Alta Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - British Columbia -

Also known as:  Summit Lake

Surrounded by one of North America’s top ski resorts, Alta Lake is located in the community of Whistler, British Columbia. Reflected on the glistening surface of Alta Lake are Whistler and the Blackcomb Mountains, part of the Pacific Range in the Coast Mountains. With Vancouver only 75 miles to the south on the Sea to Sky Highway, these two sport-oriented communities co-hosted the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Originally named Summit Lake, Alta Lake is part of the Vancouver Coast & Mountains tourism region in southwestern Canada. For centuries, Coast Salish First Nations occupied these majestic mountains and fertile valleys. In 1877, the land opened to settlement with the construction of a trail that brought prospectors and trappers from the Pacific to the village of Pemberton, north of Alta Lake. An adventurous couple, Alex and Myrtle Phillip were among the early settlers on the lake. In May of 1914, Myrtle and Alex opened Rainbow Lodge along the western shore of Summit Lake. For over 30 years, the lake’s superior fly fishing brought fishermen to isolated lodge and lake.

As roadways and transportation improved, the potential for recreational development on Alta Lake and the surrounding mountains was recognized. On February 15, 1966, the first ski lift was opened. As visitor numbers increased, spring and summer attractions were added to the already popular fly fishing season. By September, 1975, development along Alta Lake had turned the valley into a year-round attraction and the community of Whistler became the first designated resort municipality in Canada.

In addition to two small streams, Alta Lake has four inlets: Scotia Creek brings mountain water from the west and Rainbow Creek flows in from the northwest. From Alta Lake, water flows out via Alta Creek (named the River of Golden Dreams by Alex Phillip) into Green Lake and on to the Lillooet River. Today, the rivers, streams and Alta Lake’s 247-acre surface continue to attract fishermen.

With an average depth of 31 feet and maximum depth of 80 feet, glacially carved Alta Lake is known for its rainbow trout and cutthroat trout fishing. The steeply sloped shoreline makes land fishing a challenge, so fishermen may want to try the 1,600-square foot Fairhurst fishing dock on the west side of the lake. Blueberry Park, located at the northeast end of Alta Lake, also provides docks. Boats may be launched from Lakeside Park or a public ramp about 200 yards north of the park. Boating and fishing regulations apply. The maximum boat speed is 7.5 mph and “catch and release, single barbless hooks and bait ban” apply. For those who would like to fish in a more relaxed and isolated setting, fishing guides are available to take you to coastal streams or back-country rivers.

Nine well-planned parks are available in the village of Whistler. Rainbow, Lakeside, Wayside and Blueberry Parks provide access to Alta Lake. Rainbow Park is located on the site of the original Rainbow Lodge. This northwest-side attraction provides a swimming beach, volleyball courts, water fountains, restrooms and Barking Bay dog beach. Toward the south end of Alta Lake, Lakeside Park also provides a small beach, picnic tables, boat rentals and restrooms. Continue south to Wayside Park, where you will find additional picnic facilities, wheelchair-accessible walkways and restrooms along with canoe and kayak rentals. Blueberry Park is a small secluded park located on the eastern shore of Alta Lake. In addition to hiking trails, the park offers three small docks.

At 536 acres, Lost Lake is Whistler’s largest park. North of Alta Lake, this park’s amenities include picnic and cook-out areas, concessions, restrooms and a variety of swimming areas from a family beach to Canine Cove, where dogs may swim without a leash, to the unmarked “clothing optional” dock.

To preserve the tranquility of Alta Lake’s mountain retreat, Whistler Village is closed to motorized traffic. Transportation is provided by WAVE, Whistler’s public transit system. Walking is a pleasure when you stroll past charming village shops, enticing restaurants and beautifully landscaped walkways. Numerous scenic hiking trails cut through Whistler Valley, past such inviting sites as Emerald Forest and Rainbow Wetlands Conservation Area. Summit Lake’s popular hiking areas include Whistler Interpretive Forest, Valley Trail, Flank Trail and Lost Lake, where hiking trails become cross-country ski trails when the snow starts to fall.

Additional sporting attractions surround Alta Lake. Facilities are available for golfing, tennis, whitewater rafting, mountain biking and horseback riding. For those who enjoy more extreme sports, be prepared for the challenge of heli-skiing, heli-hiking, ice climbing, paragliding and bungee jumping.

Should visitors want to leave the posh development of Alta Lake and Whistler, Garibaldi Provincial Park lies only two miles to the east. This magnificent park stands in total contrast to the comfortable lifestyle provided at Alta Lake. With 481,000 acres of undeveloped mountain wilderness, high Alpine meadows, and 8,786-foot Garibaldi Mountain, this park provides a true backcountry experience. Outside of park roadways and parking lots, the park is closed to all motorized vehicles. Campgrounds, cabins and shelters are available. Hiking into the park comes with all the wildlife and hazard warnings one would expect in the wilderness.

The glacier-capped mountains are a reminder that winter sports are the major attraction to Alta Lake and Whistler Village. Considered the largest ski area on the continent, Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort advertises “7,000 acres of ski and snowboard terrain, with over 200 marked trails, 12 massive Alpine bowls, 3 glaciers and 33 lifts.”

Alta Lake’s beauty and stately mountains that guard the peaceful valley are magical. They draw over two million visitors a year. With a growing population of 9,500 people, new vacation rentals and real estate properties are readily available. You can make your own magic happen during your short visit or, if you can’t get enough, a forever vacation. Find a home where you can stroll along pristine Alta Lake, ski among the majesty of snow-capped mountains, and test your limits at world-class sporting facilities. Come to Alta Lake and live the spirit of adventure.

Things to do at Alta Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Ice Climbing
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Provincial Park

Fish species found at Alta Lake

  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Alta Lake Photo Gallery

Alta Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 247 acres

Shoreline Length: 3 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 2,085 feet

Average Depth: 31 feet

Maximum Depth: 80 feet

Water Volume: 7,732 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 3 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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