Manicouagan Reservoir, Quebec, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Quebec -

Also known as:  Lake Manicouagan, Lac Manicouagan, Lac Mouchalagane

Manicouagan Reservoir is one of the world’s most interesting geological features. This huge annular (circular) lake was shaped by a number of factors, earliest of which was an asteroid strike an estimated 211 million years ago which created an impact crater over 60 miles across. In more recent history, a hydroelectric dam built across the Manicouagan River in the 1960s deepened the water so that two crescent-shaped lakes in the crater became one.

Originally, Lake Mouchalagane (meaning “big dish of bark” in the Innu language) and Lake Manicouagan formed half-circles around a large raised plateau, the result of rebound from the original asteroid impact. The addition of the dam caused the two lakes to join around a huge central island named Rene-Levasseur Island. The original crater is the fifth largest on Earth, and the island in the center is the second largest island on a lake in the world.

Located on the Canadian Shield in northeastern Quebec, Manicouagan Reservoir lies in a sparsely inhabited area. The only settlement on the giant lake is the gas station/convenience store of Relais-Gabriel on Highway 389 east of the lake. Usual visitors are fishermen and those engaged in forestry or mining in the area. Quebec City is nearly 450 miles to the southwest along primarily gravel roads. In the other direction is little Labrador City in Labrador and Newfoundland. Manicouagan Reservoir lies at nearly the same latitude as the southernmost tip of Hudson Bay. The area is mostly boreal forest with many rocky outcroppings. Life here is harsh during the long winter months, and even the summers are often chilly. The huge lake draws anglers who pursue brook trout, lake trout, speckled trout, landlocked salmon, northern pole and lake whitefish. An outfitter located at Relais-Gabriel has a few cabins for fishing service customers. A boat launch, pier, picnic area and swimming beach are located nearby.

All types of boats are permitted; however, dangerous conditions can develop quickly when sudden winds churn up large waves. Swimming is limited to the few weeks in mid-summer when the shallow waters of the bay warm sufficiently. Many areas along the shore offer space for overnight camping but can’t be reached except by water. Although the lake is narrow in comparison to its overall size, the circular shape allows for a long expanse of open water to be exposed to sudden winds. And, although a few have attempted to paddle the circular 821-mile shoreline, the effort is only for the highly skilled, preferably with sea kayaks, and takes upwards of two weeks. In case of emergency, there is no rescue. The lake is deep, reaching 1,150 feet, with small islands dotting the surface.

The huge island filling the center of the lake is actually larger in surface acreage than the surrounding water, 499,200 land acres compared to 481,856 water acres. Rene-Levasseur Island was named for the chief engineer of the Daniel-Johnson Dam which entraps the waters of the combined lake. The dam is one of the world’s largest multi-arched dams and was completed in 1968. The reservoir filled by 1970. Hydropower generated is carried by underwater cables to more southerly, inhabited areas where needed.

A portion of the island is set aside as the Louis Babel Ecological Reserve. The 58,168-acre reserve is named in honor of Father Louis Babel who spent 50 years of his life on the ‘north shore’ as a missionary exploring much of the area. Father Babel provided much geographic and scientific knowledge of Northeastern Quebec and of the traditions and culture of its native peoples. The reserve protects a highly important example of geology created by ‘shock metamorphism’. Mount Babel is the highest point on the island, reaching 3,084 feet. The metamorphic rock in the area is of great interest to scientists attempting to understand the forces which shaped early development of the earth’s crust.

The landscape surrounding Manicouagan Reservoir is covered primarily in dense fir, mosses, spruce and heaths in the lower elevations, giving way to an alpine landscape of lichens and blueberry at the higher, more windswept summits. Wildlife is somewhat limited, given the sparse vegetation at higher elevations. Bear are often the only large animals seen in the area. The unique landscape is easily recognizable from space and has gained the name “Eye of Quebec”. The lake is filled by the Mouchalagane River and several other streams, all of which have excellent trout fishing. The major outflow occurs at the dam on the Manicouagan River, one of five along the river system. The dam was formerly known as Manic-5.

The asteroid that stuck the earth at Manicouagan Reservoir was estimated to be over three miles across. Scientists originally suspected that this asteroid and others landing in the same general area within the same time frame could have caused some of the large extinction events of the past. Although it is estimated that the resulting fireball likely reached as far as today’s New York City, the asteroid events were too early in the earth’s history to have accounted for the known extinction events, which scientists believe occurred much later by millions of years. Glaciers also grew and receded across the area several times since the crater was formed. All of these events are recorded in the rocks surrounding the lake and are a continuing focus of scientific investigation in the area.

No real lodgings are located on Manicouagan Reservoir. But just knowing this unusual lake is available and seldom visited is enough to bring out the adventurous spirit among the fit and hardy. If you go, take plenty of warm clothing, adequate supplies and good maps.

Things to do at Manicouagan Reservoir

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Wildlife Viewing

Fish species found at Manicouagan Reservoir

  • Brook Trout
  • Lake Trout
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

Manicouagan Reservoir Photo Gallery

Manicouagan Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Hydro-Quebec

Surface Area: 481,856 acres

Shoreline Length: 821 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,201 feet

Average Depth: 279 feet

Maximum Depth: 1,146 feet

Water Volume: 115,121,274 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1968

Drainage Area: 11,290 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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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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