Smallwood Reservoir, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Newfoundland and Labrador -

Wild, diverse and always impressive, Smallwood Reservoir is not a place to be taken lightly. Smallwood Reservoir is not a place for leisurely lakeside strolls and gourmet candlelight dinners. The area is best described in the provincial tourism brochure, where it says this is a land for the traveler who “seeks the truth of this place – the very heart and soul of the land and the people itself.”

Part of eastern Canada’s province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Smallwood Reservoir is located in the remote western tourism region of Labrador. The reservoir now sits atop hundreds of small lakes and rivers that once spanned the Labrador Plateau. Lost, along with the lakes and rivers, were the ancestral lands of the Innu people. As much as 2% of the entire area of Labrador was covered by the flooding of Smallwood Reservoir and mixed feelings have been left in its wake. Today, the majority of land surrounding Smallwood Reservoir is held by the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and leased to Churchill Falls Labrador Corporation. Because this land surrounds the 88 dikes, it is restricted from development and held for future expansions to Smallwood Reservoir.

The hydropower potential of the Churchill River, originally named the Grand River, was a topic for discussion as early as 1907. With the advent of new technologies, and the growing demand for energy in the 1960s, much of the powerful Churchill River was diverted away from the Churchill Falls river feature and into Smallwood Reservoir using a series of 88 dikes. Commissioned in 1971, Churchill Falls Hydroelectric Plant, Canada’s largest hydroelectric facility, continues to power much of Quebec.

Part of Nalcor Energy, the water level of Smallwood Reservoir is controlled by the hydropower company, Churchill Falls Labrador Corporation. The size and scale of Smallwood Reservoir match the scale of Canada itself. With a surface area covering well over one million acres and a shoreline running 1,755 miles, Smallwood Reservoir is Canada’s largest reservoir and among the largest reservoirs in the world.

The remoteness of Smallwood Reservoir makes these waters a fisherman’s paradise. Record-breaking 22-pound landlocked salmon (Ouananiche) have been caught in the lake. Other trophy-size catches include lake trout, brook trout, northern pike and whitefish. It is important to read Newfoundland and Labrador fishing regulations before setting out to fish Smallwood Reservoir or surrounding waters. With few exceptions, non-residents must be accompanied by an outfitter, licensed guide, or direct relative who is a resident of the area.

Similar non-resident regulations apply to hunters in the Smallwood Reservoir area; hiring professionals has its advantages in this vast open wilderness. They can coordinate transportation and lead you to some of the continent’s largest herds of moose and caribou, to black bear territories, and to hunting grounds for wolves, coyotes, geese and other smaller game.

Despite average winter temperatures of -22 degrees Fahrenheit and an average snowfall of 12 feet, winter can be the most spectacular time to see Smallwood Reservoir. In addition to the usual winter sports of snowmobile rides, dog-sledding and skiing, nature puts on a magnificent display. The absence of development around Smallwood Lake makes the light perfect for viewing the aurora borealis (northern lights), the caribou pass through western Labrador on their annual migration, and the waters are free of the pesky greenhead and black flies.

Accessing Smallwood Reservoir can be an adventure in itself. The Trans-Labrador Highway is the main (and sometimes only) road through areas of Newfoundland and Labrador province. (You know this is a remote area when the provincial Department of Transportation and Works provides free 911 satellite phones for highway drivers.) As you leave Quebec, the paved surface quickly becomes a gravel road that leads to Smallwood Reservoir and town of Churchill Falls. With a population of 650, Churchill Falls is the largest community in close proximity to Smallwood Reservoir. Visitor services are limited since this is a “company town” where the majority of residents are employed at the Churchill Falls Hydro Electric Facility.

Driving by Smallwood Reservoir, the Trans-Labrador Highway connects you to the mining communities of Labrador City and Wabush, approximately 140 miles southwest of Churchill Falls. A community of over 7,500 people, Happy Valley-Goose Bay lies 179 miles northeast of Churchill Falls. Both regional airlines and rail transportation are available in these communities.

Smallwood Reservoir offers few lakeside accommodations outside of a handful of fishing and caribou hunting camps near the northwest shore. However, cabins and vacation rentals and real estate are found throughout Labrador for those with an adventurous spirit and appreciation for the wilderness. Find your accommodation in western Labrador and stay for an experience that feeds your soul as well as your senses.

Things to do at Smallwood Reservoir

  • Fishing
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Snowmobiling
  • Dog Sledding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing

Fish species found at Smallwood Reservoir

  • Brook Trout
  • Lake Trout
  • Northern Pike
  • Pike
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

Smallwood Reservoir Photo Gallery

    Smallwood Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

    Water Level Control: Churchill Falls Corporation

    Surface Area: 1,408,006 acres

    Shoreline Length: 1,756 miles

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,545 feet

    Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,522 feet

    Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,551 feet

    Water Volume: 23,486,361 acre-feet

    Completion Year: 1971

    Lake Area-Population: 650

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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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