Lake Diefenbaker, Saskatchewan, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Saskatchewan -

Also known as:  Diefenbaker Lake

Lake Diefenbaker, the largest reservoir in southern Saskatchewan, is developing a reputation as a favorite vacationland for visitors from all over Canada and the United States. The 106,000-acre lake provides plenty of room for all types of boating, sailing and fishing. Prevailing breezes along the 140-mile length of the lake make it a popular destination of windsurfers. Beach lovers enjoy swimming the shallows from one of Lake Diefenbaker’s several public beaches. Power boating, house boating, pontooning, jet-skiing, tubing, water skiing, paddle-boating, canoeing and kayaking all have plenty of room to maneuver. One can even arrange for a lake cruise, since much of the shoreline is only accessible by water. Fishing is great year-round.

Several marinas along the nearly 500-miles of shoreline provide ample launch space and boat rentals. A free car ferry (Highway 42) takes travelers across the reservoir to avoid hundreds of miles in driving around the lake. In winter, the Ministry of Highways replaces the ferry with an ice road when the ice is thick enough for vehicle traffic. Fishermen come to the lake most often to fish for northern pike, walleye and rainbow trout, but as many as 24 other species of fish inhabit the waters. Fishing isn’t limited to the summer season; the lake provides adequate ice cover in winter to support many ice fishermen and their assorted gear. Several provincial and regional parks grace the shoreline to provide camping, swimming and hiking activities for vacationers to enjoy.

Myriad species of wildlife and birds gravitate to the area around the large lake. Sand hill cranes use the immediate area on their migration corridor. The area is one of the few places left in North America where the whooping crane and the piping plover can still be found. Several rare birds are occasionally seen, including yellow-breasted chats, lark sparrows, and long-billed curlews. On occasion you may see ferruginous hawks, prairie falcons and golden eagles. Pronghorn antelope, white-tailed deer, mule deer, smaller animals such as beavers, badgers, rabbits, coyotes, ground squirrels, and reptiles like bull snakes and garter snakes inhabit the wide variety of habitats around the lake. Even moose are becoming a more common sight.

One park in particular, Douglas Provincial Park, holds a stretch of ancient but active sand dunes that pre-date Lake Diefenbaker by thousands of years. These sand dunes, although rare, are repeated at several places across the plains in both Canada and the United States. Consequently, the beach area at Douglas Provincial Park offers a sand beach unlike most other parks on the reservoir. The parks all offer nature trails that feature ecological areas of interest. Some provide interpretive guidance as well. Saskatchewan Provincial Parks are hardly what one would term rustic, although there are always a few primitive campsites with few amenities. Most parks provide camp stores, concession stands, plenty of showers, bathrooms and laundry facilities. At least one at Lake Diefenbaker has a golf course attached. Several other small parks, such as Outlook & District Regional Park and Prairie Lake Regional Park, offer even more access and space for camping and recreation.

Lake Diefenbaker is unusual in that the reservoir is formed by damming two rivers. Gardiner and Qu’Appelle Dams were built across the South Saskatchewan and Qu’Appelle Rivers respectively. The completion of the dams in 1967 diverted much of the flow of the South Saskatchewan River into the Qu’Appelle River outflow, alleviating both dangerous ice jams and spring flooding downstream in Saskatoon. With over 3.2 million acre-feet of usable water storage, the reservoir now provides over 45% of the drinking water for Saskatchewan’s population, generates electrical power, and provides water for irrigation to much of the area. The northern reaches of the reservoir are about 70 miles south of Saskatoon, while the south-eastern arm lies around 120 miles north-west of Regina. This makes Lake Diefenbaker ideally located for much of the vacationing population of the Province and has helped to make it the popular destination it has become. A portion of the Trans-Canada Trail travels along the eastern shore of the lake and through two of the Provincial Parks.

The area around Lake Diefenbaker holds much historical significance in the settlement of Canada’s Great Plains. Once the favored homelands of several bands of First Nations tribes, the area experienced both conflict and treaties during the great migration by Europeans into the area. Even before European mass movement, trappers regularly worked the area’s streams and traded with the native population to supply the Hudson Bay Company. In an effort to increase the farming population, the Canadian government worked in conjunction with Canadian Pacific Railroad to recruit European settlers into the area. Agents from the various steamship lines, in conjunction with the railway, recruited immigrants in the villages of impoverished Eastern Europe and throughout the continent to come to the Plains Provinces and buy land for a very low cost. The Canadian Pacific Railroad still runs atop the Qu’Appelle Dam, through the lands that industrious immigrants from Russia, Finland, England, Germany, Poland and every other corner of Europe homesteaded. Combining these people with the Metis and First Nations tribes has made Saskatchewan a melting pot of cultures, architecture, interesting tales and haunting legends. Many a small town museum holds artifacts and stories of these immigrants and their trials, tribulations and successes.

A popular museum is the F. T. Hill Museum in Riverhurst at Palliser Regional Park. This small museum holds artifacts of early prairie farm life and is of interest to any history buff. Many small museums can be found in the towns located along Lake Diefenbaker and the Qu’Appelle River. The Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village and Museum, although not at Lake Diefenbaker (eight miles south of Moose Jaw), is a spectacular display of restored farm buildings, homes, shops, antique tractors and cars, and the fabulous ship built by homesick native of Finland, Tom Sukanen. The sad tale of Tom and his ship serves as the backdrop for the restored history encompassed in the village.

Rental accommodations exist in the towns along its banks of Diefenbaker Lake. Private rental cottages, bed-and-breakfasts, hotels and resorts offer vacation rentals for visitors to enjoy. Some areas have RV space and building lots available for sale, and condos are under development in several spots. Real estate is available in many of the towns near the lakeshore, although there is little actual lakefront to be purchased due to government ownership of the reservoir. But water access is plentiful, launch facilities for private boats available at several marinas, and the views and nature trails are available to all. So if your idea of exciting nightlife is sitting around a crackling campfire listening to the coyotes howl, Lake Diefenbaker is the perfect place for your next vacation. Come and enjoy the prairie on Lake Diefenbaker.

Things to do at Lake Diefenbaker

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Provincial Park
  • Museum
  • Antiquing

Fish species found at Lake Diefenbaker

  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Lake Diefenbaker Photo Gallery

Lake Diefenbaker Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Saskatchewan Watershed Authority

Surface Area: 106,255 acres

Shoreline Length: 472 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,827 feet

Average Depth: 71 feet

Maximum Depth: 217 feet

Water Volume: 7,620,704 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1967

Water Residence Time: 2.5 years

Drainage Area: 52,317 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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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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