Peninsula Lake

Basic Info
Map Sheets73D
Lat / Long52.8666667, -111.4833333
52°52'N, 111°28'W
Area1.39 km2
Max depth3.1 m
Mean depth2.1 m
Dr. Basin Area43.9 km2
Dam, WeirNone
Drainage BasinBattle River Basin
Camp GroundNone
Boat LaunchHand/Small Boat
Sport FishNone
Trophic StatusMesotrophic
TP x3,576 µg/L
CHLORO x8.9 µg/L
TDS x9,600 mg/L
Photo credit: E.E. Prepas


Peninsula Lake is a small, shallow, salty lake located in the County of Flagstaff, 160 km southeast of the city of Edmonton. From Edmonton, take Highway 14 east to the hamlet of Kinsella. The lake is 3 km east of Secondary Road 870, halfway between Kinsella, on Highway 14, and the village of Lougheed, on Highway 13 (FIGURE 1). The east side of the lake can be reached from a gravel road. Between this road and the lake there is a small gravel beach where small boats can be launched. There are no boating restrictions specific to this lake, but general federal regulations apply (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988).

Homesteaders arrived in the district of Kinsella, to the north of Peninsula Lake, in 1904. Grain, mixed farming and livestock ranching developed in this region, where an exceptionally good quality native grass grows (Kinsella Hist. Book Commit. 1983).

Peninsula Lake is one of a number of saline lakes in eastern Alberta. Its salinity causes characteristics such as temperature, nutrient concentrations and plant and animal communities to be different from those in freshwater lakes. Salinity in this lake is characterized by high sulphate, sodium and bicarbonate/carbonate concentrations; these minerals come from saline groundwater in the region. In winter, the temperature of water under the ice drops to 0°C, uncommonly low for Alberta lakes. Although levels of nutrients are high, plant growth is sparse. A few planktonic invertebrates are exceptionally abundant, but there are fewer species than in freshwater lakes. There are no fish in the lake.

The lake is surrounded by trembling aspen. There are no recreational facilities or cottages on the shore, and this absence of development, in conjunction with clear water, makes the lake an attractive place for boating and canoeing.

Drainage Basin Characteristics

The drainage basin of Peninsula Lake is large compared to the lake (ratio of 31 to 1; Tables 1, 2; FIGURE 1). However, a large portion of the drainage basin is likely noncontributing. Although soils in the watershed are nonsaline (MacMillan et al. 1988), there are saline soils in surrounding areas and saline groundwater in the drainage basin. The agricultural capacity of soils around the lake is rated as fairly good to good. At present, most of the land is cultivated primarily for canola and flax, or is grazed by cattle (Campbell 1986). The land surrounding the lake is privately owned.

Lake Basin Characteristics

Peninsula Lake is small (TABLE 2); it has a maximum length of 2.3 km and a maximum width of 0.9 km. The lake has one bowl-shaped basin with the deepest area (3.1 m) located near the southeast end. When water levels are sufficiently low, a narrow peninsula is formed on the south side, connecting the shore with a tiny island (FIGURE 2).

The water level was monitored from May 1983 through August 1984. During this period it was very stable; the water fluctuated a maximum of 0.17 m, with a minimum level recorded in June 1983 and a maximum in July 1984 (Campbell 1986). Data on water well and surface water fluctuations in the region would be required to put these data in perspective with long-term patterns. Because there is usually no outflow from the lake (TABLE 2), it is functionally an evaporative basin. This fact, coupled with saline groundwater in the region (Currie and Zacharko 1976; MacMillan et al. 1988), explains the lake's high concentration of total dissolved solids.

Water Quality

Peninsula Lake was sampled for water quality characteristics from 1982 through 1984 and again in 1986 and 1987 by researchers with the University of Alberta (Prepas et al. n.d.; Bierhuizen and Prepas 1985; Campbell 1986; Campbell and Prepas 1986).

Peninsula Lake water is well-mixed by the wind during most of the ice-free season. As illustrated with data from 1984, temperature and dissolved oxygen concentrations are fairly uniform during the open-water period (FIGURE 3, 4). High concentrations of total dissolved solids (9,600 mg/L, TABLE 3), made up primarily by sulphate, sodium and bicarbonate/carbonate ions, have an influence on under-ice water temperatures and dissolved oxygen concentrations in this lake. The temperature of the water column drops to 0°C under ice (FIGURE 3); this is an unusually low temperature for a lake and is a result of the high salt content. Dissolved oxygen concentrations are lower in the surface waters during the open-water period than in freshwater lakes in Alberta (FIGURE 4), due to the reduced solubility of oxygen as the concentration of salts in the water increases. In contrast, dissolved oxygen concentrations under ice in late winter 1984 were remarkably high for such a shallow lake (FIGURE 4). The reason for these relatively high winter dissolved oxygen concentrations is unknown. They may result from the combination of low summer productivity (TABLE 4), low under-ice water temperatures, and sediments with minimal bacterial activity.

Phosphorus and nitrogen were present in extremely high concentrations in Peninsula Lake (TABLE 4), similar to those in other saline lakes in Alberta. In contrast to freshwater lakes with similar nutrient concentrations, chlorophyll a concentrations in this lake were low (7.3 to 10.6 µg/L); freshwater lakes with similar nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations would be very green in summer (chlorophyll a concentrations greater than 300 µg/L; Campbell and Prepas 1986). The single high chlorophyll a concentration in late July 1984 (FIGURE 5) is unusual and there is no explanation for its short duration.

When compared to Alberta lakes with similar chlorophyll a concentrations, the transparency of the water in Peninsula Lake (FIGURE 5) is low, perhaps because it is highly coloured (Chambers and Prepas 1988).

Although difficult to classify because of its salinity, Peninsula Lake would be mesotrophic based on chlorophyll a concentrations.

Biological Characteristics

Saline lakes such as Peninsula are less productive biologically than their freshwater counterparts; fewer species of plants and animals live there. The biomass of primary producers (for example, algae) appears to be constrained more by moderately high levels of salinity than some trophic levels (such as bacteria or invertebrates). Much is to be learned about factors controlling biological processes in these distinct lakes.

Plants and animals in Peninsula Lake were studied in 1983 and 1984 (Campbell 1986), and the phytoplankton was studied again in 1987 (Prepas et al. n.d.; Marino et al. 1990).


Phytoplankton identification in saline lakes such as Peninsula is made very difficult by high densities of unidentified detrital and crystalline material. In 1983 and 1984, the dominant phytoplankton in Peninsula Lake were the blue-green algae (Cyanophyta) Microcystis aeruginosa and Lyngbya Birgei. The dominant alga living on the sediments (phytobenthos) was Rhizoclonium hieroglyphicum. In 1987, the phytoplankton were sampled 4 times; the average chlorophyll a concentration was 5.5 µg/L. In May, 90% of the community was made up of a small alga (Cryptophyta), Rhodomonas minuta, and 10% was a green alga (Chlorophyta), Monoraphidium contortum. By July, a golden-brown alga (Chrysophyta), Chrysomonad sp., was the only identifiable species. By August, two species of blue-green algae (Cyanophyta: Oscillatoria angustissima and Chroococcus dispersus) made up 75% of the biomass and R. minuta made up the remaining 22% of the biomass. Algal biomass varied from 0.044 mg/L in July to 0.062 mg/L in May, to 0.15 mg/L in August 1987. No algal species could be identified in June 1987. Only a few species of macrophytes grow in the lake: widgeon grass (Ruppia occidentalis), which is indigenous to saline waters, and one or more species of sedge (Carex spp.).


From April to August 1984, the mean summer bacterial density in the open water of Peninsula Lake was 13 x 106 cells/mL; a subsequent study indicated that this is probably an underestimate of true bacterial densities (Harvey 1987). This concentration is about twice as high as the concentration predicted from data collected on freshwater lakes relative to measured chlorophyll a concentrations (Bird and Kalff 1984), but similar to values reported for other saline lakes. These data suggest that there is more organic substrate for bacteria in the open water of saline lakes, as compared with freshwater lakes with similar chlorophyll levels. These bacteria are part of the normal process of decomposition, but there are more of them in saline lakes.


Only three species of zooplankton were found in Peninsula Lake: the copepods Diaptomus nevadensis and D. sicilis, and the waterflea Daphnia similis. The mean dry weight or biomass of zooplankton during the growing season (1.4 mg/L) was 10 times higher than the biomass predicted from data collected on freshwater lakes, relative to measured chlorophyll a concentrations. Bacteria and detritus are likely the main source of food for zooplankton. An amphipod (Hyalella azteca) was the only macroinvertebrate found in significant numbers.


Although there are, at present, no freshwater fish species that could reproduce in Peninsula Lake, there may be potential for salt-tolerant fish to live in this and similar lakes. More work is needed to determine which species adapt to water where sulphate ions are the dominant anion. Fish from brackish marine areas have adapted to similar degrees of salinity, but there, chloride ions are relatively more important and sulphate ions are less important.


There is no information on the wildlife at Peninsula Lake.

E.E. Prepas


Alberta Environment. n.d. Tech. Serv. Div., Hydrol. Br. Unpubl. data, Edmonton.

Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife. 1988. Boating in Alberta. Fish Wild. Div., Edmonton.

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

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.

Bird, D.F. and J. Kalff. 1984. Empirical relationships between bacterial abundance and chlorophyll concentrations in fresh and marine waters. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 41:1015-1023.

Campbell, C.E. 1986. A study of low chlorophyll levels relative to high phosphorus and nitrogen levels in prairie saline lakes. MSc thesis. Univ. Alta., Edmonton.

----- and E.E. Prepas. 1986. Evaluation of factors related to the unusually low chlorophyll levels in prairie saline lakes. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 43:846-854.

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.

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Kinsella History Book Committee. 1983. Hoofprints and homesteading: A history of Kinsella and area. Kinsella Hist. Book Commit., Kinsella.

MacMillan, R.A., W.L. Nikiforuk and A.T. Rodvang. 1988. Soil survey of the County of Flagstaff. Alta. Soil Surv. Rep. No. 51. Alta. Res. Counc., Edmonton.

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]

Prepas, E.E., J.F.H. Bierhuizen, C.E. Campbell, 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.