Northern Light Lake, Ontario, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Ontario -

Sprawling and unspoiled, Northern Light Lake spreads across western Ontario’s Granite Shield like a blanket of water. The lake isn’t well-known; only a few isolated cabins share the 177-mile shoreline. Two commercial resorts hold campgrounds and cabins. The nearest larger town is Thunder Bay on Lake Superior, a full 75 miles to the northeast at the other end of a rather rough road. Located near Quetico Provincial Park’s eastern border, Northern Light Lake skirts the well-known but isolated Boundary Waters Canoe Area on the border between Minnesota and Ontario. For those who come here, though, Northern Light Lake worms its way into their memories . . enough so that many of them come back year after year.

There was never much European settlement around Northern Light Lake. The thin, rocky soil wasn’t conducive to crops. Logging interests, along with limited mining, historically have shown the most activity on the land surrounding the lake. Pictographs, or rock paintings on several of the granite outcroppings in the area prove that native tribes once stopped here long enough to perform some kind of ceremonies, perhaps at regular intervals. Other than that, there is little archeological evidence of their long-term presence. So, why is Northern Light Lake so memorable to today’s recreational visitors? There are sandy beaches, multiple bays and coves with pine-covered shores, miles upon miles of abandoned logging roads, beautiful scenery, myriad wildlife and plenty of room to simply expand one’s personal horizons.

Northern Light Lake has three sections, connected by wide channels. Many islands, both large and small dot the surface. Describing one’s location usually involves such landmarks as Savage Bay, Moose Bay, Nelson Bay, Trafalgar Channel, Southeast Bay and other names. Although no figures exist for the surface acreage of Northern Light Lake, an educated estimate is in the thousands of acres. Two lodging locations on the shore rent boats and canoes, offer cabins, meals, boat ramps, swimming beaches and campfire wood. Camp stores provide bait and necessities. Seasonal campsites are available. Access to thousands of square miles of Crown land is just outside the door. And friendly guides offer fishing expeditions to the hottest fishing hole of the season.

Walleye fishing is a major draw to Northern Light lake. Trophy-sized walleye join northern pike, lake trout, whitefish and perch to attract anglers. Because the lake holds varying depths and bottom features, the many species of fish do well here together. One surprise to many is the large number of smallmouth bass that can be caught. Local fishing guides always promote catch-and-release walleye fishing to leave those large fish for yet another day. In winter, ice fishing is also popular, particularly for lake trout. The winter season for lake trout begins in February and lasts through March. All Ontario fishing regulations for Zone six are in effect, and proper licenses must be obtained. The resorts along the shore carry the licenses, along with renting or selling fishing gear.

One of the resorts specializes in kayak treks and ATV trail rides. In winter, the focus switches to snowmobiles. The cabins at both resorts stay open for winter rentals and offer lodgings during hunting season. One advertises black bear hunting in the nearby Bear Management Area. Wildlife viewing and nature photography are popular in all seasons; the area holds not only bear, but moose, deer and grouse along with the usual small mammals and a variety of birds. Numerous other lakes, mostly much smaller, are located nearby and allow for fishing.

At the northeast corner of Northern Light Lake the Arrowhead Peninsula Provincial Park Wildlife Reserve occupies a large peninsula and nearby Paradise Island. Undeveloped, the Park has no formal entrances and no designated trails or campgrounds; some will likely be developed once management plans are completed. The peninsula forms much of one side of Trafalgar Channel, leading to large Trafalgar Bay. From Trafalgar Bay, a twisted watercourse leads to better-known Saganaga Lake to the west. The stream is not navigable due to rapids and waterfalls. Some hardy canoe trekkers make the three-or-four-day journey between the two lakes by portaging around the rapids and waterfalls. Most who attempt this trek arrive from Minnesota’s Gunflint Trail and engage a ‘tow’ to the first portage point for Northern Light Lake by motor boat from outfitters near the Trail. Saganaga Lake is well-known to Boundary Waters users. Northern Light Lake is much less well-known, with most visitors arriving from the east side through the resorts.

The few cabins on Northern Light Lake seldom reach the real estate advertisers; most sell quickly to other lakelubbers by word-of-mouth. It takes a special type of adventurer who is willing to forego modern conveniences, such as electricity and telephones, to isolate themselves in the midst of such a vast expanse of woods and water. Those who love the Boundary Waters Canoe Area know this is exactly what they are looking for. Others simply love the occasional isolation and the great fishing offered by an annual fishing trip to Northern Light Lake. Luckily, this beautiful lake holds plenty of room for both. So, if you have a yen for a remote and unspoiled location for your next vacation, complete with trophy walleye and the occasional bear, by all means make a reservation for a cottage or campsite at Northern Light Lake. You’ll find it easy to make it part of your favorite memories.

Things to do at Northern Light Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Hunting
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Provincial Park

Fish species found at Northern Light Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Lake Trout
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Trout
  • Walleye
  • Whitefish

Northern Light Lake Photo Gallery

Northern Light Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Shoreline Length: 177 miles

Average Depth: 35 feet

Maximum Depth: 130 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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