Miquelon 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 is out of date.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 Sheets83H/2, 7
Lat / Long53.3500000, -112.9166667
53°21'N, 112°55'W
Area8.72 km2
Max depth6 m
Mean depth2.7 m
Dr. Basin Area35.4 km2
Dam, WeirNone
Drainage BasinBattle River Basin
Camp GroundPresent
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishNone
Trophic StatusMesotrophic
TP x216 µg/L
CHLORO x5.7 µg/L
TDS x5402 mg/L
92
Photo credit: unknown

Introduction

Shallow, salty Miquelon Lake is located within the County of Camrose in central Alberta, about 35 km southeast of the city of Edmonton. It lies on the southern edge of the Cooking Lake Moraine. The lake was once part of a considerably larger lake that receded and left three isolated basins. These are often referred to as "the Miquelon Lakes" (inset, FIGURE 1), but this discussion will focus on the largest basin, henceforth called "Miquelon Lake". To get to the lake from Edmonton, take Highway 14 to Highway 21, turn south and drive for 20 km, then turn east onto Secondary Road 623 and drive for 17 km. This road leads to the entrance to Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, which is located on the south and east shores of the lakes.

Miquelon Lake has been used for recreation by local residents since the turn of the twentieth century, especially after a railway line was established between Camrose and Tofield in 1909. The access and facilities at the lake were greatly improved when Miquelon Lake Provincial Park was established in 1958. The park now has 275 campsites, tap water, a sandy swimming beach, a telephone, boat launches, hiking trails and day-use areas (Alta. Hotel. Assoc. 1989). A golf course is nearby. Around the turn of the twentieth century, much of the Miquelon Lakes and much of the surrounding land were designated as the Miquelon Lake Bird Sanctuary. Now some of this land is part of the provincial park, but the remaining Crown land near the lakes and the lakes themselves retain the sanctuary status.

At present, Miquelon Lake is heavily used for recreation, especially on warm, sunny weekends. Game fish are no longer present in the lake, but a pond in the provincial park is stocked annually with a small number of catchable-sized rainbow trout. The beach area at the park is generally clean and attractive for swimming. The saline water tends to inhibit the growth of algae, and the lake is often very clear. Swimming, sailing, wind surfing and water skiing are favourite activities. Boats are restricted to a 12 km/hour maximum speed limit in the park area, and all boats are prohibited in certain waterfowl nesting areas and along the beach (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988).

There has been no surface outflow from Miquelon Lake since the 1920s, and the lake level has declined considerably. In 1927, the outlet creek, which flowed from the most southern of the three Miquelon lakes was deepened to divert water for the town of Camrose water supply. The flow in the diversion ditch ran only about three years, even though the ditch was deepened when flow declined (Hanson 1981). It is not known why the level of the lake has gone down, but climatic factors probably have played a major role (Woodburn 1977).

Drainage Basin Characteristics

The drainage basin of Miquelon Lake is only about 4 times larger than the area of the lake (Tables 1, 2). The land surrounding Miquelon Lake is the knob and kettle terrain typical of morainal deposits (Battle R. Reg. Plan. Commis. 1973). The overall relief varies only about 30 m; the highest point of land is located south of the provincial park. The predominant soils surrounding the lake are fairly well-drained Orthic Gray Luvisols that have severe limitations for forage crop production. These soils have developed from glacial till that originates mainly from the underlying bedrock (Bowser et al. 1962). Trembling aspen, balsam poplar, white spruce and other species of trees historically covered the drainage area, but clearing for agriculture and numerous fires at the turn of the century extensively reduced the forest cover. Since then, natural regrowth has restored much of the native vegetation, particularly in Miquelon Lake Provincial Park.

Livestock operations and cereal crop farming are pursued in the basin, particularly in areas west of the lake (FIGURE 1). In addition to the provincial park, development includes two registered cottage subdivisions on the western shore. There are also a number of country residential lots in the basin (Battle R. Reg. Plan. Commis. 1973).

At present, there are no permanent inlet streams to Miquelon Lake and there has been no surface outflow for more than 50 years. If outflow were to occur, the former outlet from the most southern lake would drain into the Battle River through Stoney Creek and Camrose Creek, but the present Miquelon Lake (the northwestern lake), would probably drain to Larry Lake to the northwest, then to Oliver Lake and eventually to the North Saskatchewan River (Battle R. Reg. Plan. Commis. 1973).

Lake Basin Characteristics

Miquelon Lake had a maximum depth of approximately 6 m when the lake was sounded in 1966. Much of the lake is less than 1.5-m deep, particularly in the western bay (TABLE 2; FIGURE 2).

The level of the lake has been recorded since 1972 (FIGURE 3). The fluctuation in water level between 1972 and 1987 exceeded 1 m, but there was no trend toward declining levels over the last 10 years of this record. In 1974, an increase in water level of about 1 m occurred after heavy spring runoff. Changes in the lake's area and capacity (up to an elevation of 763.12 m) are illustrated in Figure 4.

The character of Miquelon Lake has been strongly influenced by its fluctuating water level. Anecdotal evidence indicates that Beaverhill Lake, which is also in the Cooking Lake Moraine, was nearly dry in 1885 (Lister 1979). Levels increased and declined in subsequent years, but heavy rains in 1900 and 1901 restored the lakes in the moraine to high levels. At that time, the three Miquelon Lakes were joined and outflow from the lake probably occurred (Nyland 1970). Since then, there have been periodic droughts (for example, in 1928, in the 1930s, and in 1950, 1957 and 1961), and changes in land use in the moraine. There is insufficient information to determine whether changes in the groundwater inflow have contributed to the declining level, although it is known that the lake is spring-fed (EPEC Consult. 1971).

Water Quality

The water quality of Miquelon Lake was studied by the University of Alberta from 1973 to 1976 (Alta. Envir. n.d.[a]), and during 1983, 1986 and 1987 (Prepas et al. n.d.; Bierhuizen and Prepas 1985; Marino et al. 1990). Concentrations of total dissolved solids (TDS) in Miquelon Lake are about 10 times higher than the arbitrary criterion of 500 mg/L TDS used to distinguish saline lakes from freshwater lakes. Sulphate, sodium.and carbonate/bicarbonate are the dominant ions (TABLE 3). Total dissolved solids and sulphate are higher when the water level is low. Saline groundwater is present in the area, but evaporation probably plays a major role in concentrating salts in the lake. In 1974, a heavy spring runoff raised the lake level and diluted its salt content (TDS = 4,309 mg/L, TABLE 4). Since 1976, the dissolved solids have become more concentrated again (TDS = 5,402 mg/L in 1983).

The water temperature tends to be uniform from the lake surface to the bottom in the summer and the entire water column mixes on windy days (FIGURE 5). The dissolved oxygen concentrations tend to remain high much of the time (FIGURE 6), although during periods of temporary stratification, oxygen depletion near the bottom may occur. In winter, the lake remains fairly well oxygenated, but under certain conditions the entire water column may become anoxic, as in March 1974.

Because the salinity in Miquelon Lake is high, algal production, as measured by chlorophyll a, is depressed (TABLE 5). Phosphorus concentrations are so high that if the lake water were fresh, Miquelon Lake probably would have heavy blooms of blue-green algae. However, chlorophyll a levels in Miquelon Lake rank with those of some of the least-productive lakes in the province. Chlorophyll levels in Miquelon Lake are highest in spring and sometimes in fall, rather than in midsummer (FIGURE 7) as in most shallow freshwater lakes in Alberta.

It is difficult to establish the trophic category of this lake. The high phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations suggest a eutrophic lake, but chlorophyll concentrations and the clarity of the water suggest that it is mesotrophic.

Biological Characteristics

Plants

The phytoplankton of Miquelon Lake was studied by the University of Alberta in 1964 and 1987 (Prepas et al. n.d.; Kerekes 1965; Marino et al. 1990). Species diversity of the phytoplankton community is low in Miquelon Lake (TABLE 6). Only 8 species were identified in 1964 and 10 in 1987. Two of the species identified in the 1964 study are restricted to brackish water, and consequently were not found in neighboring freshwater lakes. The only genus common to both studies was the blue-green alga Gomphosphaeria sp. (Cyanophyta). It was the only species of blue-green algae noted in 1987, and occurred only in the May sample. Monoraphidium contortum occurred in all samples in 1987.

A survey of macrophytes was conducted by researchers with the University of Alberta during a water quality study in 1973 and 1974 (TABLE 7). Although phytoplankton biomass is low in Miquelon Lake, visual observations suggest that much of the plant production takes place on the bottom of the lake, as attached algae and macrophytes.

The dominant species of macrophyte is widgeon grass (Ruppia occidentalis), which is highly tolerant of saline conditions. In 1973, it grew densely throughout the lake, but was especially abundant at depths of 1 to 2 m. The only other species of submergent macrophyte noted in 1973 was Sago pondweed, Potamogeton pectinatus. The dominant emergent species were several types of bulrush. The most common species, identified as Scirpus pungens, formed 62% of the emergent vegetation, and was found in water less than 0.5-m deep.

Invertebrates

The biomass of zooplankton was estimated for Miquelon Lake by a researcher with the University of Alberta in 1975 and 1976 (Alta. Envir. n.d.[a]). The calanoid copepod Diaptomus sicilis was usually dominant throughout the year and it reached a peak biomass in midsummer. A species of large Daphnia, probably D. pulicaria, and a saline-tolerant rotifer, Hexarthra sp., were also abundant in mid-summer. The crustaceans are grazers, and probably have a major impact on algal populations in June and July, as evidenced by minimum chlorophyll levels during these months for most of the years that the lake was studied. Daphnia pulicaria and Diaptomus sicilis were abundant through the winter in 1974/75, but the following winter, neither species was observed in the lake by March.

The benthic invertebrate fauna of Miquelon Lake and four other lakes in the Cooking Lake Moraine was studied in 1964 by a researcher at the University of Alberta (Kerekes 1965). Of these lakes, Miquelon was the most saline, and the biomass of benthic organisms and the level of organic matter in the bottom sediments were lowest. Midge larvae (Chironomidae) were dominant in 1964 and also in samples collected for Alberta Environment in 1975 and 1976 (TABLE 8).

Fish

The brook stickleback is reported to be the only species of fish remaining in Miquelon Lake (Battle R. Reg. Plan. Commis. 1973; Jensen 1987; Lowe 1987). At the turn of the century, when the outlet was flowing, northern pike and suckers moved up the creek connecting the lake to the Battle River, and yellow perch were abundant. Adult yellow perch were stocked in the lake in 1955,1956 and possibly 1958. Nets set in the lake in 1964 caught stickleback and only three or four yellow perch (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.). It is not clear why perch and pike are no longer in the lake, but it may be related to occasional winter kills and isolation from population sources. As well, the high salinity may reduce the survival of the spawn of these species.

Wildlife

The Miquelon Lakes were set aside in 1915 as a bird sanctuary. The Cooking Lake Moraine is excellent habitat for waterfowl and upland game birds as well as moose and deer. When fish were more numerous in the lake, pelicans and cormorants nested on the islands, particularly on the larger one near the north shore, known as Pelican Island (Hanson 1981). Now, Ring-billed and California gulls colonize the islands in the western arm of the lake by the thousands, and ducks and geese nest along the shoreline (Finlay and Finlay 1987).

P.A. Mitchell

References

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.

Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife. n.d. Fish Wild. Div. Unpubl. data, Edmonton. . 1988. Boating in Alberta. Fish Wild. Div., Edmonton.

Alberta Hotel Association. 1989. Alberta campground guide 1989. Prep. for Travel Alta., Edmonton.

Alberta Research Council. 1972. Geological map of Alberta. Nat. Resour. Div., Alta. Geol. Surv., Edmonton.

Battle River Regional Planning Commission. 1973. Miquelon Lakes planning report. Prep. for Co. Camrose No. 22, Camrose.

Bierhuizen, J.F.H. and E.E. Prepas. 1985. Relationship between nutrients, dominant ions, and phytoplankton standing crop in prairie saline lakes. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 42:1588-1594.

Bowser, W.E., A.A. Kjearsgaard, T.W. Peters and R.E. Wells. 1962. Soil survey of the Edmonton sheet (83-H). Alta. Soil Surv. Rep. No. 21, Univ. Alta. Bull. No. SS-4. Univ. Alta., Edmonton.

Energy, Mines and Resources Canada. 1975, 1983. National topographic series 1:50 000 83H/2 (1975), 83H/7 (1975) and 1:250 000 83H (1983). Surv. Map. Br., Ottawa.

Environment Canada. 1982. Canadian climate normals, Vol. 7: Bright sunshine (1951-1980). Prep. by Atm. Envir. Serv. Supply Serv. Can., Ottawa.

EPEC Consulting. 1971. An economic analysis of the Cooking and Hastings Lakes. Prep. for Alta. Envir., Water Resour. Div., Edmonton.

Finlay, J. and C. Finlay. 1987. Parks in Alberta: A guide to peaks, ponds, parklands & prairies. Hurtig Publ., Edmonton.

Hanson, R.W. 1981. Harvest of memories: History of Kingman and districts, p. 159-164. In Kingman Silver Club. Kingman.

Jensen, M. 1987. Alta. Rec. Parks, Miquelon L. Pers. comm.

Kerekes, J. 1965. A comparative limnological study of five lakes in central Alberta. MSc thesis. Univ. Alta., Edmonton.

Lister, R. 1979. The birds and birders of Beaverhills Lake. The Edm. Bird Club, Edmonton.

Lowe, D. 1987. Alta. For. Ld. Wild., Fish Wild. Div., Red Deer. Pers. comm.

Marino, R., R.W. Howarth, J. Shamess and E.E. Prepas. 1990. Molybdenum and sulfate as controls on the abundance of nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria in Alberta saline lakes. Limnol. Oceanogr. [in press]

Nyland, E. 1970. Miquelon Lake? Alberta Lands-Forests-Parks-Wildlife 13:18-25. Alta. Ld. For., Edmonton.

Prepas, E.E., J.F.H. Bierhuizen, J. Shamess, R.W. Howarth and R. Marino. n.d. Unpubl. data, Univ. Alta., Edmonton and Cornell Univ., Ithaca, New York.

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

Woodburn, R.L. 1977. Surplus patterns and water supply alternatives: Cooking Lake moraine. MSc thesis. Univ. Alta., Edmonton.


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