 g/m2 dry weight. Midge larvae (Chironomidae) formed 78% of the biomass; they were most abundant at depths greater than 7.6 m. Aquatic earthworms (Oligochaeta) were found at most depths, but scuds (Amphipoda), mayfly nymphs (Ephemeroptera) and caddis fly larvae (Trichoptera) were found only in water less than 3-m deep.


Seven species of fish have been reported in Musreau Lake: longnose suckers, white suckers, bull trout, burbot, rainbow trout, pearl dace and brassy minnows (Schroeder 1974). Most anglers using the lake are residents of the County of Grande Prairie, and the recreational fishery is considered important (Nelson 1979; Schroeder 1988).

Rainbow trout were introduced to the lake in 1972. Between 1972 and 1988, the lake was stocked 11 times with an average of 224 000 fish/year (Alta. Ld. For. 1972; 1974; Alta. Rec. Parks Wild. 1975; 1977; 1978; Alta. En. Nat. Resour. 1979; 1980; 1982; 1985; Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1987; Schroeder 1988). The trout population had not become well established by 1984, probably because of extensive predation by burbot on the newly stocked fingerlings (Schroeder 1984). As well, competition for food between trout fingerlings and suckers probably had an adverse effect on trout growth and survival. Rainbow trout were also lost to the population when they migrated out of the lake via Musreau Creek. In an attempt to increase survival, small yearling trout rather than fingerlings have been stocked since 1985. Anglers have reported greater fishing success since then, but no creel survey to determine catch rates has been conducted (Schroeder 1988).


No data are available for the wildlife at Musreau Lake.

M.E. Bradford


Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism. n.d. Hist. Resour. Div., Hist. Sites Serv. Unpubl. data, Edmonton.

Alberta Energy and Natural Resources. 1979, 1980, 1982, 1985. Fish planting list. Fish Wild. Div., Edmonton.

Alberta Environment. n.d.[a]. Envir. Assess. Div., Envir. Qlty. Monit. Br. Unpubl. data, Edmonton.

-----. n.d.[b]. Tech. Serv. Div., Hydrol. Br. Unpubl. data, Edmonton.

Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife. n.d. Fish Wild. Div. Unpubl. data, Edmonton.

-----. 1987. Fish planting list. Fish Wild. Div., Edmonton.

-----. 1988. Boating in Alberta. Fish Wild. Div., Edmonton.

-----. 1989. Guide to sportfishing. Fish Wild. Div., Edmonton.

Alberta Hotel Association. 1989. Alberta campground guide 1989. Prep. for Travel Alta., Edmonton.

Alberta Lands and Forests. 1972, 1974. Fish planting list. Fish Wild. Div., Edmonton.

Alberta Recreation, Parks and Wildlife. 1975, 1977, 1978. Fish planting list. Fish Wild. Div., Edmonton.

Alberta Research Council. 1972. Geological map of Alberta. Nat. Resour. Div., Alta. Geol. Surv., Edmonton.

Energy, Mines and Resources Canada. 1980. National topographic series 1:50000 83L/7 (1980), 83L/10 (1980). Surv. Map. Br., Ottawa.

Environment Canada. 1982. Canadian climate normals, Vol. 7: Bright sunshine (1951-1980). Prep. by Atm. Envir. Serv. Supply Serv. Can., Ottawa.

-----. 1986. Climate of Alberta. Prep. by Atm. Envir. Serv. Alta. Envir., Edmonton.

Nelson, L.R. 1979. Summary of creel census at Musreau Lake, June 29-July 2, 1979. Alta. En. Nat. Resour., Fish Wild. Div. Unpubl. rep., Edmonton.

Schroeder, D.G. 1974. Preliminary survey of Musreau Lake, July 1974. Alta. Ld. For., Fish Wild. Div. Unpubl. rep., Edmonton.

-----. 1984. Musreau Lake test netting and assessment of potential spawning habitat, Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 1982 and Aug. 22-23,1984. Alta. En. Nat. Resour., Fish. Wild. Div. Unpubl. rep., Edmonton.

-----. 1988. Alta. For. Ld. Wild., Fish Wild. Div., Grande Prairie. Pers. comm.

Smith, L. and B. Scott. 1969. Musreau Lake (7GB-3). Alta. Ld. For., Fish Wild. Div. Unpubl. rep., Edmonton.

Strong, W.L. and K.R. Leggat. 1981. Ecoregions of Alberta. Alta. En. Nat. Resour., Resour. Eval. Plan. Div., Edmonton.

Twardy, A.G. and I.G. Corns. 1980. Soil survey and interpretations of the Wapiti map area, Alberta. Alta. Inst. Pedol. Bull. No. 39. Alta. Res. Counc., Edmonton.