Emerald Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - British Columbia -

Emerald Lake, the largest lake in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park, is also one of the most scenic. The lovely lake nestled in the Emerald Basin below little Emerald Glacier is surrounded by the Canadian Rockies, including the President Range, Wapta Mountain and Mount Burgess. This scenic backdrop, combined with the brilliant turquoise hue of the water offers one of the most memorable sights in the park. The color comes from the ‘glacial flour’ or rock dust carried by the glacial melt that provides water to the lake.

At an elevation of 4,267 feet, Emerald Lake is one of the lowest glacial lakes in the Rockies. The elevation, combined with the prevailing winds and surrounding peaks, gives the lake a unique ecology; large amounts of snow in winter and rainfall in summer provide the moisture necessary to create an environment similar to the wet forests of British Columbia’s interior, with red cedar, hemlock, yew and white pine prevalent. Unusual wild orchids can often be seen growing along trails in the area in season. Ospreys and eagles soar above the lake. The area is an attractive water-based location for a great many of the park’s large mammals such as elk, moose, black bear and deer. With Banff National Park and Kootenay National Park forming its eastern and southern borders, Yoho National Park joins the other parks as the Canadian Rocky Mountain World Heritage Site.

Located near the Trans-Canadian Highway and the Columbia Icefields Parkway, Emerald Lake is usually one of the first sights visitors will see in Yoho National Park. This has been a popular destination since the tourism industry here began under the auspices of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The first person to describe the lake was Tom Wilson, a guide, who bestowed its color-based name. The railroad built a lodge at the lake and brought tourists to the new resort to indulge their desires for something new, with fantastic scenery and other-than-ordinary adventures. That original lodge still stands, in part, in the form of an existing high-end resort along the shore. And it still caters to those looking for the unusual, the scenic and the perfect adventure, with cabins, fine dining, water and hiking-focused activities and adventures. Located less than half-an-hour west of Lake Louise, tour buses arrive regularly, along with hardy bicycle trekkers and those in personal vehicles.

The ‘Boathouse’ near the lodge rents canoes, kayaks and row boats in summer and cross-country skis and snowshoes in winter. No motors are allowed on any of the lakes in Yoho National Park. Fishing guides can be arranged to fish for the rainbow trout and brook char that inhabit the lake. Most winters, weather permitting, an ice fishing and ice skating area is cleared on the ice for winter sports enjoyment. Fishing permits may be purchased by the week. A swimming area is available, but only the most adventurous attempt a dip in the cold glacial waters.

A popular trail circles the lake, although not at the shoreline; the sloping banks force a more reasonable path. The 3.5-mile trail is mostly flat and accessible by the handicapped along part of its length. More physically-fit visitors often take one of the side trails that branch off the Emerald Lake Loop, such as the Emerald Basin Trail that leads up steep slopes to overlook the entire basin. Other trails lead around the east side of the President Range, a hike of considerable distance and requiring some back-country skills to navigate. A good trail map is necessary for the more difficult trails, since there are hundreds of miles of trails in the Yoho National Park that lead to peaks, glaciers and yet more trails. Fifty miles of fire roads are available for bicycles. One guided hike that many Emerald Lake visitors will want to take is the hike to the Burgess Shale Fossil fields. Here, one of the world’s largest groupings of ancient fossils is exposed to view. Some of the fossils found include a few rare specimens of soft-bodied sea creatures along with the more common trilobites (extinct marine arthropods).

The second-highest waterfall in Canada, Takakkaw Falls on the Kicking Horse River, is only five minutes away from the Emerald Lake main parking area. Another spectacular geologic feature many want to see is the Natural Bridge, the overhanging portion of a former waterfall that eventually wore through the base of its natural dam. Of interest to railroad buffs, the Spiral Tunnels nearby offer a glimpse of the engineering feats early railroad builders accomplished to solve the problems of grade increases that were difficult to climb.

Visitors not staying at the lodge along the shore can find a great many types of lodgings available in the surrounding area. The little Village of Field functions as headquarters for the park and unofficial greeting party to all who come to Yoho. A number of bed-and-breakfasts, small resort lodges, private guest cabins and camping facilities are located nearby. Many are open in winter for cross-country skiers and winter sports enthusiasts. Some back-country camping is available that is not accessible by car. A general store and a couple of specialty restaurants are located in the little town. Horseback trekking can be arranged, usually with a guide. White-water rafting is available on the Kicking Horse River, and fishing for trout is popular in several streams in the area.

A Park Pass is necessary for entrance to the park, although not to those simply driving through on the Trans-Canadian Highway or the Icefield Parkway. The other two national parks and beautiful glacial lakes are within a short driving distance. Visitors will find Emerald Lake area a convenient home-base for a vacation of several days in the Canadian Rockies. No better place exists to gaze in awe at nature’s spectacular handiwork than among the glaciers and peaks in Yoho National Park. Emerald Lake is one of those ‘not-to-be-missed’ destinations that should be on every nature-lover’s bucket list!

* There are no published statistics for Emerald Lake.

Things to do at Emerald Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park

Fish species found at Emerald Lake

  • Char
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Emerald Lake Photo Gallery

Emerald Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 225 acres

Shoreline Length: 3 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 4,267 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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