Lac Saint-Jean, Quebec, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Quebec -

Also known as:  Lake Saint-John, Piekouagami

Follow Quebec’s Saguenay River to Lake Saint John and you will follow a path carved by time and the impressive power of nature. The two waterways are the premiere features of the Saguenay – Lac-Saint Jean Tourism Region. Located in south-central Quebec, the region includes approximately 25 million acres of rivers, lakes, forests, mountains and plains. Visitors find a mix of dramatic scenery, hydroelectric power systems and industries that provide home and work to over half a million people.

The Saguenay River is at the heart of the region. From Lac Saint-Jean, the Saguenay flows over 128 miles to the St. Lawrence River. For at least 5,500 years, native inhabitants lived, traveled and fished these great waterways. In the 1530s French explorer, Jacques Cartier, was the first European to map the St. Lawrence and explore the Saguenay River. Fur trading between native Innu and Europeans began later in the 16th century, at the Saguenay River town of Tadoussac, the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in Quebec. The fur trade continued along Lac Saint-Jean with the Saguenay serving as the transportation route for trade goods. The 19th century saw the demise of the fur trade and introduction of company towns hastily built to house employees of pulpmills and sawmills popping up along the shore of Lake Saint John. Over the decades, mills disappeared and communities were abandoned. A bit of this history has been preserved at Val Jalbert, a partially restored ghost town located along Lac Saint-Jean’s southwestern shore.

Heavy industry arrived with the construction of six hydro-electric power dams built on the Peribonca and Saguenay Rivers from the late 1920s through the 1950s. The dams are owned and operated by the Aluminium Company of Canada (ALCAN) to power the aluminum smelters built around Lac Saint-Jean’s 83-mile shoreline.

Lake Saint-Jean is named for Jean Dequen, a Jesuit missionary and the first European to reach the lake in1647. Reflecting the surrounding flat plains, native Innu call the lake Piekouagami which means “flat lake.” With a surface area of 260,201 acres, Lac Saint-Jean is Quebec’s largest inhabited lake. Even with a maximum depth of 207 feet, Lake Saint John is considered a shallow glacial lake and is fed by multiple rivers draining over 27,000 square miles. The forested land at the northern headwaters are drained by the Peribonca, Mistassini, Mistassibi and Ashuapmushuan Rivers. The southern highlands are drained by the Metabetchouane, Ouiatchouane and Ouiatchouaniche Rivers. Two outlets at the southern end of the lake feed water from Lac Saint-Jean into the Saguenay River.

Areas of poor water quality at Lac Saint-Jean have been an ongoing concern — contaminates from pulpmills, papermills and aluminum smelters have had a substantial impact on lake life and fisheries of the Saguenay and St. Lawrence Rivers. Community, provincial and national initiatives have been implemented to address air and water pollutants accompanying heavy industry with promising results for the future of marine life.

Water contaminates and dam construction have substantially reduced the fish populations within Piekouagami. Whether it be on the water or on the ice, fishing remains a popular sport on Lac Saint-Jean. Among the species in Lake Saint John are rainbow trout, lake trout, landlocked salmon, lake whitefish, white sucker, burbot, walleye and slimy sculpin.

With a volume in excess of nine million acre-feet, water sports remain the main attraction at Lac Saint-Jean. Boat launches, docks and yacht clubs can be found in the many communities surrounding the lake. The large expanse of open water is an invitation to those with powerboats, sailboats, kayaks and canoes. If you are a serious swimmer, the community of Roberval at the southern end of Lac Saint-Jean is the place for you. Considered the “long distance swimming capital of the world,” the city has hosted Traversee Internationale du lac St-Jean for over 50 years. The festivities and distance swimming events attract over 10,000 visitors each summer.

Canada’s Pointe Taillon National Park is found at the mouth of the Peribonca River on the northeastern shore of Lake Saint-John. A beautiful nine-mile beach formed by the Peribonca welcomes summer swimmers and beach walkers. Peat bogs and swamps found along the park’s 28-mile hiking trail create unique environments to observe wildlife such as beaver and moose. Bicycles, canoes, kayaks and pedal boats are all available for rent within the park. Family-friendly amenities include a snack bar, visitor center, picnic areas, playgrounds, campgrounds and restrooms.

Follow the waters of Lac Saint-Jean southward to the winding Saguenay River and you will be carried into the northern hemisphere’s southern-most fjord. Created by rifts in the Canadian Shield millions of years ago, then carved by glaciers during the last ice age, the Saguenay River reaches depths of 1150 feet. Cruise ships sail the river as it cuts through the Laurentian Mountains. Scenes of mountain sides, rocky canyon walls and migrating whales make this an experience not to be missed. The southern half of the Saguenay River and surrounding mountainsides are protected by Canada’s Saguenay National Park. If you can tear yourself away from the beauty of the fjord, the park offers camping, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, hiking and fishing for outdoor enthusiasts.

If visiting Quebec in the winter, a not-to-be missed event in late January/early February is the Quebec Winter Carnival in Quebec City. Known as the “Mardis Gras in the Snow,” Quebec’s Winter Carnival is one of the largest carnivals in the world, transforming the city into a gigantic outdoor party. The “snowman” Bonhomme is the icon of the carnival, recognizable in his red cap, black buttons and Quebecois sash. Each year an ice palace is constructed for Bonhomme, with colored lights shining through the walls of ice. The celebration includes international snow sculpture competitions and the annual canoe race across the St. Lawrence River.

Where Lac Saint-John waters meet the St. Lawrence River at the mouth of the Saguenay River, you will find the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park. Here, Lake Saint John’s freshwater mixes with salt water to create one of the country’s great marine habitats. Four whale species (blue, fin, minke and beluga) are found here. The threatened beluga whales live in the Saguenay waters year-round. Millions of migratory birds also flock to the confluence of these mighty rivers. The Bird Observatory at Tadoussac was established to study the region’s bird populations. At peak season, as many as 130 species pass through the migratory region each day. Pine siskin, pine grosbeak, common redpoll, American robin, and white-winged crossbill are listed among the most abundant bird species.

A selection of outfitters, campgrounds, hotels, and bed & breakfasts can be found around Lac Saint-Jean and its many rivers. Unique to Quebec is a network of “authentic heritage villages” that welcome visitors. Villages that have retained their history through their architecture and lifestyle provide the opportunity to experience Quebec’s history and traditions first hand. L’Anse-Saint-Jean and Sainte-Rose-du-Nord are two authentic heritage villages found within the Saguenay – Lac Saint-Jean Region. Whether you select a vacation rental or real estate property within historic villages, or along lakes and rivers, you will experience the passage of time through the people, land and water that intertwine to create spectacular Saguenay – Lac Saint-Jean.

Things to do at Lac Saint-Jean

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Snowshoeing
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • Playground

Fish species found at Lac Saint-Jean

  • Burbot
  • Lake Trout
  • Perch
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Sculpin
  • Sucker
  • Trout
  • Walleye
  • Whitefish

Lac Saint-Jean Photo Gallery

Lac Saint-Jean Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Aluminum Company of Canada (ALCAN)

Surface Area: 247,680 acres

Shoreline Length: 210 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 322 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 327 feet

Average Depth: 37 feet

Maximum Depth: 207 feet

Water Volume: 9,647,487 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 3 months

Lake Area-Population: 103,308

Drainage Area: 27,779 sq. miles

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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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