Pinehurst Lake

Basic Info
Map Sheets73L/11
Lat / Long54.6500000, -111.4500000
54°38'N, 111°27'W
Area40.7 km2
Max depth21.3 m
Mean depth12.2 m
Dr. Basin Area285 km2
Dam, WeirNone
Drainage BasinBeaver River Basin
Camp GroundPresent
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishNorthern Pike, Lake Whitefish, Walleye, Yellow Perch
Trophic StatusEutrophic
TP x46 µg/L
CHLORO x14.6 µg/L
TDS x160 mg/L
Photo credit: unknown


Pinehurst Lake is a popular destination for anglers, hunters and campers who visit Alberta's Lakeland Region. It is valued for its beautiful beaches and natural shoreline. The lake is located in Improvement District No. 18 (South), about 245 km northeast of the city of Edmonton. The town of Lac La Biche, which is the nearest large population centre, is about 60 km to the northwest. To reach the lake from Edmonton, take Highway 28 north and east to the village of Vilna, then Highway 36 north to Highway 55. Drive east on Highway 55 for 5 km, then turn onto a gravelled local road that runs north for 2.5 km and then west for 30 km. The road ends at the Pinehurst Lake Forest Recreation Area on the western shore of the lake (FIGURE 1).

The name Pinehurst is derived from the jack pine tree and from the English word "hurst", which means "a wooded hillock". This term refers to the long ridge that runs along the northwest shore of the lake. At one time, jack pine may have grown along the ridge, but forest fires have removed most of this species. The name of Pinehurst Lake's outlet, Punk Creek, is a translation of the Cree word pusakan. Punk referred to poplar or birch wood that was used to start a fire with flint and steel (Chipeniuk 1975).

A number of trappers and fishermen lived around the lake and on the islands during the first half of the twentieth century. The commercial fishery began around 1909, when two Norwegian brothers began fishing the lake. They transported their catch to the town of Vegreville by horse-drawn sleigh. A trading post, store and post office were built on the eastern shore at Snug Cove in the late 1940s. The post office closed in 1951 for lack of business. In 1947, the cisco population at nearby Lac La Biche declined drastically, leaving area mink ranchers without a convenient source of mink food. The ranchers decided to transport cisco from Pinehurst Lake, so they built an airstrip on land just east of Snug Cove. The airstrip is now unused and overgrown by trembling aspen (Chipeniuk 1975).

Pinehurst Lake Forest Recreation Area is the only developed recreational facility at the lake (FIGURE 2). It is operated by the Alberta Forest Service and is open from May to September. There are 65 campsites, pump water, a beach and a boat launch. There are no boating restrictions specific to Pinehurst Lake, but general federal regulations apply (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988). The two islands on the east side of the lake were reserved for recreation in 1969, and at present, they have the status of Protective Notation. This means that they have recognized potential as natural areas but they have not been formally established as such (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1987). About 98% of the shoreline is Crown land; the only 2 parcels of private land are located on the eastern shore south of the outlet. The management intent for the Pinehurst Lake area, as cited in the Lakeland Sub-Regional Integrated Resource Plan, is for its development as a major recreation destination area (Alta. En. Nat. Resour. 1985). Future developments could include both public and commercially operated facilities.

The water in Pinehurst Lake turns green during the open-water season. The density of aquatic vegetation is generally low to moderate except in several bays and around the islands, where density is high. Sport fishing for walleye, northern pike and yellow perch is one of the most popular activities at the lake. There are no sport fishing regulations specific to Pinehurst Lake, but provincial limits and regulations apply (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989). The lake has not been fished commercially since the 1976/77 season because of the high density of parasites in the lake whitefish and cisco.

Drainage Basin Characteristics

Pinehurst Lake has a large drainage basin that is about 7 times the size of the lake (Tables 1, 2). A large portion of the inflow to Pinehurst Lake comes from Touchwood Lake via a permanent stream (FIGURE 1). Other inflow is provided by more than a dozen small, intermittent streams. The outlet, Punk Creek, flows from the southeast shore to the Beaver River via the Sand River.

The portion of the drainage basin to the south, west and the northwest of Pinehurst Lake and to the north and east of Touchwood Lake is part of a hummocky morainal plain (Kocaoglu 1975). It is characterized by rough, irregular knob and kettle topography that is gently to moderately rolling. The knobs and ridges, which are composed mainly of glacial till, are interspersed with undrained depressions. The remainder of the drainage basin is part of a rolling morainal plain. It is characterized by undulating to gently rolling topography that features minor ridges and knobs intermixed with numerous wet depressions and small peat bogs. The soils in both areas are mainly moderately well-drained Orthic Gray Luvisols formed on fine loamy, weakly calcareous till. Organic (Mesisols and Fibrisols) and Gleysolic soils occupy poorly drained depressions, and well-drained Brunisols are present on knolls or ridges where thick sand and gravel deposits cap the till.

Almost the entire drainage basin is covered by forest, bush and wetlands (FIGURE 1). Land to the north and east of Pinehurst Lake is part of the Moist Mixedwood Subregion of the Boreal Mixedwood Ecoregion, whereas land to the west and south of the lake is part of the Dry Mixedwood Subregion (Strong and Leggat 1981). The main difference between the two subregions is that both trembling aspen and balsam poplar are the dominant trees on moderately well-drained Gray Luvisols in the dry subregion, whereas trembling aspen alone is the dominant tree on well-drained to moderately well-drained Gray Luvisols in the moist subregion. In both subregions, jack pine grows on well-drained Brunisols, white spruce grows on imperfectly drained Gleysols and Gray Luvisols, and black spruce, willows and sedges grow on poorly to very poorly drained Organics and Gleysols.

Near the lake, the shoreland is extensively forested with trembling aspen, and poorly drained areas and sedge bogs are common. Beach sand is present along various sections of the shoreline, particularly at the east and south ends of the lake and along parts of the peninsula that lies between the islands (Hay and Haag 1985). Steep escarpments are located along sections of the southeast, east and north-central shoreland, along the peninsula bordering Snug Cove and on the land immediately north of this peninsula.

There is no agricultural activity and no country residential subdivision development in the drainage basin. The few cottages on Pinehurst Lake are located on private land south of Punk Creek. Recreational development is limited to the Alberta Forest Service recreation areas on both Pinehurst and Touchwood lakes.

Lake Basin Characteristics

Pinehurst Lake has a complex shoreline that includes several large bays (FIGURE 2). The lake covers an area of 40.7 km2 and has a maximum depth of 21.3 m (TABLE 2). Two islands are located in the bay on the northeast side of the lake and one is located north of the peninsula on the northeast shore. The bays at the east end of the lake are very shallow (less than 6-m deep) and the bottom of the basin slopes gently. The bay at the north end is somewhat deeper (less than 12-m deep) and its sides slope more steeply. The steepest slopes are present along the northwest, northeast and south sides of the lake. A large area in the centre of the basin is quite level, and ranges in depth from 18 to 21.3 m. Near shore, the bottom sediments are organic material or sand and rock, and at depths greater than 10 m, they are generally organic material (McDonald 1964).

The elevation of Pinehurst Lake has been monitored since 1968 (FIGURE 3). The historic maximum elevation, 599.37 m, was recorded in September 1971, and the historic minimum, 598.53 m, was recorded in February 1983. Changes in the lake's area and capacity with fluctuations in water level are given in Figure 4.

Water Quality

Water quality in Pinehurst Lake was studied by Alberta Environment in August 1978, February 1979, twice in 1985, approximately monthly in 1986, and in February 1987 (Alta. Envir. n.d.[a]). As well, Fish and Wildlife Division took occasional samples in 1964, 1969, 1973, 1978, 1979, 1985 and 1986 (Mills 1987).

The lake has fresh water that is hard and well-buffered (TABLE 3). The dominant ions are bicarbonate and calcium. The deeper areas of the lake are thermally stratified from May to October (FIGURE 5). In 1986, the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the deeper water was lower than at the surface on all sampling dates (FIGURE 6). In March 1986, and from late July to late September, water below depths of 17 to 20 m was anoxic.

Pinehurst Lake is eutrophic. In 1986, the maximum chlorophyll a concentration was 18.1 µg/L, recorded in May (FIGURE 7). The average Secchi depth that year (1.1 m) was somewhat shallow considering that the average concentration of chlorophyll a was 14.6 µg/L (TABLE 4). In 1986, the patterns of total phosphorus and chlorophyll a were similar during the open-water period. Both variables were elevated in May, July and October (FIGURE 7). The spring and fall maxima are typical of stratified lakes. Phosphorus released from the sediments when the bottom water becomes anoxic during midsummer and late winter is mixed into the overlying water during spring and fall turnover and becomes available to algae. The midsummer peak of phosphorus can be attributed to increased phosphorus loading from the unusually high levels of precipitation (148 mm) in July 1986 (Envir. Can. 1986).

Biological Characteristics


The phytoplankton community was sampled by Alberta Environment in January 1985 and monthly from May to October in 1986 (Alta. Envir. n.d.[a]). The highest biomass (12.93 mg/L) was recorded in the January sample; the dominant species on that date was the blue-green species Oscillatoria agardhii, which accounted for 95% of the total biomass. During the open-water period in 1986, biomass was highest in July, August and October (TABLE 5). Note the total dominance of the blue-green alga O. agardhii on all sampling dates. This species formed 86 to 98% of the total biomass on all dates except 28 May, when it accounted for 58% of the total biomass. In May, other species that formed a significant portion of the biomass were the dinoflagellate (Pyrrhophyta) Gymnodinium helveticum, the golden-brown alga (Chrysophyta) Dinobryon sociale and the cryptophytes Cryptomonas erosa, C. Marsonii and C. reflexa.

Brief surveys of the aquatic macrophytes in Pinehurst Lake were made by Fish and Wildlife Division in 1964 and 1985 (McDonald 1964; Mills 1987). In 1985, macrophyte density was estimated to be low to high, but species were not identified. That year, emergent species were restricted to Snug Cove, the adjacent bay to the west, the two northern bays, and the large bay on the south shore. Submergent species grew around most of the shoreline, but were dense only around the largest island, near the campground, and in the most northerly bay. Species identified in August 1964 were pondweeds (Potamogeton spp.), northern watermilfoil (Myriophyllum ex-albescens), yellow water lily (Nuphar variegatum), common cattail (Typha latifolia) and rushes (Juncus spp.).


There are no recent data available for the invertebrates in Pinehurst Lake. The plankton was sampled with a net once in 1964 and benthic invertebrates were sampled once in 1964 and once in 1969 by Fish and Wildlife Division (McDonald 1964; Holmes and Milsom 1969). In 1964, the most abundant zooplankton group was Copepoda and the most abundant benthic invertebrates were scuds (Amphipoda) at depths of 2 m and less and midge larvae (Chironomidae) at depths from 4 to 14 m.


The fish species known to occur in Pinehurst Lake include walleye, northern pike, lake whitefish, cisco, yellow perch, burbot, white sucker and spottail shiner. The lake is currently managed for sport fishing, domestic net fishing and commercial bait fishing. A small number of licences (two in 1984/85) are issued each year for the bait fishery. Licensees seine for spottail shiners, which are then sold to commercial bait outlets (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.). There was a commercial net fishery on Pinehurst Lake until 1976/77. Interest in commercial fishing in the lake declined during the early 1970s, primarily because of the poor quality of the fish and low prices (Brown 1980). Lake whitefish and cisco in the lake are heavily infested with cysts of the tapeworm Triaenophorus crassus and are suitable only for animal food. Test nettings to assess the potential for a whitefish roe fishery in 1981 and 1985 indicated too many sport fish would be caught if the commercial net fishery resumed (Mills 1987).

Records for the commercial net fishery in Pinehurst Lake have been kept since 1942/43 (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.; Alta. Rec. Parks Wild. 1976). The primary target species of the fishery were cisco, northern pike and lake whitefish. The greatest commercial harvest of all species was 592,564 kg taken during the 1947/48 season, the first year of the cisco fishery. The average total catch from 1948/49 to 1972/73 was 80,226 kg/year. Commercial fishing essentially ended in 1972/73, when almost 52,000 kg of fish were harvested. No licences were issued during the next two seasons, and catches declined to only 115 kg of fish in 1975/76 and 272 kg in 1976/77.

Records for the domestic net fishery are limited. From 1983/84 to 1985/86, the average annual reported harvest was 2,578 kg of whitefish, 338 kg of walleye and northern pike, and 48 kg of cisco (Mills 1987).

The summer sport fishery in Pinehurst Lake was evaluated by Fish and Wildlife Division in 1985 (TABLE 6). Harvests by the winter sport fishery and the domestic fishery were estimated for the period from 1983/84 to 1985/86 (Mills 1987). During the summer of 1985, almost 14,000 anglers fished for over 37,000 hours (TABLE 6). This represents an intense angling effort. Virtually all of the effort was near shore; it amounted to 88.2 angler-hours/ha of sport fish habitat - the second highest effort recorded for 13 lakes surveyed during 1984 and 1985. Summer anglers harvested 12,459 kg of sport fish, winter anglers harvested about 8,300 kg, and the domestic fishery harvested about 680 kg. The total catch of 21,440 kg represents 40.8 kg/ha of sport fish habitat, or 5.2 kg/ha for the whole lake, which is a very high harvest rate.

Summer anglers harvested 6,250 walleye, or 0.17 fish/angler-hour. This is above the average harvest rate of 0.10 walleye/angler-hour recorded for 22 lakes surveyed in the region (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.). The 3,943 kg of walleye harvested during the summer, plus 2,000 kg in the winter sport fishery and 338 kg in the domestic fishery, is a total harvest of 6,281 kg of walleye, or 12 kg/ha of sport fish habitat (1.5 kg/ha for whole lake). The walleye population shows clear indications of overexploitation, with a trend toward younger (3- to 5-years-old), smaller fish (Mills 1987).

Summer anglers caught 4,107 northern pike, or 0.11 fish/angler-hour. This is well below the average harvest rate of 0.22 pike/angler-hour recorded for 22 lakes surveyed in the region. The average size of the pike kept was 2.0 kg. The summer harvest was 8,174 kg, the winter sport fishing harvest was about 6,000 kg and the domestic catch was about 340 kg. The total harvest of 14,500 kg represents 27.7 kg/ha of sport fish habitat, or 3.5 kg/ha for the whole lake.

Summer anglers kept 2,644 yellow perch, or 0.08 fish/angler-hour. This is very low compared to the average rate of 0.32 perch/ angler-hour recorded for 22 lakes surveyed in the region. The perch catch was 342 kg in summer and about 300 kg in winter - a total of 642 kg, or 1.2 kg/ha of sport fish habitat (0.2 kg/ha for the whole lake). Part of the reason for the low harvest is that the perch averaged only 129 g despite being 4-to 7-years-old. Such slow growth is typical for food-limited perch populations (Hanson and Leggett 1985; Heath and Roff 1987).


There are few data for the wildlife at Pinehurst Lake. Great Blue Herons and White Pelicans have been reported there (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.).

M.E. Bradford and J.M. Hanson


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