|Lat / Long||52.8666667, -112.7500000|
|Max depth||3.7 m|
|Mean depth||2.2 m|
|Dr. Basin Area||7220 km2|
|Drainage Basin||Battle River Basin|
|Sport Fish||Northern Pike|
|TP x||453 µg/L|
|CHLORO x||87 µg/L|
|TDS x||363 mg/L|
Driedmeat Lake is a long, narrow lake that was originally formed above a natural constriction of the Battle River; it is now stabilized by a weir. The lake is located 7 km south of the city of Camrose in the County of Camrose (FIGURE 1). Driedmeat Lake is situated in a glacial meltwater channel incised 40 m into the surrounding plain. From the top of the valley, the view of the lake is very attractive; from the lake, the impression is one of being surrounded by rolling, wooded hills.
Before the arrival of the white man, the area near the lake was used by Blackfoot and Cree Indians. The word "driedmeat" comes from the Cree word for drying buffalo meat and making pemmican. The lake took its name from Driedmeat Hill, just east of the centre of the lake (Gould 1939). The hill has recently been disturbed by gravel extraction, but Saskatoon berries, an ingredient of pemmican, still grow luxuriantly in the area. The Cree tended to stay to the east of the Battle River and the Blackfoot to the west; the river provided a natural barrier and was the site of numerous skirmishes, hence the name Battle River.
By 1900, settlers had arrived to farm the rich soil in the area (MacGregor 1972). Roads were hard to maintain, especially in the spring when snowmelt and rain turned the dirt tracks to gumbo. At that time, the lake was an important transportation corridor. About 1903, a 30-foot motorboat powered by a woodburning steam engine provided ferry service along the lake (Edberg Hist. Soc. Book Club 1981).
Access to the lake is available at Tillicum Beach Park, a County of Camrose campground that is open from May to September. The park is located halfway along the eastern shore (FIGURE 2). The facilities available include 31 random campsites, a boat launch, a beach, tap water, flush toilets, a picnic shelter, food service, ball diamonds and a playground; in winter, a skating rink is maintained. The only commercial resort on the lake and a few cottages are located just north of Tillicum Beach. Another access point, where canoes and small boats can be launched, is located at the south end of the lake where Highway 56 crosses the Battle River near the weir (FIGURE 2).
Aquatic vegetation, which grows luxuriantly at both ends of Driedmeat Lake, provides excellent waterfowl habitat but inhibits boat traffic. Recreational activities enjoyed at the lake include fishing, swimming, canoeing, power boating and wildlife viewing. There are no boating restrictions specific to Driedmeat Lake, but general federal regulations apply (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988). Provincial sport fishing regulations apply and angling is not permitted within 25 m of the weir at the south end of the lake (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989). The lake is rich in nutrients and supports dense algal blooms during most of the summer.
The drainage basin of Driedmeat Lake is very large (7,220 km2, TABLE 1). It encompasses the upstream portion of the Battle River basin, which extends west of Battle Lake and includes Pigeon Lake, Miquelon Lake and areas south of the town of Lacombe (FIGURE 1).
The watershed is mostly in the Aspen Parkland Ecoregion, except for a small area at the far western border, which is in the Boreal Mixedwood Ecoregion (Strong and Leggat 1981). Most of the eastern two-thirds of the drainage basin has been cleared for grain production, with some hay and pasture production in the north. The western 5% of the basin is mostly forested, and the remainder is partially wooded and partially cleared for mixed farming. The vegetation in the valley close to Driedmeat Lake is dominated by trembling aspen, with willows growing near the water. Some areas at the upstream end of the lake have been cleared for hay production and pasture. Soils are dominated by Solodic and Solodized Solonetz Black Chernozemics; Orthic Gray Luvisols are present in the far western portion of the basin (Bowser et al. 1947).
There are two cities (Camrose and Wetaskiwin) and numerous towns (including Lacombe and Ponoka) and villages in the drainage basin (FIGURE 1). The Battle River upstream of Driedmeat Lake provides water for, and receives waste effluent from, many of these communities (Nanuk Eng. and Hydroqual Consult. Inc. 1986). The city of Camrose has withdrawn water directly from Driedmeat Lake for municipal use since 1950 (City Camrose n.d.). As of 1988, approximately 1.9 x 106 m3 are withdrawn annually from the east side of the lake, north of Tillicum Beach. Sewage from Camrose passes through lagoons, and the effluent is then discharged into Camrose Creek, which flows into the Battle River just upstream of Driedmeat Lake (FIGURE 1).
Driedmeat Lake is a long stretch of the Battle River that is wider (0.7 km) and deeper (maximum depth 3.7 m, TABLE 2) than the rest of the river. The sediments under about one-quarter of the lake at each end are soft organic mud; under the rest of the lake to a water depth of 2.0 m, the sediments are firm sand or clay with some gravel. In areas deeper than 2.0 m, the substrate is soft mud (Integrated Envir. Sci. Inc. 1984). The lake bottom slopes very gradually at both ends, and somewhat more steeply along the sides near the middle (FIGURE 2).
The water level was highly variable prior to 1975 (FIGURE 3). The extreme peak in 1974 was caused by the melting of the heavy snowfall of 1973/74 and by the very heavy spring rainfall in 1974. In 1975, Alberta Environment installed a sheet-pile fixed-crest weir with an elevation of 684.6 m. Its purpose was to stabilize water levels and to provide more reliable storage to augment downstream flows in times of severe drought (Alta. Envir. n.d.[a]). Although the lake level has become more stable with the weir in place, it still fluctuates. For example, between 1975 and 1987, the lake level varied by 1.9 m, and during 1982 alone, it fluctuated by 1.6 m.
Driedmeat Lake is part of the Battle River, so the average water retention time is short (0.25 year, TABLE 2) but highly variable, depending on the flow of the river. In 1968, for example, the total discharge of the Battle River was 14.2 x 106 m3, and the retention time of water in the lake was one year; in 1974, however, the mean annual discharge was 662.0 x 106 m3 and the retention time averaged only 7.3 days (Envir. Can. 1969-1985).
The weir at the lake's outlet is fitted with an eight-bay step-pool fish ladder with adjustable stop-logs (Alta. Envir. n.d.[a]) to facilitate passage of northern pike into Driedmeat Lake. When the lake elevation is below the top of the weir, flow through the fish ladder provides 0.2 m3/second continuous flow to the Battle River.
The water quality of Driedmeat Lake was monitored by Alberta Environment in 1984 as part of a study to determine the effect of flow augmentation on the Battle River (Alta. Envir. n.d.[b]; Nanuk Eng. and Hydroqual Consult. Inc. 1986). Under-ice oxygen conditions have been monitored in detail by Alberta Environment throughout the Battle River, including Driedmeat Lake, over three winters: 1982/83 (Sloman 1984), 1984/85 (Fernet et al. 1985) and 1985/86 (Alta. Envir. n.d.[c]).
Driedmeat Lake contains fresh water (total dissolved solids average 344 mg/L, TABLE 3). The dominant ions are bicarbonate, sodium, sulphate and calcium.
Driedmeat Lake is so shallow that it is well-mixed from surface to bottom throughout the open-water period (FIGURE 4). Even in July and August of 1984, the temperature difference from top to bottom was less than 2°C. A vertical gradient in dissolved oxygen was maintained throughout most of June, July and August in 1984 (FIGURE 5). On 25 July the dissolved oxygen concentration was 10 mg/L at the surface but only 1 mg/L near the substrate. This measurement was taken at a site near the centre of the lake. In the large areas of the lake at each end, where aquatic plants grow very densely and form mats on the surface, dissolved oxygen concentrations from just below the mats down to the substrate are often less than 1 mg/L, as in July 1975 (Crosby n.d.). As a result, dissolved oxygen concentrations in the Battle River below Driedmeat Lake are often low enough to cause fish kills despite aeration by the weir and fishway (Fernet et al. 1985).
In winter, dissolved oxygen concentrations in Driedmeat Lake are often very low and cause frequent and extensive fish kills (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.; Rhude 1980; Fernet et al. 1985). The data for 1984/85 (FIGURE 6) are likely typical of most winters; the under-ice decay of macrophytes and algae rapidly consumes dissolved oxygen. Similarly, throughout the Battle River system, dissolved oxygen concentrations are frequently too low by late January (less than 2 mg/L) to support fish. The winter of 1985/86 was exceptional because an algal bloom developed in Driedmeat Lake in December; it lasted until March and produced dissolved oxygen concentrations as high as 20.1 mg/L immediately under the ice and 16.4 mg/L on the bottom of the lake (FIGURE 6). Chlorophyll a concentrations peaked at 459 µg/L at a depth of 1.0 m (0.3 m below the bottom of the ice) on 13 March 1986 (TABLE 4). However, even when dissolved oxygen concentrations are low throughout most of the lake, an area near the mouth of the unnamed creek north of Driedmeat Creek has adequate dissolved oxygen for fish throughout the winter.
Driedmeat Lake is hyper-eutrophic. In 1984, the mean summer total phosphorus concentration (453 µg/L, TABLE 5) was almost 4 times higher than that of any of 36 other lakes studied by Alberta Environment (Alta. Envir. n.d.[b]). The total phosphorus concentration increased over the summer to a maximum of 1,016 µg/L (FIGURE 7). This pattern of increasing phosphorus concentration over the summer is typical of shallow eutrophic and hyper-eutrophic lakes in central Alberta. Phosphorus is likely transferred from the bottom sediments to the water during this period.
A dense algal bloom develops throughout the lake in early June and remains all summer (FIGURE 7). In 1984, peak chlorophyll a concentrations over 160 µg/L were recorded in late June and August. During blooms, the Secchi transparency is less than one metre (FIGURE 7) and a noxious-smelling scum, which discourages swimming, forms on the water and drifts onto shore areas.
A conspicuous feature of Driedmeat Lake is the blue-green algal bloom that turns the water to "pea soup" from early June to mid-September. During this period in 1984 (TABLE 6), over 97% of the algal biomass in the lake was one species, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (Cyanophyta). By 21 September, the diatom (Bacillariophyta) Stephanodiscus hantzschia was the dominant alga, followed by the blue-green alga Aphanizomenon flos-aquae and the green alga (Chlorophyta) Actinastrum Hantzschii.
In the winter of 1985/86, the exceptionally dense algal bloom that occurred under-ice in Driedmeat Lake from December until March was dominated by Cryptophyta (Cryptomonas sp., Peridinium sp. and Dinobryon sp.). Protozoans were also very abundant at this time (Prepas and Crosby n.d.).
Aquatic macrophytes are another notable feature of Driedmeat Lake, especially in the northern and southern thirds of the lake, where aquatic plants form mats on the surface and make boat travel sluggish, if not impossible. Fourteen species of aquatic macrophytes were identified by Alberta Environment during a 1984 survey of Driedmeat Lake (FIGURE 8). The most abundant plants were pondweeds (Potamogeton richardsonii, P. vaginatus and P. pectinatus) and coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum). Approximately 67% of the lake area supported vegetation; plants grew in water depths of up to 2.5 m and reached the surface in almost all areas. Most macrophytes were tall and slender; a short understory was absent, likely because of shading by the taller species. An earlier survey, completed in 1975, reported similar macrophyte distribution and abundance patterns (Krochak 1988).
There are no data available on the zooplankton in Driedmeat Lake. Benthic invertebrates were sampled by Fish and Wildlife Division at six sites on 27 August 1985 in water depths ranging from 1.0 to 3.0 m. Midge larvae (Chironomidae) dominated by number at five sites and aquatic earthworms (Oligochaeta) dominated at the 1.5-m site (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.).
Driedmeat Lake is popular for angling for northern pike in summer and for ice-fishing in winter. Other species found in the lake include longnose dace, lake chub, emerald shiner, spottail shiner, white sucker and brook stickleback (Fernet et al. 1985). Migration of additional species that are abundant in the lower reaches of the Battle River is blocked by the dam that creates Battle River Reservoir near Forestburg. Fish can move from the river upstream of Forestburg into Driedmeat Lake through the step-pool fishway in the Driedmeat Lake weir.
Driedmeat Lake provides essential fish overwintering habitat, as much of the Battle River becomes anoxic in winter. Although dissolved oxygen in the lake is often very low and extensive winterkills are common (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.; Rhude 1980; Fernet et al. 1985), there is an oxygen-rich refuge in the lake near the mouth of the unnamed creek north of Driedmeat Creek. In April, northern pike and white suckers move up the Battle River from Driedmeat Lake to spawn. Pike are known to spawn in Camrose Creek and Pipestone Creek and might spawn in other inflowing streams as well (Rhude 1980; Fernet et al. 1985). Summerkills are common in Driedmeat Lake and immediately below the weir.
A three-year mark-recapture study by Fish and Wildlife Division estimated that there were 46,800 ± 18,000 pike in the lake (Rhude 1980). Measurements indicated that the growth rate of pike in Driedmeat Lake was slow compared to that in other Alberta lakes. By age three, male pike averaged 374 mm in forklength and weighed 338 g (n = 57), and females averaged 409 mm in forklength and weighed 471 g (n = 21). By age six, male pike averaged 467 mm forklength and weighed 752 g (n = 45); there were no data for six-year-old females. Pike in Driedmeat Lake matured at a smaller size than in other lakes; most spawning pike were at least four years old but were less than 500-mm long. The slow growth may be due to stress from high temperatures and low dissolved oxygen concentrations throughout the Battle River system.
Driedmeat Lake provides important nesting habitat for waterfowl and is an important fall staging area for swans and Canada geese (Ducks Unltd. (Can.) 1982). Flocks of White Pelicans feed on the lake.
In 1939, the provincial government was petitioned to have the lake classified as a bird sanctuary (Gould 1939). The region is now a Restricted Wildlife Area, which means that hunting of waterfowl and upland game birds is not allowed within 0.8 km of the lake until 1 November each year. From November until the end of hunting season, hunting is permitted to encourage waterfowl to continue their migration.
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