Beaver Lake

Basic Info
Map Sheets73L/12, 13
Lat / Long54.7166667, -111.6166667
54°43'N, 111°37'W
Area33.1 km2
Max depth15.2 m
Mean depth7.1 m
Dr. Basin Area290 km2
Dam, WeirNone
Drainage BasinBeaver River Basin
Camp GroundPresent
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishWalleye, Yellow Perch, Northern Pike, Lake Whitefish
Trophic StatusMesotrophic
TP x33 µg/L
CHLORO x10.6 µg/L
TDS x239 mg/L
55
Photo credit: Patricia Mitchell

Introduction

Beaver lake is a large, attractive recreational lake that is popular for boating and fishing. It is situated in the Lakeland Region of Improvement District No. 18 (South), about 170 km northeast of the city of Edmonton. The closest population centre is the town of Lac La Biche, 5 km to the northwest (FIGURE 1). To reach Beaver Lake from Edmonton, take Highway 28 north and east to Highway 36, then drive north to the town of Lac La Biche. From there, a secondary road extends east from Highway 36 to the northwest end of the lake, where Beaver Lake community, Beaver Lake Provincial Recreation Area and an Alberta Forest Service ranger station are located.

The name "Beaver" is probably a translation from the Cree name. The lake is the headwater of the Beaver River, which appeared on the Turnor map of 1790, and both lake and river were named on the Harmon map of 1820 (Chipeniuk 1975; Holmgren and Holmgren 1976).

Members of the Beaver Lake Band, who live on Beaver Lake Indian Reserve 131, are descended from the Woodland Cree who traditionally hunted, fished and trapped in the vicinity of Beaver Lake. Chief Peeaysis signed Treaty No. 6 in 1876 and the present reserve was assigned in 1911. In 1984, the band membership was 319 people (Alta. Native Aff. 1986).

Sometime during the 1860s, two Oblate Fathers from the Lac La Biche Mission established Mission du Lac Castor on the south shore of Beaver Lake. Two log churches were built before the present-day church was constructed in about 1907. When Beaver Lake Reserve was created in 1911, title for the mission's land, which is located at the northern boundary of the reserve, was given to the Oblate Fathers (Chipeniuk 1975).

The history of Beaver Lake community dates back to about 1919, when an extensive fire burned the area. Shortly afterward, a settler named Max Huppie acquired land at the northwest corner of Beaver Lake. The area was named Sampietro Beach, and over the years, Huppie sold a number of small parcels of his land to cottagers before his death in 1959 (Chipeniuk 1975).

Access to the lake is available at the Beaver Lake Provincial Recreation Area, which is operated by Alberta Recreation and Parks (FIGURE 2). Facilities include 140 campsites, pump water, several docks and boat launches, and a day-use area with a picnic shelter, tables and fireplaces. There is no sandy beach or designated swimming area, but people swim from the sand and stone shore. Two boat launches are available in Beaver Lake community as well.

Although the water in Beaver Lake is green at times, algal blooms rarely occur, and aquatic vegetation grows in shallow areas. Boating and fishing are the most popular activities at the lake. Boats are prohibited in posted areas and the lake is closed to sport fishing for a period during April and May each year (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988; 1989). The main sport fish species are northern pike, yellow perch and walleye. During the August long weekend each year, the town of Lac La Biche holds the Blue Feather Fish Derby on Beaver Lake. The derby attracts about 2,000 anglers, who compete for major prizes. The lake also supports commercial and domestic fisheries for lake whitefish.

Drainage Basin Characteristics

Beaver Lake has a large drainage basin that is about 9 times the size of the lake (Tables 1, 2). Beaver Lake receives water from two other lakes in the watershed: a stream from Elinor Lake flows into the southeast basin and a stream from Lac la Croix flows into the northwest basin (FIGURE 1). Two large areas, which include Roseland Lake to the east and Normandeau Lake to the southeast, drain into Beaver Lake only during years when water levels are sufficiently high. As well, four small streams enter the lake on the north shore. Beaver Lake is the headwater of the Beaver River. The lake's outlet creek, which is located on the west side of the north basin, flows into Outlet Lake, which drains into the Beaver River and, eventually, into the Churchill River.

In general, the topography of the drainage basin ranges from undulating to strongly rolling, but near the lake, the land is gently to moderately rolling. The main soils throughout the watershed are Orthic Gray Luvisols of a clay loam or loam type. These are moderately well-drained soils that formed on weakly calcareous glacial till. Extensive wetlands are mainly located in four areas: on the Beaver Lake Reserve, east of Spankie and Elinor lakes, west of Matthews Lake and southeast of Normandeau Lake (FIGURE 1). Poorly drained Organic soils (Fibrisols and Mesisols) are present in these areas (Kocaoglu 1975).

The Beaver Lake watershed is part of the Dry Mixedwood Subregion of the Boreal Mixedwood Ecoregion (Strong and Leggat 1981). Most of the drainage basin is forested. The dominant tree species on well-drained to moderately well-drained Gray Luvisols is trembling aspen, whereas in less well-drained areas, trembling aspen may grow in conjunction with balsam poplar. Stands of white spruce occur infrequently, as white spruce is a climax species that succeeds trembling aspen/balsam poplar forests that are past maturity. Jack pine grows on well-drained ridges near wetlands and black spruce and tamarack grow on poorly drained Organic soils (Hay et al. 1985).

Only a small part of the watershed has been cleared for agriculture, mostly in the south and southeast. The main agricultural activities are livestock production and production of pasture and forage crops such as hay, oats and barley. Members of the Beaver Lake Band operate several farms on reserve land. Natural gas is extracted from wells that dot the countryside. Four productive wells and one capped well were located on the Beaver Lake Reserve in 1979 (Esso Resour. Can. Ltd. 1979).

The Beaver Lake shoreline is developed only at the northwest end. In 1988, the hamlet of Beaver Lake comprised two subdivisions with 154 developed lots and a third subdivision that had not been developed (White 1988). Also, in 1988, part of the hamlet obtained its water supply from, and sent its sewage to, the town of Lac La Biche. The rest of the hamlet was scheduled to connect with the Lac La Biche facilities by 1990 (White 1988).

Lake Basin Characteristics

Beaver Lake is a large water body (33 km2, TABLE 2) with an irregular shape. It is divided into two distinct basins that are joined by a narrow channel. The northwest basin, with a maximum depth of 15.2 m, is deepest. It contains several islands, the number of which varies with the water level. The southeast basin, with a maximum depth of 10.7 m, is shallower and contains only one or two islands,depending on water level. Both basins slope quite steeply to their greatest depth; the bottom of each basin is quite flat, except in the vicinity of the islands.

The elevation of Beaver Lake has been monitored since 1972 (FIGURE 3) by Environment Canada under the joint federal provincial hydrometric agreement (Alta. Envir. n.d.[c]). The water levels refer to an assumed bench mark rather than geodetic elevation. The water level was quite stable between 1972 and 1980, but declined fairly steadily between 1981 and 1988. The difference between the historic maximum surface elevation, recorded in 1975, and the historic minimum elevation, recorded in 1988, is 1.42 m. Changes in the area and capacity of Beaver Lake with fluctuations in water level are illustrated in Figure 4.

Water Quality

The water quality of Beaver Lake was studied by Alberta Environment from March to October in 1986 and in February of both 1979 and 1987 (Alta. Envir. n.d.[a]). The lake was also studied during 1965 and 1966 by a researcher with the University of Alberta (Pinsent 1967).

Beaver Lake has fresh, hard, well-buffered water. The major ions are bicarbonate, calcium and sulphate (TABLE 3). During the summer of 1986, the water column in the northwest basin was weakly thermally stratified until mid-August, when it became isothermal (FIGURE 5). Throughout the open-water period, the water column was uniformly well-oxygenated at all depths (FIGURE 6). In February 1987, the water immediately below the ice was well-oxygenated, but dissolved oxygen concentrations below a depth of 9 m declined to less than 2.0 mg/L.

Beaver Lake is mesotrophic. The average concentration of chlorophyll a during the open-water season in 1986 (TABLE 4) indicates that the lake contains moderate concentrations of algae. The water is green during late summer, but quite clear for the rest of the year. In 1986, the highest concentrations of chlorophyll a (19.1 µg/L) and total phosphorus (45 µg/L) were recorded in mid-September (FIGURE 7). The reason for the increase in total phosphorus was probably a transfer of phosphorus from the sediments to the euphotic zone. Precipitation levels were low during September 1986. Consequently, phosphorus inputs from runoff and directly from precipitation were low.

Biological Characteristics

Plants

The phytoplankton and macrophyte communities of Beaver Lake were sampled by a researcher at the University of Alberta in 1965 and 1966 (Pinsent 1967). Macrophytes were also surveyed in August 1985 by Fish and Wildlife Division staff (Mills 1987).

During 1966, four blue-green algal species (Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, Anabaena flos-aquae, Anabaena spiroides and Microcystis aeruginosa) were dominant in summer, and one species of diatom (Stephanodiscus astraea) was dominant in spring and fall.

Beaver Lake has many protected backwaters and shallow bays; these areas provide good habitat for aquatic plants. Twelve species were recorded in the 1965 and 1966 studies, and 11 species were recorded in August 1985 (FIGURE 8). The most common emergent species were bulrush (Scirpus sp.), common cattail (Typha latifolia) and reed grass (Phragmites communis). Arrowhead (Sagittaria cuneata) and water smartweed (Polygonum natans) were also recorded. The dominant submergent species were northern watermilfoil (Myriophyllum exalbescens), Richardson pondweed (Potamogeton richardsonii) and Sago pondweed (P. pectinatus). Other submergent species present were coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum), flat-stemmed pondweed (P. zosteriformis) and large-sheath pondweed (P. vaginatus).

Invertebrates

The invertebrate community of Beaver Lake was studied by a researcher at the University of Alberta in 1965 and 1966 (Pinsent 1967). From May to September in 1966, zooplankton were collected by vertical net haul from a depth of 8 m to the surface. Sixteen species of cladocerans and copepods were identified. Chydorus sp. and Cyclops sp. were most abundant.

Benthic invertebrates were sampled monthly with an Ekman dredge at 14 stations during the open-water period in 1965 and 1966. The standing crop (dry weight) of benthic invertebrates in the littoral and profundal zones was 19.3 kg/ha in 1965 and 9.3 kg/ha in 1966. The lower biomass in 1966 was attributed to a decline in the percentage of total biomass comprising midge larvae (Chironomidae). Midge larvae were more than 90% of the biomass in 1965 but only 50% in 1966. Scuds (Amphipoda) were the second largest component of the biomass in both years. The fauna in the littoral zone was more diverse than in the profundal zone; 32 taxa were identified in the former area, but only 13 in the latter.

Fish

Nine species of fish have been reported in Beaver Lake: northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, lake whitefish, burbot, white sucker, brook stickleback, Iowa darter and spottail shiner (Pinsent 1967; Mills 1987). The lake is managed for domestic, commercial and recreational fisheries.

The Cree living on the Beaver Lake Reserve have traditionally used the lake as a source of fish. The domestic fishery takes the major portion of the annual fish production; the main catch is lake whitefish (TABLE 5). The fishery has expanded from 1977/78, when 59 licences were issued, to 1986/87, when 202 licences were issued (Mills 1987). Between 1983 and 1986, the average annual domestic catch was reported to be 36,665 kg/year.

The commercial fishery was regulated first in 1926, but records are available only since the 1942/43 season (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.; Alta. Rec. Parks Wild. 1976). The main catch has been lake whitefish, although in some years between 1942/43 and 1954/55, harvests of northern pike and walleye were almost as large. The largest total catch (91,875 kg) was taken in 1943/44. Since about 1973, harvests were much smaller. From 1973/74 to 1987/88, the average total catch (excluding suckers and burbot), was 16,884 kg/year; 99% of this catch was lake whitefish.

The sport fishery is popular with residents of Lac La Biche and visitors to the area. A large number of anglers use the lake year-round (TABLE 6). More than 8,400 anglers were interviewed by Fish and Wildlife Division staff during two creel surveys conducted over two three-month periods in the 1983/84 season (Mills 1987). The main sport fish species in Beaver Lake are walleye, northern pike and yellow perch. The sport catch for the 1983/84 season was estimated to be 17,443 kg, mostly northern pike (TABLE 5).

Wildlife

No data are available for the wildlife community that uses Beaver Lake.

M.E. Bradford

References

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.

-----. n.d.[c]. 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 Native Affairs. 1986. A guide to native communities in Alberta. Native Aff. Secret., Edmonton.

Alberta Recreation, Parks and Wildlife. 1976. Commercial fisheries catch statistics for Alberta, 1942-1975. Fish Wild. Div., Fish. Mgt. Rep. No. 22, Edmonton.

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

Chipeniuk, R.C. 1975. Lakes of the Lac la Biche district. R.C. Chipeniuk, Lac La Biche.

Energy, Mines and Resources Canada. National topographic series 1:50 000 73L/12 (1971), 73L/13 (1971). Surv. Map. Br., Ottawa.

Environment Canada. 1972-1988. Surface water data. Prep. by Inland Waters Directorate. Water Surv. Can., Water Resour. Br., Ottawa.

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

Esso Resources Canada Limited. 1979. Socioeconomic impact assessment of the Cold Lake project on the Beaver Lake Indian Reserve. Esso Resour. Can. Ltd., Calgary.

Hay, W.K., J.M. Veltman and R.W. Haag. 1985. Integrated resource inventory of the east Beaver Lake assessment area: Physical land and forage classifications. Alta. En. Nat. Resour. Tech. Rep. No . T/79, Edmonton.

Holmgren, E.J. and P.M. Holmgren. 1976. Over 2 000 place names of Alberta. 3rd ed. West. Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon.

Kocaoglu, S.S. 1975. Reconnaissance soil survey of the Sand River area (73L). Alta. Soil Surv. Rep. No. 34, Univ. Alta. Rep. No. SS-15, Alta. Inst. Pedol. Rep. No. S-74-34 1975. Univ. Alta., Edmonton.

Mills, J.B. 1987. Beaver Lake limnological survey, phase 1 and 2. Alta. For. Ld. Wild., Fish Wild. Div. Unpubl. rep., St. Paul.

Pinsent, M.E. 1967. A comparative limnological study of Lac la Biche and Beaver Lake, Alberta. MSc thesis. Univ. Alta., Edmonton.

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

White, J.E. 1988. Alta. Mun. Aff., Edmonton. Pers. comm.


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