Great Central Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - British Columbia -

Also known as:  Central Lake

One of the most popular spots on a hot summer day on Vancouver Island is Great Central Lake. Long and narrow, nestled beneath low mountains, Great Central Lake stretches over 25 miles west to east. The shoreline is steep and nearly inaccessible in most areas, with the entrance of choice located at the commercial RV/campground/marina near the east end of the lake. It is here that visitors arrive to swim, launch boats and begin fishing trips.

The surrounding hills funnel wind along Great Central Lake like a wind tunnel at times, creating rapidly-changing surface conditions in all but the sheltered coves. A heavily-wooded shoreline and lack of easy road access keep Great Central Lake wild and natural. Only ten miles from Port Alberni, Grand Central Lake is another world entirely-a world of fish, fauna and fun.

Very little development has occurred on Great Central Lake. When water levels were raised by a dam across the Stamp River in the 1950s for hydropower generation, the existing shoreline was inundated. Nearly all homes on the lakeshore are floating cottages with water access only. Floating lodgings have been built here since the 1800s due to the steep banks, including the original floating logging camp.

On calm days, lakelubbers at Great Central Lake enjoy water skiing, wakeboarding, parasailing, diving, windsurfing, canoeing and kayaking. Swimming is enjoyed in the shallow, warm coves. The campground is an economical base camp for a variety of other activities in the immediate vicinity. Mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing and nature observation along the local logging roads all take place from this recreation hub. Wildlife is plentiful, including black bear, so caution is advised. Serious trekkers enjoy the three-day hike to Canada’s highest waterfall: 1443-foot Della Falls.

Della Falls is within Strathconia Provincial Park at the west end of the lake. There is no road access to the falls, so trekkers regularly arrange for the ‘water taxi’ to ferry them from the marina area to the provincial docks at the west end. Others make the long trip by canoe, requiring lakeside rustic camping along the way. The trail to Della Falls is a moderately difficult hike of 11 miles, and it is recommended that hikers plan for a three-day trip. No campfires are permitted in the 617,763-acre park except in designated campground fire rings, so rough camping is required with no amenities provided. Those who make the trip at the appropriate time of the summer are rewarded with the spectacular sight of the falls cascading in multiple streams down nearly 1500 feet of rock. Very late summer may find little water going over the falls, and the area is not passable in winter due to snow.

Great Central Lake is a favorite among fishermen. The lake is stocked with steelhead trout; rainbow trout, Dolly Varden char, cutthroat trout and sockeye salmon are also caught. The lake has not frozen over in recent memory, so ice fishing isn’t an option. All fishermen must possess a British Columbia fishing license, and special restrictions apply. The Robinson Creek Fish Hatchery is located at the east end of the lake and supplies a large amount of the fingerlings stocked in the lake and surrounding area. Nearby Port Alberni calls itself the ‘Salmon Capital of the World’, although other nearby cities dispute the label. However, since Port Alberni was deemed Canada’s 2010 “Ultimate Fishing Town” by the World Fishing Network, the claim seems apt. Fishing is also great in nearby Sproat Lake and on the Somass and Stamp Rivers.

Activities radiate from Port Alberni up the Stamp River toward Great Central Lake. Nearby, Stamp River Provincial Park offers an excellent trail along the river and excellent views of salmon passing up the fish ladder on their way to spawn. The Log Train Trail, a favored walking and mountain biking trail, follows an abandoned logging train track up the Alberni Valley. Depending on snow cover, the local trails are also available for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and snowmobiling.

Somass Estuary Project offers the opportunity to see up to 160 different species of birds and waterfowl in an area of restored salt marsh. Port Alberni is noted for saltwater fishing, and many arrive here to take chartered fishing trips on Barkley Sound. Other cruises, such as whale watching excursions, draw nature lovers. Along the river, bed & breakfasts and small guest camps offer lodgings for those who prefer more creature comforts than offered at a campground.

Port Alberni is a working logging and fishing town but has been working to extend its reputation as a tourism destination with notable success. Showcasing its past to best advantage, several destinations offer interesting interpretative sites for visitors to enjoy and to learn. At the harbor, the Maritime Discovery Centre offers exhibits of maritime history. The old lighthouse displays cultural, historic, industrial and environmental interpretive exhibits, while the adjacent Hutcheson Gallery displays shipwreck history and photographic displays of the aftermath of the devastating tsunami that hit the city in 1964.

Not far from the city the McLean Steam Sawmill has been restored to give demonstrations of logging operations during the era of steam power. On site, the ‘Tin Pants Theatre Company’ depicts scenes from the history of logging and log milling in the area. A restored steam train allows visitors to enjoy a trip on a historic logging locomotive, pulling touring cars through the scenic wooded surroundings. The Alberni Valley Museum is one of the best small community museums in Canada and displays an excellent selection of artifacts from early settlement.

Visiting Great Central Lake is as easy as taking the ferry to Port Alberni then heading upstream. Port Alberni has a number of lodging choices and numerous restaurants and cafes to suit any appetite. The fishing is always productive, and summer on the water is fun-filled and exciting. Come hike the logging trails and enjoy the magnificent second-growth forest surrounding the deep and narrow lake. RV sites are now being sold here, so the lucky buyer can make Great Central Lake their summer home. Other real estate is available in the area and likely to become scarce once people realize everything Vancouver Island has to offer. Come now and see what all of the excitement is about.

Things to do at Great Central Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Parasailing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Rock Climbing
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Dog Sledding
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Provincial Park
  • Museum

Fish species found at Great Central Lake

  • Char
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Dolly Varden Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Sockeye Salmon
  • Steelhead Trout
  • Trout

Great Central Lake Photo Gallery

Great Central Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: BC Hydro

Surface Area: 12,602 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 269 feet

Average Depth: 696 feet

Maximum Depth: 961 feet

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

Spread the word! Share our Great Central 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.