Moore Lake

Basic Info
Map Sheets73L/9, 10
Lat / Long54.5166667, -110.5166667
54°31'N, 110°31'W
Area9.28 km2
Max depth26 m
Mean depth8.3 m
Dr. Basin Area37.1 km2
Dam, WeirWeir
Drainage BasinBeaver River Basin
Camp GroundPresent
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishNorthern Pike, Walleye, Yellow Perch
Trophic StatusMesotrophic
TP x26 µg/L
CHLORO x8.0 µg/L
TDS x422 mg/L
Photo credit: unknown


Moore Lake is a very popular recreational lake, both on a local and a regional basis. It is located in Alberta's Lakeland Region, and is valued for its clear water and lovely natural shoreline. Because of its high backshore, Moore Lake remains calm on windy days, and therefore is an excellent lake for water skiing. The lake is situated about 280 km northeast of Edmonton in Improvement District No. 18 (South), and borders on the Municipal District of Bonnyville. The town of Bonnyville to the south of the lake, and the towns of Cold Lake and Grand Centre to the southeast, are the principal urban centres in the area. To reach the lake from Edmonton, take Highways 28 and 28A northeast to Bonnyville, then Highway 41 north to the locality of La Corey. Turn east onto Highway 55 and drive for about 13 km. A sign on the highway indicates the north turn to a local road that leads to the south shore of Moore Lake and two provincial recreation areas. Other parts of the lakeshore are not accessible by road (FIGURE 1).

The lake was named for Dr. Bromley Moore, a former President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons and a friend of the surveyor Marshall Hopkins (Alta. Cult. Multicult. n.d.). Locally, it is also known as Crane Lake, and residents have petitioned to have the name officially changed (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1988).

Woodland Cree occupied the region when the fur traders first arrived. The Beaver River, to the south of Moore Lake, was part of a major fur trade route from Lac Isle-`-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan to the Athabasca River. The first fur-trading post in the area was Cold Lake House. It was established by the North West Company in 1781 on the Beaver River near the present-day hamlet of Beaver Crossing (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1978). The history of the area near Moore Lake has not been documented.

During the 1980s, concerns about future development pressures and potential lake-user conflicts led Improvement District No. 18 (South) to request that Alberta Municipal Affairs prepare a background report and lake management plan for Moore Lake (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1987[a]; 1987[b]). The plan determines the extent of future land developments, allocates land use, and determines ways to minimize environmental impacts and conflicts in the use of the lakeshore. It also recommends preferred lake uses and ways to minimize lake-user conflicts. In 1988, an area structure plan for Moore Lake was adopted by the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1988). The area structure plan provides guidelines for Improvement District No. 18 (South), the Municipal District of Bonnyville, and federal and provincial government agencies for land developments that affect the lake.

Most of Moore Lake's shoreline is Crown land. Patented land is located along the north, west and south shores at the west end of the lake (FIGURE 2). In 1987, there were 70 developed lots and 110 undeveloped lots in the subdivisions on the south and west shores (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1987[a]). Sixty-nine of the developed lots were on the south shore. Almost 4 km of shoreline have been developed; this area includes almost 11 ha of municipal and environmental reserves, which are primarily located between the lake and the registered lots.

There are two provincial recreation areas on the south shore of Moore Lake (FIGURE 2). Both are operated by Alberta Recreation and Parks and are open year-round. Moore Lake East Provincial Recreation Area covers 1.3 ha of land and has 34 unserviced campsites. Moore Lake West Provincial Recreation Area covers 1.5 ha and has 26 unserviced campsites. Both parks provide picnic tables and shelters, firepits, pump water, boat launches, beaches and swimming areas. There are two commercial recreational developments on the south shore, as well. One of them, Bodina Resort, is located just west of Moore Lake West Recreation Area. The boat launch at this resort is owned by Alberta Recreation and Parks and is available for public use (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1987[a]).

During summer weekends, all of the recreation areas receive heavy use. Surveys of cottage owners in 1977 and 1986 indicated that popular summer recreational activities at the lake were swimming, fishing, sightseeing, general relaxation, power boating, water skiing and picnicking (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1979; 1987[b]). There are no boating restrictions specific to Moore Lake, but general federal regulations apply (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988). Motor boating and water skiing are hampered by the presence of Doris Island and by shallow areas in the west basin where there is extensive plant growth. Because of permanent residences on the lake, access roads are ploughed in winter. Popular winter activities cited by cottage owners were sightseeing, general relaxation, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, skating, snowshoeing and hunting.

The water in Moore Lake is quite transparent during most of the open-water season, but turns green in late summer and early fall. Sport fish species in the lake are walleye, northern pike, yellow perch and lake whitefish. Significant growth of aquatic vegetation is limited to only a few areas, such as in the west basin; the lack of extensive vegetation limits fish spawning and feeding habitat in the lake. The sport fishery in Moore Lake's inlet and outlet streams is closed for a period during April and May each year (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989).

Drainage Basin Characteristics

Moore Lake is a headwater lake with a small drainage basin that is only four times the size of the lake (Tables 1, 2). The only inlets are two minor streams, one each on the northeast and west shores (FIGURE 1). The outlet flows from the east shore into nearby Hilda and Ethel lakes and eventually into the Beaver River.

Moore Lake is situated on a rolling morainal plain in the Dry Mixedwood Subregion of the Boreal Mixedwood Ecoregion (Kocaoglu 1975; Strong and Leggat 1981). Land north of the lake is level to moderately rolling (0 to 15% slope), whereas to the south it is level to gently rolling (0 to 9% slope). The majority of the drainage basin is forested (FIGURE 1). Soils are mainly moderately well-drained Orthic Gray Luvisols, which support a forest cover of trembling aspen. These soils developed on fine loamy, moderately to strongly calcareous glacial till and are found on the upper and middle portions of slopes. Large areas of Eluviated Dystric Brunisols also occur, particularly along the eastern shore and the outflow, along the central portion of the southern shore, and northwest of the west basin. These rapidly drained soils, which occur on midslopes, formed on sandy glaciofluvial and aeolian parent material. The main tree species growing on Brunisols is jack pine. Poorly drained Organic soils (Mesisols), which are dispersed throughout the watershed in depressional areas, support a cover of black spruce, willows and sedges. Large wetlands are located along the two inflows and south of the lake (FIGURE 1).

Agricultural activity in the drainage basin is limited by adverse topography, undesirable soil structure, low or excessive moisture-holding capacity of the soil, and a relatively short growing season (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1987[a]). Most of the cultivated land is located south of the lake. The main agricultural activity is grazing. The grazing land has been partially cleared and seeded with tame grass, but is assessed as unimproved pasture. A limited number of grazing permits and leases have been issued for Crown land in the drainage basin (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1987[a]).

Moore Lake is underlain by the Muriel Lake aquifer (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1987[a]). Currently, the principal water sources for regional water needs are the aquifers and not the lake. The largest water users in the area are the oil sands industries. Oil sands and petroleum and natural gas leases in the Moore Lake drainage basin are held by several companies, including Esso Resources and Husky Oil. The oil sands permits allow the companies to test and set up drilling operations for subsurface oil deposits, including those under the lake surface. There are no significant gas pools in the area. As a result of Alberta Environment's studies of the water resources in the Cold Lake-Beaver River basin in the early 1980s, a long-term plan for water resources management in the Cold Lake region was adopted by the government in 1985 (Alta. Envir. 1985). Under the provisions of this plan, Moore Lake will not become a major water supply for the oil industry. Major industrial water users will be required to obtain their water supply from a pipeline from the North Saskatchewan River.

Lake Basin Characteristics

Moore Lake is a medium-sized, deep water body (TABLE 2, FIGURE 2). The lake has two basins which are separated by Doris Island. The eastern basin slopes quite steeply to a maximum depth of 26 m northeast of the island. The western basin, with a maximum depth of 15 m, is relatively shallow. Its deepest locations are south of the island and north of the recreation areas. The lake basin drops off very steeply southeast of Doris Island.

In 1952, Ducks Unlimited (Canada) and the provincial government built a rock and timber dam on the lake's outlet. The purpose of the structure was to raise the lake level, improve duck-breeding habitat below the dam and ensure year-round water flow in the creek. By 1982, the old dam was in disrepair and Ducks Unlimited (Canada) had built a new earthen dyke upstream of the old structure (Ducks Unltd. (Can.) n.d.).

The elevation of Moore Lake has been monitored since 1969 (FIGURE 3). The maximum elevation (549.91 m) was recorded in June 1974, a year of high precipitation. Since 1974, there has been a general decline in lake levels. The minimum elevation (549.35 m), which was recorded in November 1987, was 0.56 m lower than the maximum elevation. This change in elevation would have little effect on the surface area of the lake (FIGURE 4). From 1980 to 1987, the range in lake levels was 0.27 m.

Water Quality

Water quality in Moore Lake was sampled by Alberta Environment frequently from 1978 to 1981 and once in 1986, and by the University of Alberta twice in 1981 (Alta. Envir. n.d.[a]; Prepas 1983; Prepas and Trew 1983; Trew et al. 1983). The total dissolved solids concentration is moderately high for a freshwater lake (TABLE 3). The dominant cation in Moore Lake is sodium, whereas in most other lakes in the area it is calcium. Because the ionic composition of groundwater in the immediate area is similar to the composition of Moore Lake water, it is likely that Moore Lake has substantial groundwater inflow (Ozoray et al. 1980).

The deeper areas of Moore Lake are thermally stratified during summer. In 1980, the epilimnion extended to a depth of 8 to 9 m (FIGURE 5). Surface water temperatures exceeded 18°C from mid-June until late August during 1980 and 20°C in July and August 1981. Moore Lake did not mix completely during May 1980, and the bottom water was anoxic by early June. From late June until early September, the water below a depth of 12 m was anoxic (FIGURE 6). The lake was well-mixed by October 1980; dissolved oxygen concentrations of 8 mg/L were measured near the bottom. From January to March 1980, under-ice dissolved oxygen concentrations were greater than 2 mg/L in the deepest water (FIGURE 6). In January 1981, however, the bottom water was anoxic and in March and April 1981, water at depths greater than 18 m was anoxic.

Moore Lake is mesotrophic. In both 1980 and 1981, chlorophyll a values averaged 8 µg/L, and in 1981, total phosphorus concentrations averaged 26 µg/L (TABLE 4). Phosphorus data are not available for 1980. Chlorophyll a concentrations were highest during October of both years; in 1981, the highest value exceeded 20 µg/L (FIGURE 7). A chlorophyll a maximum was also observed in May. In May and October 1981, the elevated chlorophyll a levels coincided with peak total phosphorus values. This synchrony of phosphorus and chlorophyll a levels is consistent with a lake that is phosphorus limited. When water over the bottom sediments is anoxic, as can happen during both winter and summer, phosphorus is released from the sediments into the overlying water. When the water column mixes in spring and fall, this accumulated phosphorus is mixed into the upper layers where it is used by algae.

Total phosphorus loading to Moore Lake from external sources has been estimated to be 605 kg/year (TABLE 5). More than half (52%) of this load is carried in runoff from forested land in the watershed, and almost one-third (31%) is present in precipitation that falls on the lake. Although not measured, sewage effluent from cottages and the two provincial campgrounds may account for 10% of the total phosphorus load. This estimate is based on coefficients derived from studies on other lakes. In 1981, internal phosphorus loading from the shallow sediments in Moore Lake was estimated to be 2.4 mg/m2 per day from June through August (Shaw and Prepas 1989). This indicates that as much as 22 kg per day, or 670 kg per month, could enter the surface waters by this internal pathway, and that during summer internal loading probably provides the largest input of phosphorus to Moore Lake.

Biological Characteristics


Phytoplankton biomass and taxonomic composition were determined monthly from May to October in 1980 and 1981 by Alberta Environment (TABLE 6). Total biomass fluctuated widely: from more than 40 mg/L during May 1980, May 1981, and August 1981 to less than 2 mg/L during June of both years. Diatoms (Bacillariophyta), especially Fragilaria crotonensis, Stephanodiscus spp., and Synedra delicatissima angustissima, formed more than 20% of the total biomass in 80% of the samples. Blue-green algae (Cyanophyta), mostly Oscillatoria spp., formed more than 20% of the biomass on 7 of the 10 sampling dates. Cryptomonads (Cryptophyta: mainly Cryptomonas spp.) were important in Moore Lake during May and September 1981. Green algae (Chlorophyta: mainly Oocystis borgei) formed one-quarter of the biomass during August 1980; and dinoflagellates (Pyrrhophyta) such as Ceratium hirundinella and Peridinium apiculatum were the dominant group during September 1980 and August 1981, respectively.

The distribution of emergent and submergent macrophytes was surveyed by Alberta Environment during 1978 (FIGURE 8). Submergent macrophytes ringed the shoreline but the distribution of emergent species was more patchy. Common great bulrush (Scirpus validus) was the most widespread emergent. Ten species of submergent plants were identified, but their relative abundance was not estimated.


The zooplankton community was sampled for Esso Resources Ltd. five times from March to December 1978 with a 64- to 70-µm-mesh net (Cross 1979). The total density of crustacean zooplankton in the offshore waters was highest (312 animals/L) in October. The dominant copepod was Diacyclops bicuspidatus thomasi; adults reached a density of 141/L in October and December. Adult Diaptomus sicilis were also present, at densities of 4 to 19 animals/L. Of the 5 species of cladocerans identified, Chydorus sphaericus had a maximum density of 51 animals/L in July, Daphnia galeata mendotae reached a density of 15/L in December, and Bosmina longirostris increased to a density of 12/L in December. The dominant rotifers were Keratella cochlearis and Kellicottia longispina. The total number of rotifers per litre varied from 85/L in March to 946/L in October.

A preliminary survey of benthic invertebrates in the 10- to 18-m depth zone was carried out from March to December 1978 (Cross 1979). Typical of Alberta lakes, dipteran larvae were numerically dominant on four of five sampling dates, especially older instars of phantom midges (Chaoborus spp.). Scuds (Hyalella azteca) were abundant in the littoral zone in May, July and October. They are usually found mainly in this zone, but during July and October significant numbers were collected in water 10- to 13-m deep.


The fish fauna of Moore Lake includes cisco, northern pike, yellow perch, walleye, burbot, white sucker, lake chub, spottail shiner, brook stickleback, ninespine stickleback and Iowa darter (Cross 1979; Longmore and Stenton 1983). The lake is managed for recreational and domestic fisheries. There are no data for the domestic fishery, and commercial fishing was allowed only during the 1947/48 and 1955/56 seasons (Alta. Rec. Parks Wild. 1976).

Sport fishing is an important recreational activity on Moore Lake. In a 1986 survey, most cottage owners rated the fishing as fair to good (Alta. Mun. Aff. 1987[a]). Fish and Wildlife Division conducted a creel survey from 17 May to 26 August 1986 (TABLE 7). It was estimated that more than 20,000 hours were spent fishing by almost 8,800 anglers. The average harvest was 0.01 walleye/angler-hour, 0.16 northern pike/angler-hour, and 0.72 yellow perch/angler-hour. On a regional basis, these rates are low for walleye and northern pike, but higher than average for yellow perch (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.). The walleye in Moore Lake are very large - on average, 2 kg. Prior to 1988, the walleye population had gaps in the age-structure and no strong year classes (Berry 1989). In 1988, the lake was stocked with 850,000 walleye fry on a trial basis.


Moore Lake is not a key waterfowl lake, largely because the shoreline provides little nesting habitat (Ducks Unltd. (Can.) n.d.). Red-necked Grebes, Bufflehead, American Widgeons and Lesser Scaup are the most common species. Other species present include Mallards, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, Common Loons, and Ring-billed Gulls. Ospreys, Bald Eagles, and Great Blue Herons are commonly seen and have nested on the lake, and White Pelicans forage there (Rippon 1983; Alta. Mun. Aff. 1987[a]).

Big-game hunting is an important recreational activity in the Moore Lake area. White-tailed deer are abundant, mule deer are present, and moose are found at low densities. Black bears have been observed along the north shore of the lake. Of the fur-bearing animals, beaver are most abundant and widespread and coyotes, red foxes, muskrats, and pine martens are present. Upland game birds, primarily Ruffed and Sharp-tailed Grouse, are found in trembling aspen woodlands that have a dense understory (Rippon 1983; Alta. Mun. Aff. 1987[a]).

M.E. Bradford


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