Capilano Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - British Columbia -

Also known as:  Capilano Reservoir

One of the most beautiful lakes in British Columbia is uninhabited Capilano Lake. The reservoir was created when Cleveland Dam was built across the Capilano River in 1954 just outside North Vancouver. The lake provides about 40% of the North Vancouver area’s drinking water, so the lake and the immediate watershed are not open to the public except for a small picnic area near the dam.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of ways to enjoy Capilano Lake views from nearby parks and attractions. The trail over the top of Cleveland Dam provides a most memorable viewpoint for overlooking the evergreen-rimmed lake to the north and the breathtaking spillway as the water tumbles down into the canyon below. The Lions Mountains towering above the long, narrow lake offer a serene, wild landscape less than 10 minutes from downtown Vancouver. “Exhilarating’ is the term most often used to describe the experience.

Capilano Lake is familiar to television and movie fans as it has been used, with special permission, by a handful of television series and a few movies. Because the lake itself is off-limits to the public, efforts have been made to make other parts of the waterway accessible and attractive to area visitors. The southern part of Capilano Lake is enclosed within Capilano River Regional Park, part of the Metro Vancouver Parks system. Various landscapes are offered within the park, from dazzling cliff heights to the cool, coastal rainforest at the canyon floor. In spring the Capilano River tumbles and roars down the rocky canyon, reducing to a slow trickle in late summer.

More than 17 miles of trails are available within Capilano River Regional Park for hiking and leisurely nature walks, with a couple of miles allowing bicycles. A number of bridges cross the canyon, all offering scenic viewpoints for picture-taking and simply quiet contemplation. A five-mile hiking trail connects Capilano River Regional Park with West Vancouver. The park is often included in organized sightseeing tours. Plenty of parking and picnic areas are built into the park, making it a popular spot with locals for dog-walking, jogging and unwinding after a day at work. A group camping area with dormitories is available by reservation, but other camping is prohibited. Park interpreters are on hand as scheduled to lead nature observation walks, teach school children about various aspects of the natural environment, and lead group tours of the Capilano watershed.

Because the construction of Cleveland Dam interrupted a historic salmon run, a hatchery has been constructed near the dam to replenish the salmon supply in the area. Fishing for trout and salmon is possible in the deeper downstream pools. All required provincial permits and regulations apply, along with special regulations for some species. The hatchery itself raises Coho salmon, Chinook salmon and steelhead salmon for local use and for transport to other locations. A fish ladder is constructed to assist the salmon in traveling upstream to Capilano Lake, and facilities have been built to allow eye-level viewing of the salmon’s spectacular leaps from level to level. The dam itself is an impressive structure with a nearly 300-foot spillway. A spectacular waterfall is produced when the dam releases water down to the canyon far below. The public areas around Cleveland Dam and the salmon hatchery are served by bus service from Vancouver.

Two other privately-operated park and recreation areas near Capilano Lake are also huge tourist attractions and worth a visit to enjoy the mountains, lake and river canyon. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is just downstream from Capilano River Regional Park and showcases the canyon in spectacular ways. A suspension bridge hundreds of feet above the river has been attracting visitors since the first bridge was installed before 1900. From the original hemp rope supports attached to logs, the 450-foot walkway is now constructed with steel cables connected to concrete anchors and sways gently over 250 feet above the river below. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park also features a ‘cliff walk’, a narrow, cantilevered walkway anchored to the face of the canyon’s cliffs. The park also offers a ‘treetops’ adventure walk between mid-levels of 1300-year-old Douglas firs up to 100 feet above the ground.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park holds a Totem Park, with totem poles gifted to the park by local First Nations tribes since the 1930s and which are kept in their original colors and configurations. The Kia’Palano section offers a glimpse into First Nations culture and its connections to the natural world. A ‘living forest’ exhibit showcases the lush rain forest canopy, the natural features of the forest floor, and the unique geology of the area via guided tours. Special children’s activities explore nature, observe raptors during the summer months, and investigate a tree house. The park offers dining choices from a fudge shop to a grill and a formal restaurant located among beautiful gardens in the former home of the first suspension bridge owner. And in December, a large section of the canyon is decorated with lit trees in a riot of holiday color. Shuttle buses run regularly from four downtown Vancouver hotels to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.

A second popular attraction near Capilano Lake is Grouse Mountain with its spectacular gondola rides. The views of the lake and the surrounding mountains are unforgettable. Immensely popular among the younger visitors are the zip line tours across Grouse and Dam mountains. A high-definition theater shows wildlife in a way that cannot be seen by the casual observer. A viewing capsule atop a working wind turbine offers 360-degree vistas only feet from the massive turbine blades. A full-fledged snow park in winter, Grouse Mountain offers sleigh rides, ice skating, snowshoe trails and instruction, ski slopes and all the amenities of a ski resort, including fine dining. Regular bus service brings visitors from Vancouver.

Vancouver itself has a full range of attractions and activities to please any visitor. The city’s location along the Pacific allows for ocean beaches and all sorts of sea-going adventures and tours. One of the most popular attractions is the VanDusen Botanical Gardens. Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park holds a tropical paradise under glass at Vancouver’s highest point. Hundreds of tropical birds, flowering plants and koi ponds deliver a slice of the tropics in sight of snow-covered peaks. The 1927-era refurbished theater, ‘The Orpheum’ hosts performances by Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Bach Choir, Vancouver Chamber Choir, Vancouver Academy of Music and other groups. Street performers are common in the parks and on streets lined with unique shops and restaurants. Long a ‘destination city’, Vancouver holds all types of lodgings and plenty of hotels to accommodate travelers. Real estate is also available nearby, although not on the lake itself. Near Capilano Lake and the Capilano River canyon, bed & breakfasts, guest cottages and small inns offer overnight lodgings for those wishing a suburban location.

A vacation near Capilano Lake is total immersion into the coastal rain forest environment. Sturdy hiking boots are a good idea, but many of the shorter trails are suitable for nearly anyone. All members of the family will find plenty to keep their interest near Vancouver and Capilano Lake. Vancouver deserves a spot on everyone’s ‘bucket list’ of dream vacations.

Things to do at Capilano Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Beach
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Biking
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding

Fish species found at Capilano Lake

  • Chinook Salmon
  • Coho Salmon
  • Salmon
  • Steelhead Trout
  • Trout

Capilano Lake Photo Gallery

Capilano Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Greater Vancouver Water District

Surface Area: 670 acres

Shoreline Length: 7 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 520 feet

Completion Year: 1954

Spread the word! Share our Capilano Lake article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.