Beaver River Region


Lower Mann lake.
The Beaver River Basin, with its abundance of lakes, sandy beaches, attractive shorelines and extensive fish and wildlife resources, draws visitors from all over the province. The Alberta portion of the Beaver River Basin is located in the east-central part of the province, near the town of Bonnyville. The 15,500 km2 basin covers approximately 2% of the province but it includes 19% of the lakes discussed in the Atlas - this region is well-deserving of the title "Alberta's Lakeland".

This basin lies entirely within the Boreal Mixedwood Ecoregion. The rainfall is greater and the evaporation less than the southern portion of the province, and the moisture regime is sufficient to support forest growth throughout the basin. The predominant trees are trembling aspen, balsam poplar and white spruce on Gray Luvisolic soils. Numerous pockets of sand were left by the retreat of the Keewatin ice sheet approximately 12,000 years ago. In upland regions, these sandy areas support stands of jack pine. Near water they create beautiful sandy beaches.

The Beaver River starts near the town of Lac La Biche as the outflow from Beaver Lake, a beautiful, clear lake dotted with islands. It is soon joined by the Amisk River, which drains four lakes on the western edge of the basin. Long (near Boyle) and Amisk lakes are two narrow lakes set in dense forest. North Buck Lake is a lovely spot for canoeing with lots of bays and islands, and Skeleton Lake provides an opportunity for lively cottage life. Farther east, the Beaver River meets the Sand River which flows from a northern group of large wilderness lakes including Siebert Lake, renowned for its large northern pike; Wolf Lake, with deep clear water and tiny white beaches; and Pinehurst and Touchwood lakes, both spectacular wilderness lakes prized for fishing.



Skeleton lake.
Farther east and still north of the Beaver River, near the town of Cold Lake, is a group of lakes including Ethel, Marie and Moore lakes - sparkling clear and set in dense forests - and Tucker lake, a shallow, isolated, productive lake with no shoreline development. Straddling the Alberta-Saskatchewan border is Cold Lake. Big, deep (maximum depth 99 m), clear, and with beautiful white sand beaches, it provides excellent opportunities for sailing, motor boating, fishing and beach recreation. Cold Lake has many different habitats; it has the greatest number of fish species and the most diverse invertebrate fauna of any lake surveyed in Alberta. After the Beaver River crosses into the province of Saskatchewan, it continues eastward then flows into the Churchill River at Lac Isle-à-la-Crosse. The Churchill River crosses Saskatchewan and Manitoba then flows into Hudson Bay near the community of Churchill.

All of these lakes lie north of the Beaver River. There are also many lakes south of the river along Highways 28 and 28A. The climate in this area is slightly warmer and drier and the soils are more fertile, and so large areas have been cleared for agriculture, mostly grain and forage crops. Muriel and Moose lakes are two large lakes near Bonnyville. Muriel Lake is popular for boating, and the four arms of Moose Lake provide a wide range of habitats and pelicans are often seen feeding. The Mann lakes are among the most productive in the basin and provide good fishing for yellow perch. Garner Lake has fairly clear water and a groomed beach at the provincial park.



Moore lake.
Fur traders with the North West Company were the first white men to come to the basin. Travelling west up the Churchill River system, they reached Lac Isle-à-la-Crosse in what is now Saskatchewan, then branched onto the Beaver River and continued up it, then crossed over a low divide to reach Lac La Biche in the Athabasca River Basin. The first building in the basin was Lac d'Orignal Post, built near Moose Lake by Angus Shaw of the North West Company in 1789 - six years before the establishment of Fort Edmonton. Agricultural settlement did not begin until the early 1900s; farming is now the major land use in the southern portion of the basin.

The basin is still lightly populated; just over 25,000 people live there. Two-thirds of the population live in the towns of Bonnyville, Grand Centre and Cold Lake or on the Canadian Forces Base at Medley. The major occupations are agriculture, national defence, heavy oil extraction, fishing and trapping.



Cold lake.
All 19 lakes listed in the Atlas in this basin support sport fishing. Pike are caught in all the lakes; the largest ones (over 10 kg) come from two trophy lakes, May and Siebert, which require a special fishing licence, and from Cold and Muriel lakes. Perch are caught in all 19 lakes, and walleye are sought in most of them, including Moore, Wolf, Touchwood, Cold and Marie lakes. Lake trout over 10 kg have been taken from the deep, cool waters of Cold Lake. Many Alberta lakes are stocked with walleye that come from a provincial government hatchery at Cold Lake. Thirty-three lakes in the Beaver River Basin, including 14 of the lakes in the Atlas, support commercial and/or domestic fisheries. Lake whitefish and burbot are the major targets, with lake trout contributing to the harvest from Cold Lake.

Tourism is important to the basin and lake-based recreation is the major attraction. In general, the lakes in this region have clear water. Of the 18 lakes that have been assessed, 10 are mesotrophic or oligo-mesotrophic (meaning that algae are rarely a nuisance) and only 3 are highly productive and develop algal blooms in most years. The sandy beaches on many lakes, for example Cold, Moore, Moose and Muriel, attract visitors for beach activities. Water skiing and power boating are popular on the large lakes with extensive cottage development, such as at Skeleton and Moose lakes. Canoeing and fishing are peaceful pastimes on North Buck, Amisk and Upper Mann lakes. Whether visitors come to "Alberta's Lakeland" for wilderness camping, water sports or angling, they will not be disappointed.

J.M. Crosby