Lake Abitibi, Ontario & Quebec, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Ontario - Quebec -

Nearly 250,000 acres of water delight visitors to Lake Abitibi on the Ontario/Quebec border. This huge lake is actually two lake basins connected by a short channel. Located about 600 miles from Montreal and over 200 miles south of James Bay, Lake Abitibi remains relatively remote and not visited by the casual vacationer. One must plan carefully to get to the lake; the purpose of such planning usually involves the hope of snagging one of the huge pike the lake is known for. Abitibi means ‘middle waters’ in the Algonquin language, signifying its location to early canoe travelers as halfway between the Ottawa River and James Bay. Lake Abitibi straddles the Ontario-Quebec border and has in the past been important to fur trapping, logging and railroad interests. Now a number of private ‘camps’ with rustic cottages share the shoreline with Abitibi-de-Troyes Provincial Park and native wildlife that inhabit the second-growth forest.

Local lore reports that Lake Abitibi was created by beavers damming the Abitibi River. The industrious rodents may have had a hand in the process at some point, but human intervention had a more direct effect. A dam was first built downstream on the Abitibi River in 1915 which caused water levels to rise about 40 feet. Since the lake is only 49 feet at its deepest point and most of the lake averages 11 feet, the lake was obviously much smaller before the dam was built. The dam was later rebuilt to alleviate spring flooding and forms one of the five dams that control water to the Abitibi Canyon Generating Station downstream. The original dam was probably constructed to provide power to the Abitibi Power and Paper Company. Pulp and paper mills are still a major employer in the area.

Lake Abitibi and the Abitibi River have changed much since First Nations tribes and the Hudson Bay Company first used it as a canoe route to access the trapping areas of the northern wilderness. Archeological evidence of native tribal use proves their presence in the area for over 6000 years. At one time, the Hudson Bay Company had a trading post on the east shore of the lake in Ontario. The arrival of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (now Canadian National Railway) improved access for logging and reduced the importance of the waterway.

Abitibi-de-Troyes Provincial Park is accessible only by air or water. There are no park facilities for visitors, but the park offers over 27,000 acres of woods, marsh, wetlands and water for backpacking, rough camping, canoeing and wildlife viewing. Important waterfowl nesting areas are located within the park. Because the lake is so shallow, fishing for big pike is possible from the shore, so those without access to a boat can enjoy the sport. The lake holds over 900 islands, many very small. Because of the wide expanse of shallow water, rough waves are a continuing hazard.

The shallow water of Lake Abitibi is often muddy when roiled by winds, making it nearly impossible to see the many rocks that exist under the surface. An experienced local guide is suggested for anyone taking a boat onto these waters. Along the eastern portion of the lake in Quebec, a local non-profit group has set up a system of buoys to help visitors navigate the treacherous shoreline. Club Nautique Lake Abitibi has set up 247 buoys to designate a safe passage and mark the outlets to various rivers in the hopes of improving recreational use of the lake. Camps exist on many of the islands, and one large island near the Quebec shoreline holds a community of residents technically connected to the tiny hamlet of Clerval on the shore.

Most occasional visitors, particularly visiting fishermen, engage the services of a guide from Cochrane, Ontario, Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, or one of the local outfitters who maintain guest camps on nearby local lakes. The fishing is considered excellent with many huge pike in the lake, along with walleye, pickerel, sauger and a few other smaller game fish. Sturgeon were once common in Lake Abitibi but have apparently died out since the river was dammed and disrupted their migratory patterns. Ice fishing the many bays is nearly as popular as angling on open water. At least one outfitter in Cochrane places ice fishing shanties on the lake for rental. It isn’t unusual to see an ice fisherman kneeling over a small hole in the ice, trying to guide a reluctant three-foot pike into the above-water world. The internet fishing forums are usually alive with queries asking for information about the best bait, fishing rigging or safety of the ice starting in late fall. Many of the best guides don’t need much advertising, as word-of-mouth keeps their calendars filled.

Cochrane is likely the most popular spot to use as a base for accessing the Lake Abitibi area. Cochrane has a number of motels and hotels, guest cottages and camps nearby, and the small city of 5000 offers the usual amenities and services. Cochrane also hosts several festivals, both winter and summer, to occupy those not fishing or hunting for moose or black bear in the area. A polar bear rehabilitation unit at Cochrane allows such activities as ‘swimming with polar bears’ (there is a thick plate-glass wall between the pools), an activity that delights children. Cochrane’s large First Nations community is developing cultural activities to allow tourists to experience their food, customs and traditional housing. Hundreds of miles of trails are available for hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and mountain biking. Increasing numbers of families are coming to Cochrane for a summer vacation where non-anglers in the family can sleep in comfort and enjoy these activities as avid anglers go off with their fishing guides for a day or two.

A few private camps may be available for weekly rental, although most have little in the way of electricity or plumbing. These camps can also be found for sale, often on leased land. Any local real estate agent will likely have information on what is available in the way of lodgings near Lake Abitibi. The large lake is the ideal spot for a week filled with solitude and the appreciation of nature. Reservations should be placed well in advance. Big, beautiful and unexpected pleasures await at big Lake Abitibi.

Things to do at Lake Abitibi

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Provincial Park

Fish species found at Lake Abitibi

  • Perch
  • Pickerel
  • Pike
  • Sauger
  • Sturgeon
  • Walleye

Lake Abitibi Photo Gallery

Lake Abitibi Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Surface Area: 229,760 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 869 feet

Average Depth: 11 feet

Maximum Depth: 49 feet

Completion Year: 1915

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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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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