Bras d’Or Lake, Nova Scotia, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Nova Scotia -

Also known as:  Bras d'Or Lakes

Bras d’Or Lake, translated as Arm of Gold, is a very large somewhat unique water body in central Cape Breton Island, part of Nova Scotia Province in Canada. The 424-square-mile lake is nestled between forested hills with many scenic coves and lovely hideaways for boaters. Little commercial development exists and as a touring area (both by boat and auto), Bras d’Or Lake is superb. The ‘National Geographic Traveler’ magazine rated Cape Breton Island as its #2 worldwide destination in 2003. Some of the significant tourist destinations around the Lake are:

The Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck- The famous inventor not only pursued his inventions on and around the Lake, he built a beautiful retirement/summer home on its shore. The Museum displays his experiments in airfoil design where he used kites both hand flown and towed on the Lake. His experiments in hydrofoil boat designs led to the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMS Bras d’Or – the fastest warship of the 1960s. The Museum is definitely worth a visit.

The Bras d’Or Lakes & Watershed Interpretive Center, also in Baddeck, will help visitors understand the ecology, unusual animal species and geology of the area. Another worthwhile destination.

Boating and sailing are favored pastimes. The uncluttered expansive surface of the Lake provides an excellent boating experience, and marinas and a yacht club are centered at Baddeck, with others at St. Peters, Grand Narrows, Whycocomagh and Ross Ferry. Cruising yachts can enter Bras d’Or Lake at the south end through the historic St. Peters Canal connecting the Lake with the Atlantic Ocean.

The Bras d’Or Scenic Drive, which completely surrounds the Lake, affords a multitude of beautiful vistas as well as many unusual small towns, many of which still adhere to the Gaelic traditions from Scottish settlers.

Bras d’Or Lake extends 62 miles long and some 31 miles wide. Historically, the Lake’s connection to the Atlantic occurred during the Tertiary Period with two channels developing, the Great Bras d’Or and Lennox Passages. The Lake is tidal, but rises and falls only inches, due to the restricted channels. Water in Bras d’Or Lake is much less salty than the Atlantic due to the significant amount of fresh water entering from rivers and streams around the Lake. Large rivers feeding into the Lake are the Washabuck, Georges, Baddeck, Skye, Denys and Middle rivers. Limited circulation of the waters of Bras d’Or is causing some pollution concern and the Province is taking steps to reduce pollution.

Bras d’Or supports a significant population of Bald Eagles, many of which can be seen on the drive around the Lake. In addition, Double-crested Cormorants and Great Blue Heron are frequently seen. Migrating Teal, Black Duck and Ring-necked Duck are also present. Streams and estuaries are home to a good population of muskrat and mink with Snowshoe Hare and bobcat using the area for home.

While commercial fishing was an industry in the 1800s, very little remains. There are successful lobster and oyster fisheries now and some success with oyster farming. Saltwater fish species dominate Bras d’Or Lakes – mackerel, winter flounder, Greenland cod, and some black-spotted stickleback. Rainbow trout have been introduced.

Bras d’Or Lake is a wonderful tourist destination for sightseeing and boating. Its scenery is amazing – a must trip for anyone visiting Nova Scotia.

Things to do at Bras d’Or Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum

Fish species found at Bras d’Or Lake

  • Cod
  • Flounder
  • Mackerel
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Stickleback
  • Trout

Bras d’Or Lake Photo Gallery

Bras d’Or Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Saltwater Lake, Not Dammed

Water Level Control: Tidal

Surface Area: 271,569 acres

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 2 feet

Maximum Depth: 918 feet

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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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