Charleston Lake, Ontario, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Ontario -

A natural haven awaits vacationers in Eastern Ontario along the shores of Charleston Lake. Balanced along the eastern edge of the Frontenac Arch geological formation, Charleston Lake has been the place to go for swimming, boating and fishing for over a hundred years. Charleston Lake has seen visitors since far back in the dim recesses of history, when local native people came here to fish and to shelter under the rock ledges along the shore.

First dammed in the early 1800s, the lake that feeds Wiltse Creek started attracting resorters in the 1880s, where they stayed in lakeside hotels and traveled along the lake in wood-burning steam launches. By that time, the logging and mining companies had mostly packed up and left, and local residents were trying to eke a few crops from the thin rocky ground. Many of them soon found it to be more profitable to work as fishing guides for the city dwellers who came to try their hand at angling. As the age of resort hotels passed, Charleston Lake became a desirable place to own a small lakefront lot and build a cottage retreat. Those who wanted an occasional week’s vacation at the lake took advantage of the rental cottage communities that found a home along the lake’s rocky perimeter. Some of those cottage resorts are still in existence – and likely welcoming the descendents of regular visitors from their early years.

The over-5,000-acre lake is ideal for sailing, sail-boarding and water skiing. An irregular shoreline and many bays and coves make it the perfect place to canoe or kayak. Many pleasure boaters enjoy island-hopping. Many residents have developed a tradition of visiting friends or observing wildlife by pontoon most days in good weather. A marina at the eastern end of the lake near the village of Charleston sells gas and limited supplies and rents boats, pontoons and water toys. Charleston also offers a public dock and parking for boaters’ vehicles. Many of the cottages have their own semi-developed swim area, while others take advantage of the swimming beaches of the Provincial Park at the west end of the lake.

Charleston Lake holds a mixed warm-and cold-water fishery, with both native lake trout and largemouth bass and smallmouth bass being the most sought-after species. Also caught are northern pike, bluegill, perch and crappie, the smaller panfish being the true favorite of children. Some bays are no-motors waters, so a copy of current lake regulations should always be consulted before power boating.

With over a hundred islands, Charleston Lake experienced a development boom along accessible parts of the shoreline in the mid-1900s. Several of the islands held camps and cottages accessible only by boat. In 1972, the Province of Ontario developed Charleston Lake Provincial Park on nearly 6000 acres of land encompassing much of the shoreline. The park was quickly a popular camping spot, with nearly 300 campsites, picnic grounds, swimming beaches, playgrounds, ball courts and boat launches. Today about 90,000 visitors enjoy the park and lake access. With the addition of park lands, development along the shoreline was severely reduced, increasing protected habitat for local wildlife and birds. Several hiking trails, some handicapped accessible, have been developed in the park, with interpretive guidance during warmer months. The trail to Blue Mountain, the highest spot in Leeds County, is only accessible by water from the park.

Located at the extreme edge of the Frontenac Arch, the lake basin is split between the harder granite of the Canadian Shield and the softer sandstone to its east. The soft sedimentary rock has resulted in many rock ledges, ‘caves’ and unusual geological features of interest to nature lovers. Additionally, the park straddles the division line between two different woodland habitats, giving it a unique mix of plant and animal diversity which even extends to the fish in the lake. The park area is considered a valuable addition to the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve and is currently the location of efforts to re-establish the peregrine falcon and provide protection for the rare Eastern rat snake.

Wiltse Creek, below the dam at the small settlement appropriately called Outlet, flows lazily to the Gananoque River, then drains into the Saint Lawrence River. The waterway is gaining in popularity as a canoeing route, although locals warn such a trip will of necessity involve a couple of portages.

The creek was originally dammed in the early 1800s for milling purposes, but in 1877 the Gananoque Light and Power Company replaced the dam with a larger one, creating a storage reservoir to ensure adequate water for hydroelectric generation downstream. This raised the water level nearly three feet, flooding farmers’ low-lying fields and creating even more islands from newly-inundated peninsulas.

As would be expected, lawsuits continued for several years, along with several acts of vandalism, and necessitated the building of a small ‘fort’ near the dam. Some farmers did not fare well in the court settlement, including one who claimed his land had flooded so badly his cows could no longer get to the lake to drink! Archives of the Leeds & 1000 Islands Historical Society relate some humorous narratives about local ‘characters’ whose exploits have gained them a permanent spot in Charleston Lake lore. Two stories that appear NOT to be true are that ‘Charleston Heston was born on the bed of the lake’ (his stage name was Charlton and his biography says he was born in Illinois), and that the lake is 450 feet deep. Scientific reports say it reaches about 300 feet in depth. The dam was last replaced in 1960 and is now under the control of Eastern Ontario Power.

Only 25 miles from Brockville and about 30 miles from Gananoque, Charleston Lake is close enough to attract week-end visitors. Both towns offer the best selections of shopping and entertainment in the area. Closer is the small town of Athens, about five miles away, where campers and cottagers can pick up a few groceries or needed supplies. The Joshua Bates Centre is a performing arts venue located in Athens that features music, theater, dancing and art. Twenty miles south of Charleston Lake is the famed 1000 Island area along the St. Lawrence Seaway which has a number of attractions of interest to sight-seers.

Real estate on Charleston Lake is becoming increasingly rare, since much of the shoreline is now protected. New development is strictly controlled as the lake is considered ‘at capacity’ due to the delicate ecology of the region. Existing cottages and homes can sometimes be found along the lake, with others located on nearby waterbodies. Lodgings are plentiful, with private rentals of cottages, resort cabins, island hideaways and small motels available either on the lakefront or nearby. Private homes can sometimes be found for rent for the entire season. Many resort cottages can be rented year-round, as ice fishermen and cross-country skiers enjoy the local opportunities for winter fun. So, make the trip to beautiful Charleston Lake to enjoy both the water and the unique natural habitat. Like a Northwoods Robinson Crusoe, reserve your own private island – at least for a week – and experience the solitude of Charleston Lake. You’ll be amazed that you didn’t discover it before now!

Things to do at Charleston Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Provincial Park
  • Playground
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Charleston Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Lake Trout
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout

Charleston Lake Photo Gallery

Charleston Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Eastern Ontario Power

Surface Area: 5,359 acres

Shoreline Length: 100 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 300 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 271 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 274 feet

Maximum Depth: 300 feet

Water Volume: 353,309 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1880

Lake Area-Population: 175,138

Drainage Area: 111 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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