Harrison Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - British Columbia -

Also known as:  Lake Harrison, Lake Qualts, Lake Kwals

Found in Canada’s beautiful Fraser Valley, Harrison Lake is the largest body of fresh water in southwestern British Columbia. Located 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Vancouver, the lake and its hot springs provide a popular tourist destination. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks and fertile valleys, Harrison Lake offers the natural beauty of Sasquatch Provincial Park, the small-town atmosphere of Harrison Hot Springs, and an endless selection of outdoor sports.

Massive ice age glaciers carved Harrison Lake into what is called a freshwater fjord. Today the lake is still fed by Canada’s Coast Range glaciers and inflow from the Lillooet River. Water leaves Harrison Lake (also called Lake Harrison) at the southern end of the lake where it enters the Harrison River, a tributary of the Fraser River. Within its 37 mile (60 kilometer) length are two large islands: Echo Island sitting at the southern end of the lake, and Long Island which has several small lakes within its six mile (9.5 kilometer) length. Around Long Island and the center of Harrison Lake, the depths can reach 916 feet (279 meters) giving Lake Harrison an average depth of 492 feet (150 meters). There are no dams on Harrison Lake, but there are numerous “run-of-river power stations” supplying energy to area residents.

Two groups from the Coast Salish First Nations, the Sto:lo and the Chehalis, first lived along the Harrison River and Harrison Lake. These people believed in the medicinal qualities of the lake’s hot springs, giving the lake the name Lake Qualts or Lake Kwals (meaning “hot water”). Harrison Lake, named for Benjamin Harrison, a deputy governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, remained an isolated location until a mid 19th century gold rush placed Lake Qualts on the route to the Cariboo gold fields. By the 1860s the gold rush had peaked, and Lake Kwals itself became the attraction.

It was the healing properties of the hot springs, the lake’s high mineral content and pristine mountain setting that opened Harrison Lake to resort development. According to Tourism British Columbia “water is sourced from two springs, the ‘Potash’ spring with a temperature of 48 dgrees C/120 degrees F and the ‘Sulpher’ spring at a scalding 65 degrees C/150 degrees F.” Hot springs can be found at several locations around the lake, including Twenty Mile Bay and Port Douglas, but the majority of the springs are found at the southwest end of the lake near the community of Harrison Hot Springs. Here the hot spring water is piped into swimming pools (both public and private) where temperatures are generally cooled to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius).

Harrison Lake covers 53,799 acres, making it an excellent boating and recreational lake. Open to a variety of water craft you will find visitors enjoying pedal boats, sail boats, bumper boats, banana tubes, jet skis, power boats used for water skiing and wakeboarding, and windsurfing boards. Lake Harrison’s many islands, inlets and coves offer kayakers and canoeists opportunities to explore the shore’s waterfalls, sandy beaches and rocky cliffs. For those who prefer a bit more speed, jet boat excursions provide an exhilarating ride over the miles of sparkling water. Marinas found at the southern end of Harrison Lake offer boat and canoe rentals. Public boat launches are located in the Village of Harrison Hot Springs or along Harrison Lake’s eastern shore in Sasquatch Provincial Park.

Such a deep lake is meant for trolling, although you will find anglers frequenting the shore for stocked mountain white fish. Cutthroat, Dolly Varden, and rainbow trout also populate Harrison Lake with an occasional salmon making an appearance. Entering the north end of Lake Qualts, the Lillooet River provides some of the best fly fishing in British Columbia. The river flows 90 miles (145 kilometers) from Lillooet Glacier to reach Harrison Lake and also carries salmon and trout. At the south end of the lake Harrison River runs for about 6 miles (10 kilometers) creating one of the area’s largest salmon-producing tributaries before reaching the Fraser River. All five salmon species (Chinook, Coho, chum, pink and sockeye) spawn here. Continue on to the Fraser River and you will enter the fifth largest river system in Canada. For a more back country experience, local fishing outfitters are available to take Harrison Hot Springs visitors on excursions to remote mountain streams and lakes. Remember that anglers over the age of 16 are required to have a fishing license.

Sitting 33 miles (10 meters) above sea level, Harrison Lake is not among British Columbia’s alpine lakes, but it is surrounded by a scenic outdoor playground. Covering five square miles (1,217 hectares) Sasquatch Provincial Park borders Harrison Lake’s eastern shore, a short 15 minute drive north of Harrison Hot Springs. Multiple park campgrounds are available with the Green Point Day Use Area providing access to the Harrison Lake shoreline. ATVs and unlicensed motorbikes and vehicles are prohibited within the park where you will find canoeing, fishing, hiking and cycling topping the long list of activities. Water enthusiasts will continue to enjoy a series of “pocket” lakes also open for fishing. Hicks Lake, Deer Lake, Moss Lake and Trout Lake vary in size, boat restrictions, and amenities. Trails within the park take hikers past small lakes and large stands of birch trees said to be the home of Sasquatch. While hikers are not likely to sight the elusive beast, they are likely to see beaver, deer, bald eagles and a variety of water fowl.

Beyond the park and Harrison Hot Springs, the elevations rapidly rise. At 4,500 feet (1,372 meters) Hemlock’s snow-capped peak towers near the southern end of Lake Harrison. Within the mountains you will find log cabins, town houses and condominiums overlooking Harrison Lake. When the snow falls, visitors to Harrison Hot Springs can add skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing to their selection of outdoor activities. During summer months trails are open to mountain bikes and hikers.

If you take a scenic drive into the mountains, continue around the countryside and enjoy the Circle Mountain Tour. The drive is part of Canada’s growing agri-tourism business. Depending on the season, the drive will take Harrison Hot Springs visitors past local arts and crafts vendors, fresh produce stands, farmer’s markets, or annual community fairs and festivals.

If you have time for only one stop outside Harrison Hot Springs, drive about 50 miles northeast on the Trans-Canada Highway. Here the highway follows the mighty Fraser River through the steep walls of a narrow gorge named Hell’s Gate. Stop at overviews or ride a tram for magnificent views of British Columbia’s longest river as it swirls through a canyon only 115 feet (35 meters) wide.

The Village of Harrison Hot Springs provides the center of activity for visitors and residents of Harrison Lake. This community of about 1,600 people is known for its family-friendly atmosphere. Whether you enjoy winter skiing or summer water sports, mountain adventures or relaxing spas, Harrison Hot Springs is designed to meet your needs. Appealing little shops, intriguing art galleries, and a wonderful selection of cozy restaurants make Harrison Lake more than a destination. Select from vacation rentals including lakeside resorts, hotels, condominiums, mountain chalets, rural bed & breakfasts (B&Bs), or a growing number of real estate properties, and begin to savor treasured moments at Harrison Lake.

Things to do at Harrison Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Swimming Pool
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Snowboarding
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Provincial Park
  • Playground

Fish species found at Harrison Lake

  • Chinook Salmon
  • Dolly Varden Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Trout

Harrison Lake Photo Gallery

Harrison Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 53,799 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 33 feet

Average Depth: 492 feet

Maximum Depth: 916 feet

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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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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