4 Lakes in British Columbia that Completely Freeze Over in the Winter

Canada’s westernmost province is British Columbia. There are thousands of miles of shoreline and sizable tracts of protected natural space in this area. Its capital city is Victoria on Vancouver Island, and as of 2023, the province’s population, spread across 364,764 square miles, was estimated to be 5.5 million. It has the biggest fishing business in the nation in addition to extensive dairy and cattle production. The Rocky Mountains and the province of Alberta form the eastern border. The United States is located in the south, the Pacific Ocean is to the west, and the Yukon and Northern Territories are to the north.

The terrain is distinct from that of the rest of Canada. Often referred to as the Cordillera region, it features extensive forested mountain ranges with a large portion of the Rocky Mountains, lengthy rivers, and deep valleys. It’s true that the location is amazing and a winter paradise! Find out more about the four lakes in British Columbia that totally freeze over during the winter, as well as some fun activities you can do, by reading on!

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park

In the center of the Canadian Rockies, Emerald Lake is a freshwater lake in Yoho National Park that forms the border between British Columbia and Alberta. Situated at 4,267 feet above sea level on 225 acres, it is one of four contiguous National Parks, the other three being Jasper, Banff, and Kootenay. It was called in 1882 by Canadian guide Tom Wilson because of its exquisite hue. This happens as a result of glacial melt flowing into the lake and carrying silt from the glaciers. Consequently, the tiny particles scatter sunlight, producing lovely colors. Wapta Mountain and Mount Burgess both offer a stunning backdrop. The lake totally freezes over in the winter and remains that way from November through the beginning of June. When there isn’t a lot of snow on the lake, people come here to enjoy winter activities like ice skating. Even more so are snowshoeing and backcountry skiing popular activities.

Emerald Lake Lodge was established in 1902. The Canadian Pacific Railway constructed it. These days, they have 24 cabins for rent, two restaurants, an outdoor hot tub, a gift shop, and the ability to rent kayaks and canoes. Field, the closest town, is fifteen minutes distant. Lake Louise is a 30-minute drive away, while Banff is more than an hour away. Yoho National Park requires a pass, which can be obtained online from Parks Canada or at the park’s entrance gate. Mergansers, loons, ospreys, moose, and bald eagles are among the local wildlife. Beavers, black bears, bighorn sheep, rainbow and brook trout are also present. As this location lacks cell service, disconnect and take in the grandeur of this amazing location!

Columbia Lake

Columbia Lake, which is close to the hamlet of Canal Flats, has a lengthy history dating back 10,000 years to the time of the Ktunaxa people. The first European settlers didn’t come until the 1800s. Since the lake freezes over the winter, ice boat racing and ice fishing are popular activities there. Small tributaries feed the main lake at the headwaters of the Columbia River. The average depth is 19 feet with an area of 9.923 mi² and the surface elevation is 2,651 feet above sea level. December through March are the typical frigid months.

When American sea captain Robert Gray cruised the waters in 1792 to trade fur pelts, he named the lake after the Columbia River, the largest in the Pacific Northwest of North America. Canal Flats or Radium Hot Springs can be accessed from Montana in the United States via Highways 93 and 95, which also go to the lake. In fact, Radium Hot Springs is a functioning hot spring where visitors can warm up in the wintertime pools.

Marshes, meadows, and wetlands provide a wealth of options for nature observation. Insect, animal, reptile, and bird species abound in this area. Many species are in danger of extinction, including the great blue heron, the badger, and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Moreover, a variety of waterfowl, including bald eagles, osprey, tundra swans, and Canada geese, migrate along this route. Because the lake is mostly unspoiled, elk and mule deer can graze there year-round. In fact, fishing is a well-liked pastime here due to the abundance of species such mountain whitefish, burbot, bull and rainbow trout, and cutthroat.

Lake Windermere

This naturally frozen lake is home to the longest ice-skating track in the world, which is eighteen miles long and won the 2014 Guinness World Record. Definitely a haven for ice skaters! The lake is encircled by a well-maintained trail, and admission is $5 per person for a day permit. Four months of the year see the lake frozen over. Sourced from the Columbia River it has an average depth of 15 feet, is 6.216 mi² in area, and is 2,618 feet above sea level.

In the English Lake District, the closest town is Windermere, which lies half a mile east of the lake and bears the same name. Ice hockey, ice fishing, and cross-country skiing are all available. The nearby “lux” ice fishing cabins are provided by Reel Axe Adventures, based in Radium Hot Springs. They provide all necessary tools, a grill and fire to prepare your fish, and instructions upon request. They do, in fact, provide transportation!

Winter grazing is enjoyed by elk, mule deer, and white-tail deer in this area. Birdwatchers enjoy seeing tufted and goldeneye ducks, red kites, and peregrine falcons. Sea trout, salmon, eels, roach, perch, pike, brown trout, and the local favorite, Arctic char, are among the fish species found there. Keep in mind that motorized cars are not allowed here, making it a peaceful escape from the hectic pace of modern life. Consequently, the only sound you’re likely to hear is ice skaters breaking through the ice!

Alta Lake

The largest of the five lakes at Whistler, which include Alpha, Nita, Alta, Lost, and Green Lake is accessible along Highway 99. The Valley Trail, a 28-mile route that links all the lakes and forbids cars, runs alongside the lake. Alta, which translates to “upper” or “high up” in Spanish, is a municipality in Whistler. The elevation here is 2,106 feet above sea level over 272 acres with a length of 1.367 kilometers. Prospectors and trappers arrived in 1900. Alta Lake was the original name of Whistler. After hearing the piercing whistle of the surrounding western hoary marmots, who reside in rocks, the settlers nicknamed it.

November to April is when the lake is frozen. Thus, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sleigh rides, wind skiing, ice hockey, and ice stock sliding are among the winter sports available here. There are black bears, deer, beavers, minks, chipmunks, and squirrels in the region. Furthermore, because of the marshes that stretch between Green Lake and Alta Lake, this area is home to a varied bird species. Because of this, this area is home to bald eagles, ravens, owls, red-tailed hawks, and grey and blue herons. Woodpeckers, finches, chickadees, robins, and grackles are among the smaller birds. Fish that live in lakes include sunfish, trout, perch, and minnows. Furthermore, during the frog and toad migration, this is the location of a significant tadpole spawn.