Lessard Lake

Basic Info
Map Sheets83G/15
Lat / Long53.7833333, -114.6333333
53°46'N, 114°37'W
Area3.21 km2
Max depth6 m
Mean depth3.9 m
Dr. Basin Area9.29 km2
Dam, WeirNone
Drainage BasinAthabasca River Basin
Camp GroundPresent
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishYellow Perch, Northern Pike
Trophic StatusEutrophic
TP x30 µg/L
CHLORO x14.9 µg/L
TDS x166 mg/L
Photo credit: unknown


Lessard Lake is a quiet, pleasant lake bordered on two sides by extensive wetlands that are home for waterfowl and wildlife. It is located in the County of Lac Ste. Anne between the towns of Onoway and Sangudo. The lake can be reached from the city of Edmonton by driving west on Highway 16 for approximately 26 km, then north on Highway 43 for about 45 km. When you are 7 km past the hamlet of Glenevis, turn south and drive for 2.5 km then turn west and drive for 0.5 km to county-operated Lessard Lake County Park on the southeast side of the lake (FIGURE 1). Recreational facilities available at the park include a campground, picnic area, beach, playground and boat launch (FIGURE 2). There are no specific provincial boating regulations for Lessard Lake, but federal regulations apply and caution should be taken in the beach area to avoid swimmers (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988).

Lessard Lake was possibly named for Edmond Lessard, first elected to the Alberta legislature in 1909, then called to the senate in 1925 (Alta. Cult. Multicult. n.d.).

Lessard Lake is locally popular for sport fishing for yellow perch and pike. Provincial limits for catch, number and size apply, but there are no special regulations for this lake (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989). The water in Lessard Lake is fairly clear in midsummer, but turns green by late August. The west and north shores support extensive aquatic vegetation, but there are sandy areas along the east shore.

Drainage Basin Characteristics

The Lessard Lake drainage basin is small and less than 3 times the area of the lake (Tables 1, 2). There is no defined inlet to or outlet from the lake; groundwater is likely a major contributor of water.

The land in the watershed is gently rolling (5 to 9% slopes), with extensive flat wetland areas to the west of the lake and pockets of wetlands east of the lake (FIGURE 1). The soils in the wetlands are Organics, with extensive accumulations of sedge and Sphagnum peat (Lindsay et al. 1968). Farther from the lake on all sides and along the north shore, the soils are Eluviated Eutric Brunisols that formed on moderately well-drained fluvial material. South of the lake, the soils are Orthic Gray Luvisols that formed on glacial till.

The drainage basin is part of the Moist Mixedwood Subregion of the Boreal Mixedwood Ecoregion (Strong and Leggat 1981). Most of the basin is forested with trembling aspen, balsam poplar and some white spruce. The low areas support sedges, willow, black spruce and birch (Clements 1975). A portion of the northern part of the basin has been cleared for agriculture, primarily grazing and some grain production. The southern part of the basin has been subdivided into country residential lots, but only a few had been developed as of 1987.

Lake Basin Characteristics

Lessard Lake is small, and has a single basin shaped like a short-fingered hand with the "fingers" pointing to the east. The lake basin slopes quite steeply along the southeast side of the lake (FIGURE 2). Near the park, the slope is about 6% and the bottom drops rapidly to a depth of 5 m (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.). The slope along the north and west shores is very gradual and shallow water extends well into the lake. The maximum depth of 6 m is located near the center of the lake.

The bottom of most of the lake and along the north and west shores is soft red-brown organic material; the "thumb" and "fingers" are edged by a sandy shoreline with some patches of cobbles just at the points of land separating the "fingers" (Clements 1975). Aquatic vegetation extends to a depth of approximately 3 m (Clements 1975); almost 30% of the lake area is less than this depth (FIGURE 3).

The lake elevation has been monitored since 1969 when it was relatively low (FIGURE 4). The level reached a maximum in 1974, a year of deep snow and heavy spring rains. From 1975 to 1987, the lake level fluctuated over a range of 0.35 m.

Water Quality

The water quality of Lessard Lake was studied from May 1982 through March 1983 by researchers at the University of Alberta (Prepas and Babin n.d.; Prepas 1983; Babin 1984; Prepas and Vickery 1984; Babin and Prepas 1985).

Lessard is a well-buffered, freshwater lake. The water is neither coloured nor turbid. The dominant ions are bicarbonate and calcium (TABLE 3).

The quality of the water and the patterns of thermal stratification in Lessard Lake are similar to those in many shallow, freshwater lakes in Alberta. During the open-water season of 1982, the lake mixed in spring, and was isothermal except for a six-week period in late June and July when it was thermally stratified. Following this period, the lake was isothermal from early August until freeze-up (FIGURE 5). Dissolved oxygen concentrations were monitored beginning in October of 1982 (FIGURE 6). Despite the mixing that occurred in late summer and autumn, the water column was still only 77% saturated with dissolved oxygen at freeze-up in early November 1982. Under ice, the depletion of dissolved oxygen proceeded at the relatively slow rate of 0.243 g O2/m2 per day. By late March 1983, the dissolved oxygen concentration was low throughout the water column, but fish survival was not compromised. In other years, dissolved oxygen concentrations in late winter have dropped to levels below the limit that can support fish. Nearly total fish kills were reported in the winters of 1973/74 and 1975/76 (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.; Clements 1975).

The trophic status of Lessard Lake is at the low end of the eutrophic range (TABLE 4). The lake is moderately rich in nutrients and occasionally the chlorophyll a concentration rises above 25 µg/L (FIGURE 7). Over winter, when dissolved oxygen concentrations are low, total phosphorus is likely transferred from the sediments into the overlying water. This process accounts for the high total phosphorus concentration in the lake in May 1982 (FIGURE 7). Following this spring peak, the total phosphorus concentration declined rapidly, then increased slowly over the summer. The major source of phosphorus over the summer was likely the bottom sediments, which release phosphorus to the overlying water. Algal biomass (as measured by chlorophyll a) followed the total phosphorus concentration from May through September. Chlorophyll a concentrations were very low (less than 1 µg/L) under ice from November 1982 until March 1983, when they began to increase. As algal biomass increased, the rate of oxygen depletion slowed just under the ice.

Biological Characteristics


The phytoplankton community in Lessard Lake has not been studied. However, in 1982, large filamentous algae (greater than 250 µm in length) were abundant throughout the summer (Prepas and Vickery 1984).

A brief survey of aquatic plants was conducted in 1975 (Clements 1975). All of the shoreline except a small area near the park was edged by bulrush (Scirpus sp.) and patches of yellow water lily (Nuphar variegatum). Submergent plants (unidentified) were found in patches, particularly along the north, northeast and northwest shores.


Zooplankton biomass in Lessard Lake was assessed from May through September 1982 (Prepas 1983; Prepas and Vickery 1984). The zooplankton (greater than 250 µm diameter) biomass was very high in May, constituting 14% of the total phosphorus pool in the water; it then dropped to 3% of the total phosphorus pool from June through August. In August, the dominant cladocerans were Daphnia galeata mendotae and Ceriodaphnia lacustris; the dominant copepods were Diaptomus oregonensis and Mesocyclops edax.

The benthic invertebrate community of Lessard lake has not been surveyed.


Lessard Lake supports a locally popular sport fishery for northern pike and yellow perch. Pike were stocked in the lake in the early 1950s. Partial winterkills occurred in several years between then and 1973, and a severe winterkill in the winter of 1973/74 eliminated almost all of the sport fish (Clements 1975). This winterkill was followed by another, almost total, fish kill in the winter of 1975/76. In August 1976, 130,000 young yellow perch and 10 adult pike were transplanted from Clear Lake. Both species flourished and the sport fishery was once again popular. In 1986, the perch were so abundant that 3,750 were transplanted from Lessard Lake to Nakamun Lake. There was a partial winterkill of perch in the winter of 1988/89 (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.).


There are no data on wildlife species or abundance around Lessard Lake.

J.M. Crosby and E.E. Prepas


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

Alberta Environment. n.d.[a]. Tech. Serv. Div., Hydrol. Br. Unpubl. data, Edmonton.

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

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

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

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

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

Babin, J. 1984. Winter oxygen depletion in temperate zone lakes. MSc thesis. Univ. Alta., Edmonton.

-----. and E.E. Prepas. 1985. Modelling winter oxygen depletion rates in ice-covered temperate zone lakes in Canada. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 42:239-249.

Clements, G.D. 1975. A preliminary limnological survey of Lessard Lake. Alta. Rec. Parks Wild., Fish Wild. Div., Edmonton.

Energy, Mines and Resources Canada. 1975. National topographic series 1:50 000 83G/15 (1975). 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.

Lindsay, J.D., W. Odynsky, J.W. Peters and W.E. Bowser. 1968. Soil survey of the Buck Lake (NE 83B) and Wabamun Lake (E1/2 83G) areas. Alta. Soil Surv. Rep. No. 24, Univ. Alta. Bull. No. SS-7, Alta. Res. Counc. Rep. No. 87. Univ. Alta., Edmonton.

Prepas, E.E. 1983. The influence of phosphorus and zooplankton on chlorophyll levels in Alberta lakes. Prep. for Alta. Envir., Res. Mgt. Div. Rep. 83/23, Edmonton.

-----. and J. Babin. n.d. Univ. Alta., Dept. Zool. Unpubl. data, Edmonton.

-----. and J. Vickery. 1984. The contribution of particulate phosphorus (>250 µm) to the total phosphorus pool in lake water. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 41:351-363.

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