Little Manitou Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Saskatchewan -

One of the most striking wonders of the Saskatchewan prairie, Little Manitou has been amazing its human visitors since well before European settlers arrived in the area. Once a freshwater lake formed in a depression gouged out by glaciers and fed by underground springs, the lake has no outlet, causing the water to become increasingly more mineral-laden. It is believed the tipping point was likely reached over 10,000 years ago, as minerals left behind by evaporation caused the lake’s freshwater status to be lost. Now one of only five lakes in the world where the waters hold more mineral salts than it can absorb, the semi-dissolved minerals sink to the lowest layers during extended periods of calm water. Little Manitou Lake’s deepest portions hold large amounts of sodium, magnesium and potassium salts. The salts content of about 180 grams per liter makes Little Manitou Lake about half as dense as the Dead Sea and far denser than sea water.

The name of the lake is derived from the spirit Manitou, the belief among local First Nations tribes that the mineral waters had great healing properties. That belief held true for early European settlers as well. Little Manitou Lake developed a reputation for restoring good health by early in the 20th century, leading to the building of a popular resort on the south shore. The medicinal baths were popular, and the lake itself proved highly entertaining to visitors because the salt content makes it impossible to sink. The resort beaches were an additional reason to come to Little Manitou Lake for swimming, sun bathing, canoeing, rowing and sailing.

As more visitors arrived, larger and more elaborate facilities were constructed to house and entertain them. By the 1920s, train cars filled with guests were arriving at the resorts to stay for the weekend or longer. By the 1950s, resorts such as those provided at Manitou Beach had lost their popularity, and the towns of Manitou Beach and Watrous saw the need to ‘reinvent’ themselves. Their careful planning paid off, as can be seen from the growing popularity of Little Manitou Lake.

Little Manitou Lake now offers three sandy swimming beaches for water-based fun. All types of boating are allowed, but there does not appear to be a marina on the lake. A boat launch ramp is available at Manitou Beach; sailboats, personal watercraft, waterskiing, tubing and wind surfing can all be enjoyed. The lake is not heavily used for power boating; canoeing and kayaking appear to be the most popular modes of water travel. The shoreline of the 14-mile long, narrow lake is steeply sloped. There are few residences on the lake itself, so paddlers have the sensation of being far removed from civilization. There is no fishing, because the high salt content of the water supports little other than brine shrimp. Other lakes nearby are fish-able however, so no visitor need go home with an empty creel if they wish to fish.

The towns of Watrous and Manitou Beach offer a lodge and indoor spa resort on the beach. This facility replaces the old resort that burned down many years ago and allows for far more modern conveniences such as multiple spa pools filled with mineral water from the lake available year round. Town leaders did their best to preserve the best of the old resort amenities and add more for the enjoyment of visitors. One of the most poplar buildings is Danceland. Built in 1928, Danceland has entertained Big Band-era bands, pop stars such as Elvis, major country-western stars, and has hosted modern dancers on its ‘floating’ dance floor. The dance floor rests on coils of horsehair, allowing for more resiliency and is likely the last of its kind. With the increasing popularity of ballroom dancing, Danceland is now hosting increasing numbers of young people who want to learn to dance ‘like the stars’. The juried dance festival in April brings talent from all over Saskatchewan.

Another touch of the past is the drive-in theater still in operation during the summer months. The drive-in has an unusual feature in that it also has a 28-seat indoor theater. Early in the last century, a provincial park encompassed nearly 300 acres along the southern shore. When ‘resort-hopping’ lost favor after the Second World War, the park was split between a regional park and the current Camp Easter Seal, with the camp getting the Depression-era government works program-built buildings. The camp is only open to groups who provide services to the disabled, but the historic buildings can be photographed and appreciated for their stone architecture. All Saints Anglican Church in Watrous has a unique stained-glass window constructed in the mid-19th century for the Church of St. John the Baptist in England and given to an early pastor of the church. The window is an excellent example of English neo-medieval stained glass and uses glass-dying techniques that have since been lost.

Manitou and District Park offer over 200 campsites just blocks from the beach. Some campsites are available for seasonal lease. Playgrounds, picnic shelters, day use areas, campsites with electricity and water, primitive campsites, firewood for sale, rest rooms, showers, grills and two reserve-able 50-person camp kitchens are available to registered guests. Hikers can enjoy a walking path to another park for nature and solitude along a shaded brook. Wellington Park is a favorite for picnics and holds many Saskatoon berries for the picking in season. Local wildlife includes water birds, whitetail deer, and mule deer. In addition, the Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area is only 35 minutes drive away.

The combined communities of Manitou Beach and Watrous have made sure no visitor is ever bored. Numerous festivals and events throughout the year, many focused on the arts, bring participants and observers to the small prairie lakefront. The Spirit of Manitou Artist Studio Trail is an ongoing effort, a tour of the many artists’ studios that exist in the neighborhood. The Watrous Fun Run Car Show each summer showcases classic cars, trucks, motorcycles, hot rods, and a few specialty cars and antique tractors to please every vehicle fan. Agility dog competitions, food booths, clowns and children’s activities round out the fun-filled day. In winter, an ice-skating rink, curling teams and cross-country skiing appeal to those wishing more active sports.

The small towns around Little Manitou Lake are well-supplied with a choice of lodgings. Those not wishing to camp or stay at the lodge and spa will find a few large hotels, several small motels and some local Bed & Breakfasts eager to make their stay a pleasant one. The towns offer more than a dozen restaurants, cafes and fast-food locations. And a few local residents offer private rental of apartments and cabins. Real estate is available in the area, although it may not be on the lakeshore itself. Many properties are above the lake on the bluff. Only two hours from Saskatoon and three from Regina, Little Manitou Lake is very accessible for a weekend or an entire vacation. So pack the swimsuits and gather up the kids. Little Manitou Lake awaits your enjoyment.

Things to do at Little Manitou Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wind Surfing
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Provincial Park
  • Playground
  • Drive-in Theater
  • Antiquing

Little Manitou Lake Photo Gallery

Little Manitou Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Saltwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 3,287 acres

Shoreline Length: 27 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,642 feet

Average Depth: 12 feet

Maximum Depth: 17 feet

Water Volume: 38,964 acre-feet

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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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