Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Great Bear Lake.

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Great Bear Lake visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: Canada - Northwest Territories -

Great Bear Lake is located in the Northwest Territories of Canada. It is a natural lake, encircled by wilderness, and the largest lake completely in Canada. Great Bear Lake is on the Arctic Circle and ice-covered eight months out of the year. With an area of over 7 million acres and more than 26 islands, Great Bear Lake is an outdoor utopia for visitors who seek the peace and quiet of a large, beautiful, untouched lake. Magnificent scenery is the norm, especially in the MacTavish Arm of the Lake. The only village on Great Bear Lake is Deline – about 600 residents. During nine months of the year, air travel is possible with an airport a short distance from Deline. From 1898 to 1964 discoveries of radium, uranium and silver spawned an intermittent mining industry.

Pre-glacial valleys formed the bottom of Great Bear Lake. It is ice-covered from November through July and its surface was, in earlier times, used as a highway before a road was built around the lake. The Lake is one of the deeper lakes in the world at 1463 feet, and the water is a pristine lake environment. Great Bear Lake drains through the Great Bear River into the Mackenzie River.

The Great Bear Lake area affords a wonderful hunting ground, and ‘fly in’ is the mode of transportation. As one might expect on a lake surrounded by wilderness, hunting is a favorite sport with caribou and musk ox prime targets. Sport fishing is also great with trophy size lake trout and arctic grayling the main attractions (Great Bear Lake has world records for both), along with northern pike and walleye catches helped by several guiding establishments. There is a fine hunting and fishing lodge in Deline, and native guides must be used. Ice fishing is a favorite activity both for visitors and natives.

Wildlife viewing is a frequent visitor activity; caribou must be chased from the Deline Airport before landing! If you’re lucky, you may see a few bear, caribou, moose, musk ox, or elk. Many different bird species are possible to see.

Great Bear Lake is a spectacular setting in which to partake of the rustic outdoors. Size and remoteness ensure that a visitor will have few competitors for its natural, wilderness setting of scenic beauty.

Custom Great Bear Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Great Bear Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing

Fish species found at Great Bear Lake

  • Grayling
  • Lake Trout
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Great Bear Lake

The Great Bear Lake map shown above is a simple and stress-free way to search for trip accommodations. But if you want to take a deeper dive to find the ideal waterfront home, cabin, condo, hotel or resort, visit our favorite lodging partners by clicking the buttons below.

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Great Bear Lake photo gallery

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Great Bear Lake statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 7,698,074 acres

Shoreline Length: 1,690 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 610 feet

Average Depth: 235 feet

Maximum Depth: 1,463 feet

Water Volume: 1,812,754,700 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 124 years

Drainage Area: 44,293 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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