Touchwood Lake

Basic Info
Map Sheets73L/14
Lat / Long54.8166667, -111.4000000
54°49'N, 111°24'W
Area29.0 km2
Max depth40 m
Mean depth14.8 m
Dr. Basin Area111 km2
Dam, WeirNone
Drainage BasinBeaver River Basin
Camp GroundPresent
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishWalleye, Yellow Perch, Lake Trout, Northern Pike, Lake Whitefish
Trophic StatusMesotrophic
TP x22 µg/L
CHLORO x4.6 µg/L
TDS x154 mg/L
Photo credit: unknown


Touchwood Lake is a beautiful wilderness lake set in heavily forested, rolling hills. It is located in the Lakeland Region of Improvement District No. 18 (South), 265 km northeast of Edmonton and 45 km east of the town of Lac La Biche, which is the closest large population centre. To drive to the lake from the town of Lac La Biche, take Secondary Road 868 around the southeast bay of Lac La Biche for about 15 km until you see the sign indicating the road to Touchwood Lake. Drive east on this improved road for 30 km to the Touchwood Lake Forest Recreation Area on the northwest shore of the lake (FIGURE 1).

The word "touchwood" refers to birch punk, which was used to start fires with flint and steel. In Cree, Pusakan Sakhahigan means "Punk" or "Touchwood" Lake. The Cree had, however, used this term to refer to nearby Pinehurst Lake. They had called Touchwood Lake Nameygos Sakhahegan, which means Trout Lake, in reference to the abundant large lake trout found there (Chipeniuk 1975). By the late 1920s, however, the trout population had apparently been decimated by the commercial fishery, and in spite of stocking during the 1960s and 1980s, no trout have been reported in the commercial or recreational fisheries (Norris 1989). There are no records of permanent or semipermanent residents living at Touchwood Lake. Cabins on the southwest shore were reported to be used during the 1930s by brewers of illegal "moonshine" (Chipeniuk 1975).

Access to the lake is available only at Touchwood Lake Forest Recreation Area (FIGURE 2). This Alberta Forest Service campground is open from May to September. It offers 91 campsites, pump water, a beach and a boat launch, but there is no day-use area. There are no boating restrictions over most of Touchwood Lake, but in posted areas such as the designated swimming area, all boats are prohibited (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988).

A 107-ha parcel of land at Touchwood Lake has been reserved for recreation by Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife. It also holds the status of Protective Notation, which means that the potential of the land as a natural area has been recognized but a natural area has not been established (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1987[b]). The land is located mainly on, and north of, the peninsula on the western shore. It includes mature white spruce and white spruce/balsam fir forests, beach ridges with lodgepole pine/jack pine stands and white spruce/ trembling aspen forests. Access to the area is by boat only; picnic tables are provided.

Concentrations of algae in Touchwood Lake are low throughout the open-water period, so the water is transparent. The density of aquatic vegetation is sparse to moderate, with many unvegetated areas along the lakeshore. Walleye and northern pike are the main species caught by the popular sport fishery. There are no special sport fishing regulations for Touchwood Lake, but provincial limits and regulations apply (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989). The lake also supports commercial and domestic fisheries for lake whitefish.

Drainage Basin Characteristics

Touchwood Lake is a headwater lake. It drains quite a large area, but because of the lake's large size, the drainage basin is less than 4 times the size of the lake (Tables 1, 2). Most of the dozen inlet streams flow into the north and west sides of the lake (FIGURE 1). The outlet stream flows to Pinehurst Lake, 6 km to the south, and eventually to the Beaver River via Punk Creek and the Sand River.

The watershed is underlain by the shale and ironstone of the La Biche Formation. The land is generally level to moderately rolling and the relief is about 214 m. The elevation of the land is highest at the extreme northern tip of the drainage basin (846 m) and lowest along the lakeshore (632 m). North and northeast of the lake, the land is part of a hummocky morainal plain that is characterized by rough, irregular knob and kettle topography (Kocaoglu 1975). The knobs and ridges consist mainly of glacial till and secondarily of glaciofluvial sand and gravel. The remainder of the drainage basin is part of a rolling morainal plain that features minor ridges and knobs intermixed with many wet depressions and small peat bogs.

Soils throughout the drainage basin are mainly moderately well-drained Orthic Gray Luvisols (Kocaoglu 1975). These soils formed on fine loamy, weakly to strongly calcareous glacial till. Secondary soils are well-drained Eluviated Eutric Brunisols on undulating to gently rolling land, poorly drained Humic Luvic Gleysols on level land, and poorly to very poorly drained Mesisols on depressional to level land.

The drainage basin north of the lake is part of the Wet Mixed-wood Subregion of the Boreal Mixedwood Ecoregion (Strong and Leggat 1981). The dominant trees are an association of trembling aspen, balsam poplar and lodgepole pine on moderately well-drained Gray Luvisols. The southern portion of the drainage is part of the Moist Mixedwood Subregion. The main trees are trembling aspen and balsam poplar on moderately well-drained Gray Luvisols. Other species present in both subregions are jack pine on Eutric Brunisols, white spruce on imperfectly drained Gleysols and Gray Luvisols, and black spruce, willows and sedges on Gleysols and/or Organic soils.

All of the land in the drainage basin belongs to the Crown. In the Lakeland Sub-Regional Integrated Resource Plan, the primary management objective for the Touchwood Lake area is to develop it as a major recreation destination area for water-based and upland recreation activities (Alta. En. Nat. Resour. 1985[a]). Under this plan, no improved grazing, industrial development, or exploration and development of oil sands, minerals or coal are allowed in the watershed. Commercial, residential and cottage development may be permitted.

Lake Basin Characteristics

Touchwood Lake is one of the largest bodies of water in the Lakeland Region. It is separated into two basins by a large peninsula (FIGURE 2). The north basin, with a maximum depth of 40 m, is the deepest of the two. The lake bottom in the northern portion of this basin slopes relatively gradually, but toward the "narrows" the sides of the basin are quite steep. This steepness continues throughout the south basin, with the exception of the southern tip of the lake.

The elevation of Touchwood Lake has been monitored since 1969 (FIGURE 3). The historic minimum, 630.90 m, was recorded in September 1973, and the maximum, 631.95 m, was recorded in May 1985. A fluctuation of this size (1.05 m) would cause the lake's surface area to vary by about 3% (FIGURE 4).

Water Quality

The water quality of Touchwood Lake was assessed by Alberta Environment monthly from May to November 1986, and once each in March 1986 and February 1987 (Alta. Envir. n.d.[a]). The water is fresh, well-buffered and hard and the dominant ions are bicarbonate and calcium (TABLE 3).

In 1986, Touchwood Lake was weakly thermally stratified at the end of May, strongly stratified from June to early September and well-mixed in the autumn (FIGURE 5). During 1986, dissolved oxygen concentrations in the upper layers of the water column were sufficient for fish survival, but there was substantial dissolved oxygen depletion in the deeper water. Concentrations of less than 2 mg/L were found at depths greater than 14 m in September (FIGURE 6). The dissolved oxygen concentration was a uniform 9 mg/L from surface to bottom during November. Dissolved oxygen was depleted near the bottom sediments during the winter months, but concentrations were higher than 4 mg/L throughout most of the water column on both dates sampled (FIGURE 6).

Touchwood Lake is mesotrophic. In 1986, the average chlorophyll a concentration was quite low and the water was generally very transparent (TABLE 4). The highest total phosphorus and chlorophyll a concentrations in 1986 were recorded in late May. The chlorophyll a concentration declined from a May high of 12 5g/L to 2 5g/L in mid-August, then increased slightly in October (FIGURE 7). Phosphorus concentrations decreased from a maximum of 28 5g/L in May to 18 5g/L in June, increased moderately in July and then decreased again until September. Chlorophyll a concentrations and Secchi depth did not reflect the elevated phosphorus concentrations in October and early November. Secchi depths increased from 3 m in late May to 11 m in early November. The amount of phosphorus released from the bottom sediments in the euphotic zone was estimated for the period from June through August in 1986 (Shaw and Prepas 1989). This estimate (3.3 mg/m2 per day, or 92 kg per day to the whole lake) indicates that shallow sediments are probably a major source of phosphorus for algal growth in Touchwood Lake.

Biological Characteristics


The phytoplankton community of Touchwood Lake was examined by Alberta Environment monthly during the open-water season in 1986 (Alta. Envir. n.d.[a]). Total phytoplankton biomass followed the same seasonal pattern as chlorophyll a concentration. Biomass was highest in late May (1.91 mg/L), decreased until mid-August, and then increased slightly in late October (TABLE 5). Diatoms (Bacillariophyta) formed most of the biomass from May to July (Cyclotella comta) and again in November (Fragilaria crotonensis and F. capucina). Golden-brown algae (Chrysophyta: Ochromonas sp. and Chrysochromulina parva) were the dominant group in June and blue-green algae (Cyanophyta: Aphanizomenon flos-aquae) were the dominant group during August and September. Cryptomonads (Cryptophyta) accounted for most of the biomass in May (Cryptomonas erosa), June (Katablepharis ovalis), July (C. Marsonii), September (C. erosa and Rhodomonas minuta), October and November (C. erosa).

A brief survey of aquatic macrophytes was carried out by Fish and Wildlife Division on 31 July 1984 (Mills 1987). The dominant emergent species was bulrush (Scirpus sp.), with occasional patches of common cattail (Typha latifolia). Pondweeds (Potamogeton spp.) were present near shore and patches of coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum) grew at the north end of the lake.


The zooplankton and benthic invertebrates in Touchwood Lake have not been surveyed.


The fish fauna of Touchwood Lake includes walleye, northern pike, yellow perch, lake whitefish, cisco, burbot, longnose sucker, white sucker and spottail shiner (Mills 1987). Lake trout were abundant before 1927 but subsequent commercial fishing apparently eliminated them from the lake. In an attempt to reestablish the species, lake trout were stocked at a rate of 31,000 fingerlings in 1967, 61,000 fingerlings in 1968, 90,400 juveniles in 1985, and 90,000 juveniles in both 1986 and 1987 (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.; 1986; 1987[a]; Alta. En. Nat. Resour. 1985[b]). No lake trout have been caught by anglers surveyed during creel censuses or by the commercial fishery (Norris 1989).

Touchwood Lake is managed for domestic, commercial and recreational fisheries. Catch data for the domestic fishery are not available. The commercial fishery has operated since the 1920s and records have been kept since 1942 (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.; Alta. Rec. Parks Wild. 1976). The total commercial catch for the period from 1942/43 to 1973/74 varied between a maximum of 103,786 kg in 1947/48 and a minimum of 957 kg in 1959/60. The average catch for this period was 20,946 kg/year. Some of the variation in annual catch was due to variations in the total effort and the effort to catch cisco, as well as incomplete records of catch. Between 1974/75 and 1987/88, the total catch (excluding burbot, suckers and yellow perch) of lake whitefish, walleye, northern pike and cisco varied between 89 kg in 1978/79 and 12,300 kg in 1987/88. The average catch for the period was 2,803 kg/year. The high catch for 1987/88 was largely due to the increased harvest of lake whitefish for a roe fishery; whitefish accounted for 84% of the total catch in this year.

On average, lake whitefish formed 67% of the total catch (including burbot, suckers and yellow perch) from 1942/43 to 1973/74 (range 32 to 100%). The average whitefish catch for this period was 11,075 kg/year. The whitefish catch declined to 917 kg/year for the period from 1974/75 to 1985/86 because of reduced effort, and increased to 5,720 kg in 1986/87 and to 10,343 kg in 1987/88. The maximum recorded catch of 56,000 kg was taken during the 1952/53 season. The low effort for whitefish during the 1970s and early 1980s was primarily due to the difficulty in finding a market for fish containing high numbers of cysts of the tapeworm Triaenophorus crassus.

Cisco are no longer harvested from Touchwood Lake. They were taken from 1947/48 to 1949/50 and from 1965/66 to 1967/68. Cisco were used for animal food on the mink ranches at Lac La Biche. When the mink ranching industry declined there was a decline in the harvest of this species.

The average commercial harvest of walleye was 1,100 kg/year from 1942/43 to 1967/68, 150 kg/year from 1968/69 to 1979/80 and 430 kg/year from 1980/81 to 1986/87. The maximum catch was 4,651 kg in 1942/43. The 1,100 kg of walleye caught in 1987/88 represented 9% of the total catch that year.

The commercial harvest of northern pike averaged 5,363 kg/year from 1942/43 to 1967/68, 883 kg/year from 1968/69 to 1979/80, 307 kg/year from 1980/81 to 1986/87 and 895 kg in 1987/88.

The sport fishery in Touchwood Lake was evaluated by means of creel surveys conducted by Fish and Wildlife Division during the summer months of 1984 and 1988 (TABLE 6). In addition, Mills (1987) provides estimates of the winter sport fishery. Walleye and northern pike are the species most highly sought by anglers, yellow perch are caught incidentally by walleye anglers and the catch of whitefish is negligible. Angling effort (angler-hours) was almost identical in both years surveyed.

In the summer of 1984, anglers caught 0.15 walleye/angler-hour and kept 1750 fish, which is a harvest rate of 0.09 walleye/angler-hour. Over the year, anglers harvested 1,309 kg of walleye during summer and about 500 kg in winter. When combined with the average commercial harvest of 450 kg of walleye per year from 1980 to 1984, the total harvest was about 2,260 kg/year, or 0.78 kg/ha. In the summer of 1988, the walleye catch rate declined to 0.06 fish/ angler-hour and the average size of fish caught was smaller than in 1984 (TABLE 6).

In the summer of 1984, anglers caught 0.64 northern pike/angler-hour and kept 4,984 fish, which is a harvest rate of 0.26 pike/ angler-hour. Anglers harvested about 7,500 kg of pike during the summer and about 3,000 kg of pike during the winter (Mills 1987). When combined with the average commercial harvest of 144 kg/ year from 1980 to 1984, the total pike harvest was 10,682 kg/year, or 3.68 kg/ha. In the summer of 1988, the catch rate declined to 0.18 pike/angler-hour and the mean weight of fish harvested was somewhat smaller than in 1984 (TABLE 6).


The wildlife on and around Touchwood Lake has not been studied. Birds reported to use the lake include Common Loons, White Pelicans, Belted Kingfishers and Double-crested Cormorants (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1987[b]).

M.E. Bradford and J.M. Hanson


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

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

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Norris, H. 1989. Alta. For. Ld. Wild., Fish Wild. Div., St. Paul. Pers. comm.

Shaw, J.F.H. and E.E. Prepas. 1989. Potential significance of phosphorus release from shallow sediments of deep Alberta lakes. ms submitted to Limnol. Oceanogr.

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

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