Blood Indian Creek Reservoir

Basic Info
Map Sheets72M/3, 6
Lat / Long51.2500000, -111.2166667
51°15'N, 111°13'W
Area1.03 km2
Max depth13.3 m
Mean depth4.6 m
Dr. Basin Area116 km2
Dam, WeirDam
Drainage BasinRed Deer River Basin
Camp GroundPresent
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishRainbow Trout
Trophic StatusEutrophic
TP x366 µg/L
CHLORO x19.8 µg/L
TDS x1651 mg/L
Photo credit: L. Noton


Blood Indian Creek Reservoir is a long, narrow impoundment that fills a creek valley in the arid, treeless plains of southeastern Alberta. In an area where one can travel through seemingly endless miles of dry grassland, this small reservoir provides a welcome and delightful oasis. To reach the north end of the reservoir from the town of Hanna, take Highway 9 east for 44 km to the village of Youngstown, then travel south on Secondary Road 884 for 29 km (FIGURE 1). An alternate route approaches from the south, via the hamlet of Pollockville and Secondary Road 565. The reservoir is located in Special Area No. 3.

Blood Indian Creek Reservoir was named for the creek it impounds. The origin of the name may be for the Blood Indian tribe that travelled the area (Alta. Cult. Multicult. n.d.), or it may be for a battle between Blood and Blackfoot Indians in which the Bloods were defeated and the creek "flowed with their blood" (Holmgren and Holmgren 1976). In 1957, the Special Areas Board asked the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration to construct a reservoir on Blood Indian Creek to provide water for stock downstream and for future irrigation of small plots adjacent to the creek (Can. Dept. Reg. Econ. Expansion 1978). The reservoir was built by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration in 1965 and turned over to the Special Areas Board in 1967.

The area around Blood Indian Creek Reservoir is in one of the driest regions in Canada. Precipitation is light and evaporation rates are double those of precipitation. Creeks run only in spring or after unusually heavy rainfall. Lakes are small and sparsely distributed, so any water body is eagerly sought out by local recreationists. However, Blood Indian Creek Reservoir is not only locally important. In 1982, more than half of the 6,500 people who visited the reservoir travelled more than 200 km to it. Once there, visitors stayed longer (2.7 days) than the average visit to the rest of Alberta's provincial parks (1.8 days) (DGK Plan. Assoc. Ltd. 1983). The main attraction is the remarkable rainbow trout fishery managed by Fish and Wildlife Division. Angler success is high and trout up to 1 kg are not uncommon. Fishing for bait fish and the use of bait fish are not permitted (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989).

The Special Areas Board operates a park that surrounds the reservoir. It includes 150 random campsites, 3 boat launches, picnic tables and pump water (FIGURE 2). The operation of power boats to tow persons on anything, including water skis and surf boards, is prohibited on the whole lake (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988). Improvements to the park were made in the mid-1980s, including the addition of a small beach, sewage disposal facilities for recreational vehicles, improved roads, fish-cleaning facilities, and hundreds of newly planted trees.

The water is clear and free of algae but aquatic plants impede angling from the shore in some areas. Although Blood Indian Creek Reservoir is best known for its excellent trout fishery, it is also a very pretty place to stay. Visitors can explore an unplowed, arid, short-grass prairie area that is typical of southern Alberta but very different from the foothill and mountain areas that are most often thought of as representative of this province.

Drainage Basin Characteristics

The drainage basin of Blood Indian Creek Reservoir is very large (116 km2, TABLE 1) compared to the size of the reservoir (1.03 km2, TABLE 2). It extends north of the reservoir (FIGURE 1) and is located within the Short Grass Ecoregion (Strong and Leggat 1981). The drainage area is an undulating to rolling morainal plain. Soils are mostly weakly calcareous, moderately saline Brown Solodized Solonetz (Kjearsgaard 1988). There is an area in the northern portion of the basin where Orthic Brown Chernozemics predominate.

The Short Grass Ecoregion has the lowest precipitation, both summer and winter, and highest evaporation rates in the province (TABLE 2). Therefore, vegetation must be extremely hardy to withstand aridity as well as very cold winters with sudden chinooks. The natural vegetation is dominated by grama, wheat and spear grasses with buckbrush and wolf willow in coulees and a few trembling aspen, willow and birch in poorly drained areas (Strong and Leggat 1981). One of Alberta's less common species, prickly pear cactus (Opuntia polycantha), is present on the dry slopes near the reservoir (DGK Plan. Assoc. Ltd. 1983). Some of the basin has been plowed for grain crop production, but most of the land is pasture or natural grassland. The area surrounding the reservoir is all Crown land (FIGURE 2), and most of it has been leased for grazing. There are no population centres in the basin.

Blood Indian Creek supplies almost all of the inflow to the reservoir. There are numerous small impoundments for local stock water supplies upstream of Blood Indian Creek Reservoir (FIGURE 1). Almost all of the runoff enters the reservoir in March and April and the creek dries up in most summers. The spring inflow volume is extremely variable; in 1986 it was 0.065 x 106 m3, in 1985 it was 4.01 x 106 m3 (Agric. Can. 1985-1988).

Lake Basin Characteristics

Blood Indian Creek Reservoir is a long (3.9 km), narrow (0.5 km) impoundment with several narrow arms that reach into side coulees (FIGURE 2). The maximum depth of 13.3 m is located at the south end near the dam. The reservoir was created when the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration built a zoned earthfill dam across the creek in 1965 (TABLE 2). The dam is equipped with a drop-inlet operating spillway that can pass water at a rate of 18 m3/second. In the left abutment of the dam there is a 30-m-wide emergency spillway.The total flow that can be passed is 85 m3/second when runoff is extremely high (Can. Dept. Reg. Econ. Expansion 1978).

The water level has not been monitored except during the March to June period from 1985 to 1988 (Agric. Can. 1985-1988); changes in the lake's area and capacity, to an elevation of 761.39 m, are shown in Figure 3. Spring runoff is usually adequate to raise the level to near the full supply level (761.40 m). Water is released from the dam only if the full supply level is over-topped or when downstream users need additional water for stock watering. No records are kept of releases, but they usually occur once or twice a year. When water is released, the level of the reservoir drops quickly. For example, water was released from 24 to 29 June 1987 and the reservoir level dropped 0.5 m. (Special Areas Bd. n.d.). No exceptional drawdowns have occurred in the last 15 years (Lowe 1989).

Water Quality

The water quality of Blood Indian Creek Reservoir was studied in 1983 by Alberta Environment (Alta. Envir. n.d.[a]). The reservoir is a well-buffered, moderately saline water body (1,565 mg/L total dissolved solids, TABLE 3). The dominant ions are sulphate, sodium and bicarbonate.

The reservoir is exposed to strong winds, but since it is deep compared to its area, the water column becomes stratified during summer. Temperature and dissolved oxygen data are available for an area of the reservoir that is only 6-m deep (FIGURE 4, 5). Weak thermal stratification was indicated in July 1983, and the reservoir remained stratified until at least mid-August. Dissolved oxygen depletion was evident near the bottom at this relatively shallow site, and was likely more severe at the bottom of deeper areas. Dissolved oxygen concentrations in the upper 6 m were consistently well above the limit for trout throughout the summer. Winter dissolved oxygen concentrations in the upper 2 m have been checked twice by Fish and Wildlife Division (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.). Levels were above 7.0 mg/L in both 1979 and 1980. Winterkill of trout has not been reported for this reservoir (Lowe 1989).

The trophic status of Blood Indian Creek Reservoir is difficult to assess. The total phosphorus concentrations in the euphotic zone are extremely high. In 1983, they had risen to more than 550 µg/L by October (TABLE 4, FIGURE 6). The increase in total phosphorus through the summer is probably due to release of phosphorus from the bottom sediments. The high total phosphorus concentrations indicate the reservoir might be hyper-eutrophic. However, the chlorophyll a concentrations are only moderate, indicating a lake at the lower end of the eutrophic range. In 1983, they reached a maximum of 30 µg/L in July. A similar pattern was found in 20 other saline lakes in Alberta, and it was concluded that salinity inhibited the production of algae in lakes with specific conductivity over 1,000 µS/cm (Bierhuizen and Prepas 1985).

Biological Characteristics


There are no data on species of algae in Blood Indian Creek Reservoir. Bulrushes (Scirpus spp.) line the shore in the northern portions of the reservoir (DGK Plan. Assoc. Ltd. 1983). Submergent macrophytes grow abundantly in some areas, especially along the west side and at the north end, and are a nuisance to shore-based anglers (Lowe 1989). There are no data on species of submergent macrophytes in the reservoir.


There are no data on the invertebrates in Blood Indian Creek Reservoir.


Blood Indian Creek Reservoir is one of the best lakes for trout fishing in Alberta (Lowe 1989). Rainbow trout were first stocked by Fish and Wildlife Division in 1966, and approximately 130,000 fingerlings have been stocked every year since (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.). Winterkill does not occur and many of the trout caught are several years old; they do not, however, spawn in the reservoir. Because there are no suckers in the reservoir, there is little competition for food and trout growth rates are rapid. The major prey for trout are amphipods (Gammarus sp.); longnose dace and brook stickleback are of lesser importance (DGK Plan. Assoc. Ltd. 1983). Fishing is popular in summer and winter and angler success is high. Ice-fishing huts are allowed to remain on the lake all winter, but permits for them must be obtained from the Special Areas office in Hanna.

In August 1983, the fishery was closed because several trout with skin lesions were found. The lesions were attributed to a bacteria that attacks trout when water temperatures are high. The fish with lesions are edible if they are well cooked, but caution should be used when handling them with bare hands, especially if your hands have cuts or scrapes (Larson 1989). Some trout with lesions were caught in 1984 and 1985, but no occurrences have been reported since (Lowe 1989).


Blood Indian Creek Reservoir is used for nesting by a moderate number of waterfowl, including a small number of Canada Geese. It is fairly important for fall staging; up to 10,000 Canada and Snow geese have been reported in some years (Ducks Unltd. (Can.) n.d.). Shorebirds such as Long-billed Curlews, Hudsonian Godwits and Piping Plovers nest in the area (DGK Plan. Assoc. Ltd. 1983).

The prairie grassland around the reservoir provides habitat for pronghorn antelope, coyotes and Richardson's ground squirrels. Upland game birds such as Sharp-tailed Grouse, Ruffed Grouse and Hungarian Partridges also live in the area. Hunting is not allowed near the reservoir (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. n.d.).

J.M. Crosby


Agriculture Canada. 1985-1988. Spring runoff monitoring program: Annual reports. Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Admin., Eng. Serv., Regina, Sask.

Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism. n.d. Hist. Resour. Div., Hist. Sites Serv. Unpubl. data, Edmonton.

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.

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-----. 1989. Guide to sportfishing. Fish Wild. Div., Edmonton.

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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.

Canada Department of Regional Economic Expansion. 1978. Engineering and water management study of community dams-Berry Creek, Blood Indian Creek and Bullpound Creek basins. Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Admin., Calgary.

DGK Planning Associates Ltd. 1983. Blood Indian Reservoir site development study. Prep. for Alta. Envir., Plan. Div., Edmonton.

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

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Holmgren, E.J. and P.M. Holmgren. 1976. Over 2000 place names of Alberta. 3rd ed. West. Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon.

Kjearsgaard, A.A. 1988. Reconnaissance soil survey of the Oyen map sheet-72 M. Alta. Inst. Pedol. Rep No. 5-76-36, Ld. Resour. Res. Centre Contribution No. 85-56. Agric. Can. Res. Br., Edmonton.

Larson, B. 1989. Alta. For. Ld. Wild., Fish Wild. Div., Edmonton. Pers. comm.

Lowe, D. 1989. Alta. For. Ld. Wild., Fish Wild. Div., Red Deer. Pers. comm.

Special Areas Board. n.d. Unpubl. data, Hanna.

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