Pitt Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - British Columbia -

North America’s largest freshwater tidal lake is impressive 19,000-acre Pitt Lake near Vancouver. Nestled in a valley north of the Fraser River, Pitt Lake’s natural setting is much like a fjord with the long narrow lake winding between steep mountain slopes. Pitt River flows in from the north and out at the south end of the lake to nearby Fraser River which empties into the Strait of Georgia at Vancouver. The close connection to the Pacific Ocean causes tidal water level changes in Pitt Lake and allows ocean fauna to migrate into the Pitt River system. Multiple inflowing freshwater streams keep the lake from becoming salty. The lake is exceedingly deep, with some official reports stating a maximum depth of 468 feet. Pitt River and Pitt Lake are named for William Pitt the Younger, who at age 24 became the youngest Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1783.

The easiest public access to Pitt Lake is at Grant Narrows Regional Park at the south end. The park provides picnic tables, a boat ramp and access to a number of hiking trails. The park is adjacent to the Pitt-Addington Marsh Wildlife Management Area, a marshy area contained by dikes. Both the Nature Trail and the Pitt Wildlife Loop follow the tops of the dikes for easy walking and provide a commanding view over the wetlands with a wealth of waterfowl and birds. The longest trail beginning in this area is the loop around the perimeter of the park and Katze Marsh, a distance of four miles. Several wooden towers for bird watching convenience have been built. Records show over 200 species of birds have been seen including loons, osprey, eagles, heron, geese, swans, sparrows and a wide variety of waterfowl and songbirds. Bicycling is allowed on the dike-top paths only.

No official swimming area is listed for Grant Narrows Park. Staff rents canoes and kayaks for leisurely exploration of the shoreline. There are no motor restrictions on Pitt Lake, but it isn’t clear if the Provincial Park’s boat ramp is large enough to launch larger ski boats. A marina downstream at Pitt Meadows allows for larger boat access and water sports such as waterskiing, jetskiing, sailing and wakeboarding. Pitt Lake is noted for developing large waves with sudden winds, so canoes, kayaks and rowboats are advised to stay close to shelter of the the shoreline.

Pitt Lake offers many small hidden coves and streams, a number of which release water in stunning waterfalls to the the lake below. Boaters can access slivers of sandy beaches for swimming and can fish the creek mouths for rainbow trout. A navigation map is highly recommended to avoid shallow spots in the lake. Other spots are extremely deep, even very near shore where steep cliffs rise from the water. Ancient pictographs painted on the rocks can be seen in several places along the western shore.

Fishing is one of the chief draws to Pitt Lake. Dolly Varden char, whitefish and migrating salmon are caught at various times of the year. In the fall, sea-going bass migrate through the lake on their way upstream. Several outfitters offer fishing excursions on Pitt Lake and the Upper Pitt River. Access to the Upper Pitt River is either by boat or air. Several water-accessible campsites dot the Pitt Lake shoreline. The campsites are under the control of Golden Ears Provincial Park on the eastern shore and Pinecone Burke Provincial Park on the west. Information on camping should be obtained from provincial park staff. As a general rule, no open fires are permitted in the back country. Prospective campers and fishermen traveling up the creeks should be aware that this is wilderness and is home to black bear, grizzly bear and cougar. Campfire tales over many years also claim the area contains ‘Big Foot’ or ‘Sasquatch’.

Nearly surrounded by public lands, Pitt Lake has little road access. Several cottage communities exist on narrow slivers of beach, mostly at incoming stream deltas. The cottages are primarily accessible by water. Some lots are owned outright while others are leased long-term. Under the protection of the provincial park system, the second-growth forests densely cover the steep mountainsides. Pitt River gains much of its rapidly-moving water from snow melt and glacial run-off, so the river and lake display the striking shades of blue and turquoise produced by glacial rock flour. Many visitors arrive from Vancouver just to photograph the beautiful scenery. With downtown Vancouver only a little over an hour away, Pitt Lake is convenient for a weekend of hiking or bird watching. Anglers can spend the day chasing the wily trout and still be home for dinner.

A few private cottage rentals can be found overlooking Pitt Lake on occasion. The fishing resorts and guest stays along the Fraser River may be more to the non-camper’s liking. Several commercial campgrounds and RV parks are found in the area, although not on Pitt Lake. Small cities such as nearby Maple Ridge offer guest cottages, and there are bed & breakfast establishments available in the area.

Besides the lure of Pitt Lake, Vancouver has a large number of lakes and wilderness areas within an hour or so of the city that can provide all the hiking, fishing and water fun any visitor could desire. Vancouver can also sate your appetite for cultural events with art galleries, museums, festivals and a rich history of pioneers and sea-faring adventurers. And when you’ve had your fill of big city excitement, head on over to Pitt Lake and walk the miles of nature trails. Follow the tide and let the scenic landscape flow over your restless mind. Life always looks better after a day at Pitt Lake.

Things to do at Pitt Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Provincial Park
  • Museum

Fish species found at Pitt Lake

  • Bass
  • Char
  • Dolly Varden Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

Pitt Lake Photo Gallery

Pitt Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 19,019 acres

Shoreline Length: 31 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 10 feet

Average Depth: 151 feet

Maximum Depth: 468 feet

Water Residence Time: 10.8 yrs

Drainage Area: 340 sq. miles

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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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