Vancouver Lake, Washington, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Washington - Southwest Washington -

Lying serenely in the Southwest Region of Washington state, Vancouver Lake provides a quiet respite from the cities of Vancouver, Washington and its neighbor Portland, Oregon. This 2300-acre lake has been here since long before the City of Vancouver developed along its eastern shoreline. Vancouver Lake is one of several shallow natural lakes along the Columbia River and was likely created by periodic flooding at the end of the last glacial era. The Lewis and Clark Expedition spoke of the lake and the Native American village along its shores in their 1806 notes on their journey across the continent, calling it ‘the Pond’.

Vancouver Lake was originally connected hydrologically to the Columbia River through Mulligan Slough on the south end, but the building of dikes and embankments closed that connection over a hundred years ago. Several of these shallow lakes have been drained to provide farmland, but Vancouver Lake was spared that fate by public outcry. Located less than a mile east of the Columbia River, Vancouver Lake serves as a nature observatory and recreational destination just outside the city. Extensive wetlands along the shore protected the lake from early development, and most of the shoreline is in public hands with the eastern shore owned by a railroad line. Vancouver Lake is now the place to go for an afternoon of sailing, rowing, paddling, swimming or picnicking.

The City of Vancouver maintains a 234-acre park along the western shoreline of Vancouver Lake, with 35 acres developed for picnicking, windsurfing, and sand volleyball. Swimming is allowed inside a roped-off area of the lake next to a sandy beach. Vancouver Lake Regional park is a favorite among visitors who appreciate a spectacular view: the well-known peaks of Mount Hood, Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens can all be seen from here on a clear day. In fact, five volcanoes can be seen from Vancouver Lake, as Mount Rainier and Mount Jefferson can also be seen from some vantage points.

Vancouver Lake receives many migratory waterfowl, so bird lovers make the park and its trails a regular stop for completing their ‘life lists’. One trail connects Vancouver Lake Regional Park to Frenchman’s Bar Park on the Columbia River. Another trail system under construction will parallel Buckmire Slough and connect to a county-owned open space along Lake River. The new trail will offer views of the extensive lake lowlands and forested bottom lands with their wealth of wildlife. A second expansion of this new trail will create a loop through the nearby Shillapoo Wildlife Area and provide connections to Frenchman’s Bar Park, Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway Trail and the Salmon Creek Greenway Trail. A second unit of the Shillapoo Wildlife Area abuts the southern shore of Vancouver Lake just south of the Vancouver Lake Regional Park. With 477 acres, this unit holds a wealth of wildlife and sees many visitors from the Vancouver area.

Vancouver Lake is very popular with sailing and rowing clubs. The Vancouver Lake Sailing Club has maintained a facility on the lake since the 1960s. The lake is the site of regular races and regattas for smaller sailing craft. Several rowing crews use the lake for practice. The Vancouver Lake Crew offers services to youth and disabled adults, teaching rowing skills, adaptive techniques and water safety. Their high school-age team is extremely popular and highly competitive.

Canoeing and kayaking are popular pastimes at Vancouver Lake, as the water is usually quite placid along much of the shoreline. Vancouver Lake is generally limited to smaller boats due to shallow spots. A channel was dredged along the east and west shorelines several years ago to improve water flow, and this channel remains the most consistently deep area in the lake. The tailings from the dredging were used to create an island near the north shore. Lake River to the north is a water skiing and windsurfing hotspot. Because nearly the entire shoreline is wooded and left in its natural state, it is easy to believe one is the only paddler on the vast expanse of water most early mornings.

Vancouver Lake holds a number of fish species, although the fishing has never been considered especially good. There are some good-sized largemouth bass in the lake, along with brown bullhead, channel catfish, white crappie, black crappie, bluegill, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, goldfish, common carp, northern pike minnow, American shad, mosquito fish, large-scale sucker, and sculpin. Most of these are small due to the lack of vegetation and protective fish habitat on the lake’s shallow bottom. Those that are most numerous are not species prized by anglers. Both carp and bullheads abound in the lake, with the carp actually being commercially fished occasionally to serve ethnic populations on special holidays. Historically, sturgeon have been caught in Vancouver Lake, likely entering through the single outlet to the Colombia River, called Lake River. Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife provides a boat dock at their location on the southern shoreline, but the water is ordinarily very shallow, maintaining a depth of about a foot for several hundred feet into the lake. Most boats launch at a private facility at the outlet to Lake River where the water is deeper.

Massive algae blooms were a problem on Vancouver Lake in years past due to the lack of water flow. The main sources of water into the lake were Burnt Bridge Creek and several small inlets along the shore. These water sources did not provide a great deal of water, and the lake level often lowered drastically during dry years, leaving many acres of mudflats. In an effort to improve water quality by increasing flow through Vancouver Lake, a channel controlled by gates was cut from the Columbia River to the lake in 1983. This allows water to flow into the lake from the river and back out to the river again through Lake River, replacing the natural hydrology disrupted by embankments. Called the flushing channel, this canal is maintained and operated by the Port of Vancouver and has helped prevent the algae blooms from recurring. The flushing channel also causes a tidal influence on the lake, with water levels rising with the tide, although only by about a foot. The only outflow, Lake River sometimes become an inflow as high water levels on the Columbia River can cause the flow to reverse bringing water in instead of out.

Various schemes for utilizing the lake have been discussed in the past, including using the lake for the decommissioning of ships from the Port. At other times, the City of Vancouver explored the use of the lake as an overflow pond to mitigate flooding. Luckily for the lovers of Vancouver Lake, none of these plans were considered cost effective and the lake was left undisturbed. This is a real advantage to those home owners lucky enough to own lake view property on the Vancouver side. Many fine homes overlook the lake, although they don’t have access to the lakefront directly. Real estate in the area is often available, and highly desirable. There are no rental lodgings available directly along the shoreline, but a number of rental properties can be found near the lake. The cities of Vancouver and Portland both have a wide variety of conventional lodgings available. This makes Vancouver Lake accessible for an afternoon or a day. Besides sailing and rowing, other activities also draw visitors, such as the Vancouver Lake Half-Marathon held here each winter. These scheduled events introduce Vancouver Lake to a new group of prospective lakelubbers each year. Perhaps this year, you will become one of them.

Things to do at Vancouver Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing

Fish species found at Vancouver Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Brown Bullhead
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Salmon
  • Sculpin
  • Shad
  • Sturgeon
  • Sucker
  • Sunfish
  • White Crappie
  • Yellow Perch

Vancouver Lake Photo Gallery

Vancouver Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 2,286 acres

Shoreline Length: 7 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 8 feet

Average Depth: 3 feet

Maximum Depth: 15 feet

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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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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