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.
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.
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.
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.