growing upon

Lake Athabasca

Lake Athabasca (French: lac Athabasca, from Woods Cree aðapaskāw, "[where] there are plants one after another") is located in the northwest corner of Saskatchewan and the northeast corner of Alberta between 58° and 60° N.


The name in the Cree language originally referred only to the large delta formed by the confluence the Athabasca River at the southwest corner of the lake. In 1791, Philip Turnor, cartographer for the Hudson’s Bay Company, wrote in his journal, “low swampy ground on the South side with a few willows growing upon it, from which the Lake in general takes its name Athapison in the Southern Cree tongue which signifies open country such as lakes with willows and grass growing about them”. Peter Fidler originally recorded the name for the river in 1790 as the Great Arabuska. By 1801, the name had gained a closer spelling to what we know now…. Athapaskow Lake. By 1820. George Simpson referred to both the lake and the river in their modern spelling.


The lake covers 7,850 km²; (3,030 sq mi), is 283 km (175 mi) long, has a maximum width of 50 km (31 mi), and a maximum depth of 124 m (406 ft), and holds 204 km3 (49 cu mi) of water, making it the largest and deepest lake in both Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the eighth largest in Canada. Water flows northward from the lake via the Slave River and Mackenzie River systems, eventually reaching the Arctic Ocean. Fort Chipewyan, one of the oldest European settlement in Alberta, is located on the western shore of the lake, where the Riviere Des Rochers drains the lake and flows toward Slave River, beginning its northward journey along the eastern boundary of Wood Buffalo National Park.

Fidler Point on the north shore of Lake Athabasca is named for Peter Fidler, a surveyor and map maker for the Hudson's Bay Company.

Development and environment

Uranium and gold mining along the northern shore resulted in the birth of Uranium City, Saskatchewan, which was home to the mine workers and their families. While the last mine closed in the 1980s, the effects of mining operations have heavily contaminated the northern shores.

The Lake Athabasca Sand Dunes, the largest active sand dunes in the world north of 58°, are adjacent to the southern shore. After a long struggle with government bureaucracy and opposition from mining companies, the dunes were designated a "Provincial Wilderness Park" in 1992.

Lake Athabasca contains 23 species of fish, with a world record lake trout of 46.3 kg (101.8 lb) having been caught from its depths in 1961 by means of a gillnet..


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