North Saskatchewan Region

Wabamun lake.
The North Saskatchewan and Battle River basins in central Alberta provide abundant recreational opportunities for the people of Edmonton and surrounding communities. The basins' lakes range from deep, fresh Hubbies and Eden lakes to shallow, salty Miquelon and Peninsula lakes. In between are numerous relatively shallow freshwater lakes that are highly developed and heavily used for recreation. To the south and east of these basins is the Sounding Creek Basin, which is isolated from major river systems. It drains an area of low precipitation and shallow, often saline lakes.

The North Saskatchewan River Basin, with an area of 56,700 km2 within Alberta, is the third largest river basin in the province. The river originates in the Rocky Mountains among glaciers of the Columbia Icefield, and then flows east and north toward the town of Drayton Valley. Through this land the river traverses five ecoregions: the Alpine and Subalpine at the highest elevations, Montane in the Kootenay Plains area, Boreal Uplands at Nordegg, and finally Boreal Foothills at the towns of Rocky Mountain House and Drayton Valley. Within these ecoregions, the lakes discussed in the Atlas are Crimson, Buck and Twin, which are all in the Boreal Foothills Ecoregion. Surrounding these lakes are the diverse forest vegetation and Gray Luvisolic soils typical of the boreal foothills. Trembling aspen, balsam poplar, lodgepole pine and white spruce are the dominant species of trees.

Pigeon lake.
The slope of the North Saskatchewan River decreases gradually as it flows eastward past Drayton Valley, and the river passes through the Boreal Mixedwood Ecoregion. Within the basin, this ecoregion extends eastward to the town of Stony Plain and south to encompass Pigeon and Battle lakes in the Battle River Basin. At one time, the area was covered in trembling aspen and balsam poplar, but now much of it has been cleared for agriculture and for the extraction of gas, oil and coal. Recreation is concentrated at some of the most heavily used lakes in the province: Wabamun, Ste. Anne, Isle, Jackfish, Sandy and Pigeon lakes. An isolated portion of the Boreal Mixed-wood Ecoregion lies in the Cooking Lake moraine to the east of the city of Edmonton. There are several recreational lakes within the moraine, including Cooking, Hastings and Miquelon.

The Battle River Basin, with its headwaters in Battle Lake, drains an area of 25,000 km2. The river flows southeast from Battle Lake, collects water from Pigeon Lake Creek, turns northeast at the town of Ponoka and then receives water from Coal Lake. The river passes into Driedmeat Lake, which has been stabilized with a weir. The Battle and North Saskatchewan rivers flow eastward through the Aspen Parkland Ecoregion, cross the border into Saskatchewan, and join near the city of North Battleford. Eventually, the Saskatchewan River system joins the Nelson River system, which flows into Hudson Bay.

The Aspen Parkland within the North Saskatchewan and Battle River basins of Alberta is characterized by a mixture of rough fescue grassland and trembling aspen. The Chernozemic soils that have developed under the grassland are highly productive, and the area is extensively used for tilled crops. Some of the lakes in the region are saline, such as Oliva and Peninsula, but the water in many lakes to the north of these, for example Lac St. Cyr and Bonnie Lake, is fresh. Also in this ecoregion is Beaverhill Lake, an internationally recognized staging area for migratory birds.

Battle lake.
The Aspen Parkland Ecoregion grades to the drier Mixed Grass and Short Grass ecoregions within the Sounding Creek Basin, which is located to the south of the Battle River Basin. In the northern portion of the Sounding Creek Basin, where Dillberry Lake is located, the dominant vegetation is rough fescue grass, dotted with shrubs and trembling aspen where moisture is sufficient. In the southern part of the basin, spear and grama grasses predominate. Dryland farming and cattle production are the main land uses.

The Battle River Basin was the scene of white people's first arrival in what is now Alberta. In 1754, Anthony Henday walked into the area to explore and to determine the potential for expanding the fur trade west. Thus began a long and colourful history of white settlement in the North Saskatchewan River Basin. The fur trading posts that were established along the North Saskatchewan River, including Edmonton House in 1795 and Rocky Mountain House in 1799, attracted settlers and farmers. In 1843, a Catholic mission was established on Lac Ste. Anne, and a Protestant mission on Pigeon Lake a few years later. Edmonton became a focal point for much of the development in the basin, and it remains so today.

The total population in the basins of the North Saskatchewan and Battle rivers and Sounding Creek was about one million people in the mid-1980s. Most of these people are concentrated in the Edmonton area and, consequently, attractive lakes within easy driving distance of the city have been developed extensively. Picnicking, swimming, fishing and camping are favourite activities at these lakes. Wabamun Lake is especially popular for sailing, and there are several sailing clubs on the lake. Wizard Lake attracts water skiing enthusiasts. Several lakes - Pigeon, Wabamun, Ste. Anne, Hasse, Crimson, Dillberry and Miquelon - eveloped public beaches, and crowds of people flock to them on summer weekends to enjoy the relatively clear water.

Sandy lake.
Fishing is a major activity in Alberta lakes, and the lure of stocked rainbow trout draws anglers to several pothole lakes near Edmonton. Many of these lakes now offer picnicking, swimming, and other family-oriented facilities in either private or public developments. Examples of rainbow trout stocked lakes with recreational facilities include Eden, Spring, Hasse, Dillberry and Twin lakes. Within these drainage basins, four lakes included in the Atlas are fished commercially: Wabamun, Buck, Ste. Anne and Pigeon. The target commercial species is lake whitefish.

The 28 lakes described in the Atlas in these river basins provide the angler, recreationist and lake scientist with a diverse, fascinating, cross-section of lake types. Whatever the lake visitors' interest, they will find a lake in these basins to suit them.

P.A. Mitchell