Cultus Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - British Columbia -

Also known as:  Swee-ehl-chah, Tsowallie

Located in Canada’s beautiful British Columbia, Cultus Lake shares its shores with Cultus Lake Provincial Park, Cultus Lake Park (District of Chilliwack’s municipal park), and Cultus Lake private development. Found one hour east of Vancouver and eight miles (13 kilometers) south of the city of Chilliwack, Cultus Lake is accessed by following the Columbia Valley Highway through the Fraser Valley region of southern British Columbia.

This glacial lake has long been a sacred site to people of Canada’s Stolo Nation who knew the lake by the names Swee-ehl-chah or Tsowallie. The lakeshore served as a site for spirit quests until it was believed that the lake’s special powers were depleted. The lake then became known as Cultus, a Chinook word meaning bad, useless or worthless. As early as the 1800s Cultus Lake has served as a recreational lake for area residents and visitors. In the 1920s summer residences began to appear along the eight-mile shoreline, and businesses soon followed. The Crown granted land for 251-acre (102 hectare) Cultus Lake Park in 1924. In 1932 Cultus Lake Park came under the ownership of the District of Chilliwack, and the Cultus Lake Park Board was established as a governing body under the Cultus Lake Park Act. Annual residential leases were introduced in 1932 and again in the 1940s when there was a growing demand for military housing. As the number of permanent residences increased, the Cultus Lake Park Act was amended to accommodate 21-year leases.

Cultus Lake maintains much of its 1,550 acre (627.4 hectares) surface area, average depth of 105 feet (32 meters) and maximum depth of 137 feet (41.8 meters) with inflow from surrounding streams. The lake’s outflow becomes the headwaters of Sweltzer Creek. Not to be considered a dam, a salmon-counting weir has been placed on Sweltzer Creek beyond the north end of the lake.

Along the northeast shore you will find Cultus Lake Park. Designed with family fun and recreation in mind, the park offers swimming, boating, wind surfing, water skiing, a waterslide, horseback riding, hiking, go-carts, mini-cars, mini-golf and golf. Combine the recreational opportunities of Cultus Lake Park with the activities and amenities of Cultus Lake Provincial Park, and you will find one of the region’s most popular vacation lakes. Established in 1948, the provincial park extends along the eastern and western shores of Cultus Lake covering 1,621 acres (656 hectares). In 1969 an additional 5,140 acres (2,080 hectares) were added to the park’s eastern boundary to create a wilderness area named International Ridge Provincial Park.

While most of the western shore of Cultus Lake remains undeveloped park land, sizeable crowds are attracted to the campgrounds, resorts and developments at the north and south end of the lake. Both public and private sand beaches attract swimmers and sunbathers to the gently sloping shoreline. Boaters are welcome on Cultus Lake with the stipulation that they keep wakes 150 meters from shore. Regulations are posted to prevent erosion of banks and swamping of nests and wildlife habitat for such rare fauna as the Pacific giant salamander, coastal tailed frog and red-legged frog.

Two genetically unique fish species live within Cultus Lake: the Cultus pygmy sculpin and the Cultus sockeye salmon. The conditions found in Swee-ehl-chah create an ideal feeding ground for young fingerlings. All five varieties of salmon (sockeye, chum, coho, Chinook and pink) can be found in the lake depths, although fishing for salmon is prohibited. Anglers should not be disappointed; additional species include Dolly Varden trout, bull trout, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, Rocky Mountain whitefish, threespine stickleback, northern pikeminnow, peamouth chub, largescale sucker, redside shiner, western brook lamprey, Pacific lamprey, several sculpin species and even an occasional white sturgeon. While the selection is broad, fishing is best before or after the lake’s busy summer holiday boating season – and to be expected, a fishing license is required.

Summer visitors will enjoy walking the forested hills around Tsowallie. Several trails can be found within Cultus Lake Provincial Park, taking hikers on a quiet stroll or overnight trek past stands of Douglas fir, forests, and creek beds home to coyote, cougar, black bear, blacktail deer, beaver and variety of birds.

Cultus Lake is set within the Fraser Valley. This fertile valley extends from the coast to the Cascade Mountains, running parallel to the Canada-United States border and contains almost endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Within the valley visitors will find numerous lakes and rivers surrounded by regional and provincial parks. Explore Fraser Valley and you will find camping, mountain biking, hiking, world-class fishing and white water rafting within driving distance of Cultus Lake.

Drive less than 10 miles north of Cultus Lake and you will find a full complement of services within the community of Chilliwack. Set in the upper Fraser Valley with a population near 76,000, Chilliwack is a charming western community offering an excellent selection of shops, restaurants, and attractions. Drive approximately 10 miles (3.3 kilometers) southeast of Cultus Lake and you will cross the U.S. border near the North Cascades National Park Complex. This mountainous region of the Cascades provides opportunities for backpacking, mountain climbing and wilderness excursions.

For decades Cultus Lake has been the location for family vacation memories – memories of swimming, picnics, days in the sun, hiking trips and family reunions. Those memories are still being made by new and returning visitors to Cultus Lake. Campgrounds, hotels, resorts, cottages and homes are among the vacation rentals found along or near the shores of Cultus Lake. If you are interested in building a home where you can vacation every day, real estate can be found in the Cultus Lake area. Consider the possibilities, and select Cultus Lake as your next vacation destination.

Things to do at Cultus Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Water Skiing
  • Wind Surfing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Mountain Climbing
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Provincial Park
  • National Park

Fish species found at Cultus Lake

  • Bull Trout
  • Carp
  • Chinook Salmon
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Dolly Varden Trout
  • Lamprey
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Sculpin
  • Sockeye Salmon
  • Stickleback
  • Sturgeon
  • Sucker
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

Cultus Lake Photo Gallery

Cultus Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 1,550 acres

Shoreline Length: 8 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 141 feet

Average Depth: 105 feet

Maximum Depth: 137 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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