Lake Simcoe, Ontario, Canada

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Canada - Ontario -

Spectacular Lake Simcoe is one of the most visited vacation spots in Ontario’s south-central region. Just over an hour north of Toronto, Lake Simcoe provides 287 square miles of water surface and 118 miles of shoreline, guaranteeing plenty of space for every type of water-based amusement visitors could want. The foundation of Canada’s original ‘cottage country,’ Lake Simcoe has been drawing visitors since before European settlement.

The 183,800-acre lake was called Ouentironk (“Beautiful Water”) by the Huron natives and was also referred to as Lake Toronto, an Iroquois word meaning gateway or pass. The lake was a major feature on an important portage running between Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay. The Toronto Carrying-Place Trail, and thus the lake, lent its name both to the eventual French fort on Lake Ontario and the future city of Toronto. Later, French traders referred to it as Lac aux Claies, meaning “Lake of Grids (or Trellises)” in reference to the Huron fishing weirs in the lake. John Graves Simcoe, the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada in the late 18th century, renamed the lake in honor of his father. It’s been Lake Simcoe ever since. The lake was once part of a much bigger lake basin known as Lake Algonquin that included all of Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Nipigon, and Lake Nipissing. When ice dams melted at the close of the last glacial period, the lakes took their final separate forms. The lake has five main rivers, sixteen small creeks flowing into Lake Simcoe, and only one outlet: the Atherley Narrows to Lake Couchiching.

Lake Simcoe contains several islands, the largest of which is Georgiana, home to a First Nations Reserve. Smaller islands include Thorah (a cottage destination), Strawberry (a Basilican retreat), Snake, and Fox Islands. The area between the island of Georgiana and the main shore was at one time shallow enough to walk or drive wagons across. The construction of dams and locks while building the canal system raised the water level by several feet. Over 14,000 cottages dot the shoreline of Lake Simcoe. In summer, thousands of pleasure boats of all types ply its waters. Many will have sailed the Trent-Severn Waterway, a navigable system of lakes, rivers, canals and locks, to arrive here.

The Trent-Severn Waterway was begun in 1833 to facilitate transportation from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay. The 240-mile waterway took 87 years to complete due to government inaction and delays. Two temporary railroad links were built to traverse incomplete sections. By the time the first boat could actually travel the full length of the waterway in 1920, the canal was built too small for modern barges and the railroads had replaced water travel in most areas. The completed Trent-Severn Waterway includes 44 locks, including 36 conventional locks, two sets of flight locks, hydraulic lift locks at Peterborough and Kirkfield, and a marine railway at Big Chute which transports boats between the upper and lower sections of the Severn River. The system also includes 39 swing bridges and 160 dams and control structures that manage the water levels for flood control and navigation on lakes and rivers. The canal system is maintained and operated by Parks Canada as a tourism feature catering exclusively to recreational boaters.

Ontario’s fourth-largest water body, Lake Simcoe’s popularity as a tourism destination is assured by three Provincial Parks and several smaller municipal parks along the shoreline. Sibbald Point, McRae Point and Mara Provincial Parks offer camping, swimming, fishing, boat launch, showers, biking and sandy beaches. Some also provide a park store and rental cabins. The larger parks are supplied with nature trails and hiking opportunities. Some areas are open for hunting in season. The lake is home to nearly 30 marinas; boats of all sizes are welcome. Visitors can engage in pontooning, paddle boating, water skiing, tubing, sail boarding and power boating. Sailing is a favorite on the large lake, and at least one yacht club calls Lake Simcoe home. Paddle fans especially enjoy canoeing and kayaking in the many coves and bays or around the islands. In winter, a form of snowboarding combined with windsurfing called ‘snowfer’ has become popular on Lake Simcoe. Some snowfer dealers provide free snowfering lessons. Considered something of an ‘extreme sport’, snowfering is exhilarating to participate in and exciting to watch.

Larger cities such as Barrie on the west bay and Orillia on the north at the mouth of the Atherley Narrows leading into Lake Couchiching have public dock facilities and plentiful attractions to please visitors. A casino operated by the First Nation Chippewa is located along the eastern shore. The smaller towns of Keswick and Innisfil on Cook’s Bay are well-supplied with vacation rentals and amenities geared to vacationing tourists. In fact, all of the smaller villages around Lake Simcoe are prepared to cater to the most common type of lake visitor – the fisherman.

Lake Simcoe’s fame as a fishing destination brings thousands of anglers every year. A great many arrive from the United States, usually in winter. Lake Simcoe is known as the “Ice Fishing Capital of North America” and for good reason: every winter sees thousands of ice fishing houses dotting the lake and many a fishing resort feeding a hearty breakfast to long-john-clad outdoorsmen before they head into the cold for a day of their favorite sport. Multiple ice fishing tournaments are held on the lake annually. Lake Simcoe is the largest Ontario lake to freeze completely over, making it a natural draw to fishermen seeking ‘hard water’. Two to four thousand ice houses make up the Lake Simcoe ice village each year while fishermen vie for trophy yellow perch, lake trout, whitefish, pike and walleye. Many ‘ice hut’ operators rent their huts, rigs and amenities to visiting ice fishermen each year.

Lake Simcoe’s fisheries provide four full seasons of sport fishing. Besides the species usually sought through the ice, black crappie, brown bullhead, burbot, bowfin, carp, pumpkinseed and bluegill sunfish, rock bass, white suckers and even rainbow smelt are willing to take the bait the rest of the year. Lake trout and whitefish have become rarer in most cold water fisheries in recent years, partly due to the growth of invasive species of fish and partly because of changes in water quality. Lake Simcoe is regularly stocked with lake trout in hopes that the natural fishery will eventually recover. Several groups have enlisted the assistance of the Canadian government in solving water quality problems and appear to be making much progress in eradicating pollution sources and invasive plant species. It is expected that Lake Simcoe will eventually be returned to full health at some future time.

Only 60 miles north of Toronto, Lake Simcoe is an easy trek for a weekend getaway. Vacation rentals are plentiful in the area, many with lake frontage or lake views. All types of vacation lodgings are available, from private cottages to resorts to bed-and-breakfasts to hotel suites, condos and townhouses. Real estate is available in the area both immediately on the lake and within close proximity. Since Lake Simcoe provides four seasons of fun, there is never a bad time to visit the huge lake. And, if you’re a pleasure boater, a trip through the Trent–Severn Waterway will make for a memorable summer vacation. So, follow the ancient Toronto Carrying-Place Trail to Lake Simcoe. You may discover your own ‘cottage-country’ place to call your own.

Things to do at Lake Simcoe

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Snowboarding
  • Hunting
  • Provincial Park
  • Casino Gambling

Fish species found at Lake Simcoe

  • Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Bowfin
  • Brown Bullhead
  • Burbot
  • Carp
  • Crappie
  • Lake Trout
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Smelt
  • Sucker
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Walleye
  • Whitefish
  • Yellow Perch

Lake Simcoe Photo Gallery

Lake Simcoe Statistics & Helpful Links

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Water Level Control: Trent-Sevrn Waterway Authority

Surface Area: 183,846 acres

Shoreline Length: 118 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 720 feet

Average Depth: 49 feet

Maximum Depth: 130 feet

Water Volume: 9,404,273 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 1,100 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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