Tucker Lake

The contents of this online version has not been altered or modified from the original 1990 publication. It is reasonable to assume that much of the data e.g. water levels, camp grounds/boat launches, etc. is out of date. For updated or additional information on any of the lakes in this atlas please go to Environment Alberta's water web site.

Basic Info
Map Sheets73L/10
Lat / Long54.5333333, -110.6000000
54°31'N, 110°35'W
Area6.65 km2
Max depth7.5 m
Mean depth2.9 m
Dr. Basin Area312 km2
Dam, WeirWeir
Drainage BasinBeaver River Basin
Camp GroundNone
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishNorthern Pike, Lake Whitefish, Walleye, Yellow Perch
Trophic StatusHyper-Eutrophic
TP x64 µg/L
CHLORO x22.6 µg/L
TDS x210 mg/L
Photo credit: unknown


Tucker Lake is an isolated water body surrounded by low, rolling, aspen-covered hills. It is located in Improvement District No. 18 (South), about 280 km northeast of the city of Edmonton. The town of Bonnyville to the south, and the towns of Cold Lake and Grande 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 5.5 km to the first north turn after Jackfish Creek. Drive north on this gravel road for 3 km, east for 0.75 km, north for 3.25 km, then turn east onto the final 6 km of road, which leads to the western shore of Tucker Lake (FIGURE 1). Poor access to the lake has been a major factor limiting its recreational use, and at present, no facilities have been developed. Sport fishing for northern pike and yellow perch during spring and early summer, with associated swimming and camping, are the primary recreational activities at Tucker Lake. Boats can be launched from the end of the entrance road. There are no boating regulations specific to the lake, but general federal regulations apply (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988).

The origin of the name "Tucker" is not known. Locally, the lake is called Little Jackfish Lake, probably because of the abundant but small northern pike that inhabit its waters (Chipeniuk 1975).

Woodland Cree occupied the region when fur traders first arrived late in the eighteenth century. The Beaver River, south of Tucker Lake, was part of a major fur-trade route from Isle-à-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan, to the Athabasca River. The first trading post in the area was Cold Lake House, 30 km to the southeast. 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 Tucker Lake has not been documented.

There are no cottages on the lake, and almost the entire shoreline is Crown land. One quarter section of private land abuts the northwest bay, and several other privately held sections are located northwest of the lake.

The water in Tucker Lake is usually quite clear during spring and early summer, but turns green from dense blooms of blue-green algae during midsummer and autumn. Aquatic macrophytes grow around most of the shoreline, and are densest at the northeast end of the lake. Sport fishing pressure is light, and the commercial fishery, which catches northern pike, is small. The provincial record for yellow perch is held by a 1.0 kg, 38.1-cm-long perch caught in Tucker Lake in 1967. Sport fishing regulations prohibit fishing in Tucker Lake's inlet and outlet streams for a period during April and May each year to protect spawning pike (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989).

Drainage Basin Characteristics

Tucker Lake has a large drainage basin that is 47 times the size of the lake (Tables 1, 2). The entire watershed lies to the north of the lake, and all streams flow into the north shore (FIGURE 1). The largest of the four inflowing streams is Jackfish Creek, which drains Bourque Lake and flows into the northwest side of Tucker Lake.

Tucker Lake's drainage basin is part of a rolling morainal plain that is characterized by generally flat and undulating to gently rolling topography (Kocaoglu 1975). Several isolated areas are moderately rolling. The land features minor ridges and knobs intermixed with numerous wet depressions and small peat bogs. The most common soils in the drainage basin are moderately well-drained, fine loamy Orthic Gray Luvisols that developed on moderately to strongly calcareous glacial till. Soils along the southwestern and western shores of Tucker Lake and around the northern half of Bourque Lake are mainly Eluviated Dystric and Eutric Brunisols and Brunisolic Gray Luvisols. These are rapidly drained, loamy sand textured soils that formed on sandy fluvial or aeolian material. Along Jackfish Creek north of Tucker Lake, soils are poorly to rapidly drained undifferentiated Gleysols that formed on sandy to fine-clay alluvium. Poorly to very poorly drained Organic soils, mainly Mesisols, are common in depressional to level areas.

Tucker Lake's watershed lies in the Boreal Mixedwood Ecoregion (Strong and Leggat 1981). The area north of the lake is part of the Moist Mixedwood Subregion, and the small area south of the lake is part of the Dry Mixedwood Subregion. The difference between the two subregions is the codominance of balsam poplar and trembling aspen on moderately well-drained Gray Luvisols in the moist subregion, and the dominance of only trembling aspen on well-drained to moderately well-drained Gray Luvisols in the dry subregion. In both areas, jack pine grows on rapidly to well-drained Eutric Brunisols, white spruce grows on imperfectly drained Gleysols and Gray Luvisols, and black spruce, willows and sedges grow on poorly to very poorly drained Gleysols and Organics.

Close to the lake, the shoreline is lightly tree-covered, with some open areas, on the west and southwest sides, where the topography is level to undulating (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.). The remainder of the lakeshore has a moderately dense tree cover. The west half of the south shore is moderately to strongly rolling and the north shore is level to undulating (Kocaoglu 1975). The tree cover extends down to the water's edge, and beaches along most of the shoreline are confined to a narrow fringe. Part of the south shore on the east half of the lake is sandy, with some beach areas (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.).

Most of the watershed remains in its natural, forest-covered state (FIGURE 1). A very small amount of land has been cleared for agriculture directly north of the western tip of the lake, just outside of the drainage basin boundary. There are no permanent or seasonal residences on or near the lakeshore and no recreational developments. The oil and gas industry is active in the area. The pipelines of Esso Resources' Cold Lake Heavy Oil Project transect the watershed (Yonge and Trew 1989) and Husky Oil has developed a pilot recovery plant north of the lake.

Lake Basin Characteristics

Tucker Lake is a medium-sized, shallow lake (TABLE 2) with a firm, sandy bottom. In contrast to many shallow lakes, the morphometry of Tucker Lake is quite complex. The deepest spot (7.5 m) in the lake is a small hole in the centre of the western bay (FIGURE 2). The largest portion of this bay extends to a depth of 6.5 m. The remainder of the lake bottom ranges from 2.5 to 4.5 m in depth, with several elevated areas in the eastern half of the lake that are only 0.5 m below the lake surface.

Water levels in Tucker Lake have not been monitored. Because the sides of most of the lake basin slope gently, changes in water levels would cause marked changes in the surface area and volume of the lake (FIGURE 3).

Ducks Unlimited (Canada) and the provincial government built a fixed-crest timber weir across the outlet in 1952 to raise the lake level by about 0.3 m (Ducks Unltd. (Can.) n.d.). This would ensure greater water flow in Jackfish Creek and therefore maintain the marshes downstream, which were good duck habitat. By 1982, the dam was in disrepair, and after 1985, Ducks Unlimited (Canada) withdrew their involvement with Tucker Lake.

Subsequent to studies of lakes in the Cold Lake-Beaver River basin during the early 1980s, Alberta Environment adopted a long term plan for water resources management in the Cold Lake region in 1985. Under this plan, no large water withdrawals from Tucker Lake will be allowed; oil sands plants will obtain their water supply from a pipeline from the North Saskatchewan River (Alta. Envir. 1985).

Water Quality

Water quality in Tucker Lake was studied by Alberta Environment intensively from 1980 to 1982 and occasionally in 1986 (Alta. Envir. n.d.[a]; Prepas and Trew 1983; Yonge and Trew 1989). The lake water is fresh, hard and well-buffered (TABLE 3). The dominant ions are bicarbonate, calcium, magnesium and sodium.

Most of the lake is well mixed during the open-water season. The deepest part of the lake basin was thermally stratified during July and August in 1981 (FIGURE 4) and in June 1982, but was well mixed throughout the summer in 1980. The maximum surface temperature in 1981 was over 24°C in early August.

The deepest part of Tucker Lake typically becomes anoxic for a time between January and March and between May and August each year. In 1981, the water was anoxic below 5 m from late July through August (FIGURE 5). Periods of oxygen depletion in the rest of the lake, which is shallower than 5 m, are only transient. The shallow eastern half of the lake was sampled to a depth of 3 m during the open-water season in 1982. It was completely mixed and well oxygenated at all times. On 17 August 1981, the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the 0- to 1-m depth zone in the west basin rose to supersaturated levels of almost 16 mg/L. These high levels occurred in conjunction with an extremely dense bloom of blue-green algae that weighed almost 205 mg/L. In January and February of 1982, the water in the deepest area of the lake was anoxic below 4.5 m, and dissolved oxygen levels at the surface were about 4 mg/L (FIGURE 5).

Tucker Lake is hyper-eutrophic. Maximum chlorophyll a levels vary considerably between years. The highest concentration of chlorophyll a was 93 µg/L, recorded on 17 August 1981 during the bloom of blue-green algae (FIGURE 6). In 1980, the highest level recorded was 28 µg/L in July and September, and in 1982 the maximum level was 57 µg/L in September. Average chlorophyll a levels were 17 µg/L in 1980, 26 in 1981 and 19 in 1982 (TABLE 4). The concentration of total phosphorus increased sharply during August and reached a maximum in September of both 1981 (FIGURE 6) and 1982. During the period from 1980 to 1982, the highest concentration recorded was 112 µg/L in late September of 1981. In general, total phosphorus and chlorophyll a in Tucker Lake are correlated during the summer, indicating that the algae are phosphorus-limited (Prepas 1983).

A total phosphorus budget for Tucker Lake was calculated for the period from 10 May to 27 October in 1982 (TABLE 5). As well, total phosphorus loading from internal sources only was calculated for a similar period in 1981. The study focused on patterns of internal loading and deposition to the sediments. From July to September in both years, internal sources of phosphorus were very significant. In 1982, 75% (10.82 kg/day) of the mean daily total phosphorus load from May to October originated from internal sources (TABLE 5). Phosphorus returned to the sediments during periods when the lake was well mixed in spring and autumn. In 1981, the internal load was considerably higher (19.60 kg/day), but the external load was not measured. In 1982, inflow from Bourque Lake via Jackfish Creek accounted for 29% of the total phosphorus load, and inflow from diffuse runoff and the creek at the eastern end of the lake accounted for 9%. Precipitation, at 3%, was the smallest input. From January to March in 1982, phosphorus accumulation under ice was relatively low.

In the summer of 1986, bottom sediment chemistry, porewater chemistry and groundwater inflow and outflow were monitored at Tucker Lake by researchers from the University of Alberta (J. Shaw et al. 1989; J. Shaw and Prepas 1990[a]; 1990[b]; R. Shaw and Prepas 1990). One of their goals was to estimate the relative contribution of groundwater to the water budget and the contribution of bottom sediments and groundwater to the phosphorus budget at Tucker Lake. Soluble reactive phosphorus in the porewater was collected from the top 10 cm of of sediment along a transect at depths of 2.5, 4, 5 and 7 m. In comparison with eight other Alberta lakes, the average porewater soluble reactive phosphorus concentration (356 ± 75 µg/L) was low. In addition, a relatively high proportion of particulate sediment phosphorus was available for transport from the particulate sediments to the overlying water. There was a strong positive gradient of soluble reactive phosphorus between the porewater, water within 10 cm of the bottom sediments and the surface water, indicating transport of phosphorus from the bottom sediments to the surface waters, even at shallow depths. Groundwater inflow was low. Rates over a 100-m transect were generally less than 1 x 10-8 m/second and decreased linearly with distance from shore. The average flow rate was 2.8 x 10-9 m/second. Groundwater was estimated as 1% of the total annual inflow of water, by far the lowest of the nine lakes studied. Transport of phosphorus from the sediments in the euphotic zone and from groundwater was estimated to be 2.81 kg/day. Although measurable, phosphorus input from these sources is likely a small portion of the total internal loading to this lake (TABLE 5).

Biological Characteristics


The phytoplankton community in Tucker Lake was studied intensively by Alberta Environment during the open-water period in 1981, 1982 and 1983 (Alta. Envir. n.d.[a]). The average biomass varied considerably among years: 10.12 mg/L in 1980, 29.74 mg/L in 1981 and 5.21 mg/L in 1982. In each year, the highest biomass was recorded during the period between late July and late October when species of blue-green algae usually accounted for more than 75% of the biomass. Low oxygen concentrations over the bottom sediments and high phosphorus concentrations are responsible for the predominance of blue-green algae during this period (Trimbee and Prepas 1987; 1988).

From May to July in 1981 (TABLE 6), the dominant groups were golden-brown algae (Chrysophyta), particularly Dinobryon divergens in May and early July and Uroglena americana in late July; diatoms (Bacillariophyta), particularly Asterionella formosa in May and June and Nitzschia in late June; and Cryptophyta, particularly Rhodomonas minuta in May and Cryptomonas spp. from May to July. These two species were also important in late October. During the blue-green bloom from July to September, Anabaena flos-aquae and, secondarily, A. spiroides were the dominant species. When total biomass declined after mid-September, the blue-green alga Oscillatoria agardhii became the most important species.

Macrophytes in Tucker Lake were described briefly in 1982 (McGregor 1983). Vegetation grew around the entire shoreline and was densest in the northeast part of the lake, where water depth is shallow and the bottom sediments are highly organic. Common great bulrush (Scirpus validus) and yellow water lily (Nuphar variegatum) were the most extensive emergent and floating species, and sedge (Carex sp.) and reed grass (Phragmites sp.) were also identified. Coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum) was the most widespread submergent species, and northern watermilfoil (Myriophyllum ex-albescens) and three pondweeds - Richardson (Potamogeton richardsonii), flat-stemmed (P. zosteriformis) and Sago (P. pectinatus) - were also identified. In 1982, macrophytes grew to a depth of 5 m. A further study in July 1986 recorded macrophytes growing to a depth of 2.5 m (Chambers and Prepas 1988).


A survey of the zooplankton and benthic invertebrate communities in Tucker Lake was conducted for Esso Resources Canada during 1978 (Cross 1979). Based on five zooplankton samples collected from 2 March to 12 December, the dominant cladocerans were Bosmina longirostris (range: 6 to 2,225/L) and Daphnia pulex -type (range: 5.5 to 103/L). The dominant copepods were Diacylops bicuspidatus thomasi (range: 37 to 485/L) and Diaptomus oregonensis (range: 0 to 330/L), and the dominant rotifer was Keratella cochlearis (range: 18 to 4,437/L).

A total of 18 dredge samples were collected in the sublittoral zone (4.8-m to 6-m deep) from 2 March to 12 December 1978. By number, the dominant group of benthic invertebrates was midge larvae (Chironomidae), with small numbers of scuds (Amphipoda: Hyalella azteca), snails (Gastropoda: mostly Valvata spp.) and fingernail clams (Sphaeriidae) also recorded. As well, a total of 9 dredge samples were collected in the littoral zone (2.5-m to 4.8-m deep). Scuds (Hyalella azteca and Gammarus lacustris) were numerically dominant. The data for both sublittoral and littoral zones are too few to allow estimation of the total abundance, total biomass or relative abundance of the benthic invertebrates in Tucker Lake.


The fish fauna of Tucker Lake includes northern pike, lake whitefish, yellow perch, walleye, burbot, white sucker, ninespine stickleback and Iowa darter. The lake is managed for domestic, recreational and commercial fisheries. The extent of the domestic and sport harvests is unknown. Some aspects of the fishery were examined during the limnological and fisheries surveys for the proposed heavy oil development near Cold Lake, Alberta (McCart et al. 1979).

The commercial catch has been recorded since 1944 (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.; Alta. Rec. Parks Wild. 1976). Northern pike are the primary target of the commercial fishery, with smaller amounts of lake whitefish, yellow perch, white sucker and burbot also taken. From 1944/45 to 1959/60, the commercial fishery operated in only 7 of 15 years. From 1959/60 to 1975/76, the average total catch was 8,732 kg/year. The greatest catch, 13,845 kg, was taken in 1970/71. The average catch from 1980/81 to 1987/88, 4,214 kg/year, was much lower, largely due to reduced effort, but partly because yellow perch, suckers and burbot were not recorded after 1976.

The largest catch of northern pike, 11,972 kg, was taken in 1972/73. From 1959/60 to 1974/75 the average pike catch was 8,146 kg/year, or 90% of the total catch. From 1975/76 to 1987/88, the pike harvest averaged 4,776 kg/year, or almost 100% of the total catch. Appreciable amounts of yellow perch were harvested from Tucker Lake from 1967/68 to 1975/76. The average perch harvest during that period was 1,280 kg/year, which was 12% of the average total catch. The maximum catch of yellow perch was 2,494 kg, taken in 1970/71. The lake whitefish harvest in Tucker Lake averaged 30 kg/year between 1967/68 and 1976/77 and totalled 6 kg from 1980/81 to 1987/88. The commercial catch of white sucker and burbot either was sporadic or not recorded in most years. The greatest catch (both species combined) was 794 kg, taken in 1964/65.


The wildlife in and around Tucker Lake has not been studied in detail. A Ducks Unlimited (Canada) report noted that there were few upland and overwater nest sites, a shortage of loafing areas, and sparse emergent vegetation (Ducks Unltd. (Can.) n.d.). A variety of duck species, Red-necked Grebe and American Coot have been observed using the lake as a fall staging area. As well, a number of active beaver lodges have been observed on the lake (Rippon 1983).

M.E. Bradford and J.M. Hanson


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.

-----. 1985. Cold Lake-Beaver River long term water management plan. Plan. Div., 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 Municipal Affairs. 1978. Cold Lake regional plan, heritage preservation: Heritage resources background paper. Reg. Plan. Sec., 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.

Chambers, P.A. and E.E. Prepas. 1988. Underwater spectral attenuation and its effect on the maximum depth of angiosperm colonization. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 45:1010-1017.

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

Cross, P.M. 1979. Limnological and fishery surveys of the aquatic ecosystems at Esso Resources' Cold Lake lease: Data volume. Aquat. Envir. Ltd., Calgary.

Ducks Unlimited (Canada). n.d. Unpubl. data, Edmonton.

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

McCart, P.J., P.M. Cross, R. Green and D.W. Mayhood. 1979. Limnological and fishery surveys of the aquatic ecosystems at Esso Resources' Cold Lake lease. Aquat. Envir. Ltd., Calgary.

McGregor, C.A. 1983. Summary [Appendix K] and Detailed report [Appendix L]. In Cold Lake-Beaver River water management study, Vol. 7: Ecological inventory of lake shorelines. Alta. Envir., Plan. Div., Edmonton.

Prepas, E.E. 1983. Orthophosphate turnover time in shallow productive lakes. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 40:1412-1418.

----- and D.O. Trew. 1983. Evaluation of the phosphorus-chlorophyll relationship for lakes off the Precambrian Shield in western Canada. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 40:27-35.

Rippon, B. 1983. Water related wildlife resources [Appendix I]. In Cold Lake-Beaver River water management study, Vol. 5: Fisheries and wildlife. Alta. Envir., Plan. Div., Edmonton.

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-----. 1990[b]. Relationships between phosphorus in shallow sediments in the trophogenic zone of seven lakes. Water Res. [in press]

Shaw, J.F.H., R.D. Shaw and E.E. Prepas. 1989. Advective transport of phosphorus from lake bottom sediments into lakewater. ms to be submitted.

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Trimbee, A.M. and E.E. Prepas. 1987. Evaluation of total phosphorus as a predictor of the relative biomass of blue-green algae with emphasis on Alberta lakes. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 44:1337-1342.

-----. 1988. The effect of oxygen depletion on the timing and magnitude of blue-green algal blooms. Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol. 23:220-226.

Yonge, E.I. and D.O. Trew. 1989. A total phosphorus budget for a shallow, naturally eutrophic lake: Tucker Lake, Alberta. Alta. Envir., Envir. Assess. Div., Envir. Qlty. Monit. Br. Unpubl. rep., Edmonton.