Reservoir Cabonga, Quebec, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Quebec -

Also known as:  Cabonga Reservoir, Cabonga Lake

A trip to Cabonga Reservoir in Quebec is the true definition of ‘getting away from it all’. The massive reservoir covers 261 square miles, but only 187 square miles are water. Islands, peninsulas, and slivers of land between different pools within the reservoir occupy the remaining area. The entire lake is located within the 4,861 square-mile La Verendrye Wildlife Reserve and is mostly undeveloped except for a couple of fishing resorts and the Rapid Lake First Nations Reserve on the west shore. The tribe has been here since before the reservoir was created, when Rapid Lake existed as a separate water body. A dam built in 1929 to facilitate the floating of logs enlarged the existing Lake Cabonga to join 36 other lakes large and small in the area. Rapid Lake disappeared into the new reservoir, but the lake the Algonquin named Kakibonga took its place. The name means ‘blocked by sand’, referring to a sand bar along the northern edge. The enlarged lake drains to two river systems, and dams control the water flow to both Gens de Terre River and Barriere Lake on the Ottawa River system.

Cabonga Reservoir’s current claim to fame is its notoriety as an excellent walleye and northern pike fishing location-one of North America’s top 20 lakes for such a distinction. Outdoor Canada magazine recently included it as “simply the best” for lake trout. The lake also is known for yellow perch, lake whitefish, sauger and lake sturgeon. The fishing resorts stay busy, but most fishermen never see another boat due to the immense size of the lake. No official statistics for depths or shoreline length exist, likely because the lake is many lakes in one. There are no public swimming beaches, but the water does get pleasantly warm in summer and many of the coves have sandy beaches. The fishing resorts rent boats and motors as a part of their lodging packages, or visitors can bring their own boat and the resorts will provide launching and docking facilities. The resorts can supply nearly everything needed for a week’s visit to the fishing holes, providing gas, licenses, three meals a day if desired and a variety of lodging options. Guides can be engaged for both fishing trips or other outdoor adventures.

Reservoir Cabonga is 150 miles north of Ottawa off Highway 117. Only one location on the huge reservoir is near the highway; the tiny outpost of Le Domaine offers a restaurant, one gas station, a grocery, a small motel, and the southern Le Domaine Registration Centre for the La Verendrye Wildlife Reserve. Permits and maps can be obtained here from May to September. The location also offers interpretive trails pointing out the advantages of the timber industry, arranges for shuttle service to canoe and kayak trekkers, and informs visitors of the rules, regulations and opportunities within the reserve. The reserve holds over 1200 campsites, and camping is limited to these primitive sites since dispersed camping is prohibited.

Canoe camping trails begin here at Le Domaine on Cabonga Reservoir for short-trip paddle treks. But with more than 4,000 lakes in the reserve and 500 miles of canoe routes, the exploration opportunities are endless. Those with their own boats can enjoy fishing/camping trips. Over 40 native mammal species live in the reserve, including bear, deer and moose. There are over 150 species of birds that either live here or visit seasonally. Hunting, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, horseback riding, snowshoeing and hiking can all be enjoyed in season. And for those who prefer a comfortable motel room, the motel at Le Domaine acts as a small resort, offering group activities for children and adults and plenty of space to explore locally.

Located between the Abitibi-Temiscamingue and Outaouais regions, the original Kakibonga Lake was already the largest lake between the Ottawa and Gatineau Rivers when Hudson Bay Company first built a trading post along the shore in 1851. The name was officially standardized on maps as Cabonga Lake early in the 20th century. Due to the distance and protected status, the reservoir will never face over-development. The fishing resorts are some distance from Highway 117 over gravel roads. A float plane base at Le Domaine allows fly-in fishing, and a location at Le Domaine rents kayaks, canoes and fishing boats. But a trip to Cabonga Reservoir isn’t a spur-of-the-moment jaunt. It takes planning and adequate preparation. A first-time fishing trip will be best enjoyed at one of the fishing resorts. Camping visitors can arrange shuttle service to drop-off and pick-up points.

Outside of the reserve, other lodgings are available, usually in the larger towns. A few private rentals can be found in the forested region, often on lakes. Small motels can be found on the main highways nearby, but reservations are likely good insurance. The nearest large cities are Ottawa and Gatineau to the south. Both are contemporary cities with museums, art galleries, shopping and, in the case of Ottawa, the historic seat of Canadian government. Real estate is not available at Cabonga Reservoir or within the reserve, but nearby private lands often are offered for sale. If you like woods and water and walleye, Cabonga Reservoir is the perfect vacation spot.

Things to do at Reservoir Cabonga

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Dog Sledding
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Reservoir Cabonga

  • Lake Trout
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Sauger
  • Sturgeon
  • Trout
  • Walleye
  • Whitefish
  • Yellow Perch

Reservoir Cabonga Photo Gallery

Reservoir Cabonga Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Surface Area: 119,680 acres

Shoreline Length: 2,800 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,184 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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