Nimpkish Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - British Columbia -

Also known as:  Lake Nimpkish

Nimpkish Lake is a scenic wonder and a prime destination for windsurfers and fishermen. Located at the northeast corner of Vancouver Island, Nimpkish Lake forms a wide and extremely deep spot along 14 miles of the Nimpkish River. In fact, Nimpkish Lake is the deepest lake on Vancouver Island, reaching a depth of nearly 1000 feet below sea level. Located within the traditional lands of the ‘Namgis First Nations tribe, legend says the name Nimpkish means “halibut on the bottom”. A ‘Namgis myth describes creation of the Nimpkish when a man was transformed into a river to provide salmon and trout for his people to eat. The mythical halibut was so large it could ‘create a rip-tide’. The ‘Namgis call the river Gwa’ni.

Nimpkish Lake lies within the steep walls of Nimpkish Valley. Surrounded by scenic peaks and primarily second-growth forest, Highway 19 runs along the eastern shore on its path between Port McNeill and the little town of Woss. The only settlement on Nimpkish Lake itself is the village of Nimpkish, with a gas station, an RV campground and a store. Much of the land area is under the control of Western Forest Products, a logging and lumber firm. Logging roads are the only access to most of the shore. The lake is a favorite among canoe paddlers and small boat owners for fishing and nature viewing. Although heavily logged in the past, current efforts are geared toward reforestation and repairing damage to the natural environment caused by logging equipment in past years. The area holds a large number of black-tailed deer, black bear and a wide variety of smaller native wildlife and birds.

A boat launch near the Nimpkish store provides the easiest access for boaters and water recreation fans. The long narrow valley funnels afternoon winds down the length of the lake, so windsurfing is a favorite here. The Nimpkish Speed Slalom Windsurfing Weekend takes place in late August, drawing a large number of windsurfing fans. Fishermen come here much of the year. Besides the famed steelhead salmon, coho salmon, chinook salmon, sockeye salmon, Dolly Varden trout, rainbow trout, kokanee and cutthroat trout lurk along the many inlets of small creeks and can be caught year round. Several fishing outfitters in the area arrange fishing expeditions to the current hotspots both within the lake and along the Upper and Lower Nimpkish River. Other outfitters arrange rafting trips along the Upper Nimpkish River.

Although there are no organized recreational facilities around the nearly 30 miles of shoreline, Nimpkish Lake offers a wide variety of recreation to physically fit outdoor fans. All public lands camping is primitive, with a large number of trails leading from the logging roads to the lakeshore and the surrounding mountains. Two large provincial parks protect portions of the lake and lower river. Nimpkish Lake Provincial Park protects a large stand of old-growth coastal western hemlock forest along Tlakwa Creek. The rest of the 9,760-acre park along the southwest shore of Nimpkish lake is second-growth forest and includes much of the eastern slopes of the Karmutzen mountain range, the Tlakwa Creek watershed and a variety of excellent wildlife habitat. Tlakwa Creek area provides vital salmon spawning area and an important winter habitat area for black-tailed deer. Interesting karst formations in the area give access to several caves in the surrounding landscape.

Numerous primitive camping sites cam be found within Nimpkish Lake Provincial Park, along with mountaineering, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and nature photography. Other campsites can be reached most easily by water. Although there appears not to be any limitations for boat motors, the best views of the water-carved limestone outcroppings and small islands on the lake can be seen at a slower speed. No actual vehicle access to the park exists; visitors must arrive by boat from the boat landing at the Western Forest Product Recreation area near the Nimpkish gas station. The other alternative is to hike in from the road endings of the many logging roads that approach the park’s boundaries. Some hunting is permitted in season within the park. Both hunting and fishing require appropriate licenses and strict observance of any special rules. No picnic facilities exist within Nimpkish Provincial Park, but picnic tables and water access are available at the Western Forest Product Recreation Area and nearby Kinman Camp.

Downstream to the north of Nimpkish Lake, a ‘river corridor’ park encompasses both banks of the river for nearly three miles. The nearly 495-acre Lower Nimpkish Provincial Park protects important natural habitat, including bald eagle nesting areas and habitat for the endangered marbled murrelet, a tree-nesting seabird. The river bank is popular for fishing with human anglers and black bears. Fishermen are warned to be alert for bears who may wish to take their best fly-fishing spot! Lower Nimpkish Provincial Park is undeveloped and contains no facilities, but wilderness camping is permitted. Although the river is sometimes utilized for canoeing, low water levels much of the year can expose the many rocks along the riverbed, making for dangerous paddling. Once past Highway 19, Nimpkish River empties into Alert Bay.

No lodgings are found along Nimpkish Lake’s shoreline. There are no private homes nearby. The best sources for finding lodgings are near the coast at Port McNeill and on the road at Port Hardy. Those who prefer hot showers and restaurant menus will find plenty to chose from in the area near the coastline. Hotels, lodges, resort properties, bed & breakfasts and budget motels provide beds to fit any visitor’s budget. Commercial firms along the coast arrange for ocean-going activities such as whale-watching, sea fishing and boat tours to nearby islands containing ecological preserves. Travelers can reach the Nimpkish Lake area by taking the ferry from the Vancouver area and driving up Highway 19, a trip of nearly seven hours, or flying into Port Hardy, sometimes preferable in winter. The climate remains mild at lower elevations and is mostly snow-free.

Come visit Nimpkish Lake and learn the legend of the ‘halibut on the bottom’. Experience one of the famed salmon runs and enjoy the natural landscape that British Columbia is protecting and restoring. Visit some of the traditional First Nation locations and learn about the ‘Grease Trail’ and the history of the Potlatch. And by all means, come and enjoy the scenery at Nimpkish Lake.

Things to do at Nimpkish Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Provincial Park

Fish species found at Nimpkish Lake

  • Chinook Salmon
  • Coho Salmon
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Dolly Varden Trout
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Sockeye Salmon
  • Steelhead Trout
  • Trout

Nimpkish Lake Photo Gallery

Nimpkish Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 9,143 acres

Shoreline Length: 30 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 66 feet

Average Depth: 531 feet

Maximum Depth: 1,050 feet

Water Residence Time: 1.4 years

Drainage Area: 636 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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