Lake Winnipeg (French: Lac Winnipeg) is a very large, but relatively shallow 24,514-square-kilometre (9,465 sq mi) lake in North America, in the province of Manitoba, Canada. Its southern end is about 55 kilometres (34 mi) north of the city of Winnipeg. It is the largest lake within southern Canada’s borders, and is part of the most undeveloped large watershed of southern Canada.[further explanation needed]
Lake Winnipeg is Canada’s sixth-largest freshwater lake, and the third-largest freshwater lake contained entirely within Canada, but it is relatively shallow (mean depth of 12 m [39 ft]) excluding a narrow 36 m (118 ft) deep channel between the northern and southern basins. It is the eleventh-largest freshwater lake on Earth. The lake’s east side has pristine boreal forests and rivers that are being promoted as a potential United Nations World Heritage Park. The lake is 416 km (258 mi) from north to south, with remote sandy beaches, large limestone cliffs, and many bat caves in some areas. Manitoba Hydro uses the lake as one of the largest reservoirs in the world. There are many islands, most of them undeveloped.
The varying habitats found within the lake support a large number of fish species, more than any other lake in Canada west of the Great Lakes. Sixty of seventy-nine native species found in Manitoba are present in the lake. Families represented include lampreys (Petromyzontidae), sturgeon (Acipenseridae), mooneyes (Hiodontidae), minnows (Cyprinidae), suckers (Catostomidae), catfishes (Ictaluridae), pikes (Esocidae), trout and whitefish (Salmonidae), troutperch (Percopsidae), codfishes (Gadidae), sticklebacks (Gasterosteidae), sculpins (Cottidae), sunfishes (Centrarchidae), perch (Percidae), and drums (Sciaenidae).
Two fish species present in the lake are considered to be at risk. The Shortjaw cisco is considered a threatened species. The Bigmouth buffalo is considered a species of special concern.
Rainbow trout and Brown trout are stocked in Manitoba waters by provincial fisheries as part of a put and take program to support angling opportunities. Neither species is able to sustain itself independently in Manitoba. Smallmouth bass was first recorded from the lake in 2002, indicating populations introduced elsewhere in the watershed are now present in the lake. White bass were first recorded from the lake in 1963, ten years after being introduced into Lake Ashtabula in North Dakota. Common carp were introduced to the lake through the Red River of the North and are firmly established.
Lake Winnipeg provides feeding and nesting sites for a wide variety of birds associated with water during the summer months.
American White Pelicans loaf near shore, Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park
Isolated, uninhabited islands provide nesting sites for colonial nesting birds including pelicans, gulls and terns. Large marshes, shores and shallows allow these birds to successfully feed themselves and their young. Pipestone Rocks are considered a globally significant site for American white pelicans. In 1998, an estimated 3.7% of the world’s population of this bird at the time were counted nesting on the rocky outcrops. The same site is significant within North America for the numbers of colonial waterbirds using the area, especially Common terns. Other globally significant nesting areas are found at Gull Island and Sandhill Island, Little George Island and Louis Island. Birds nesting at these sites include Common and Caspian terns, Herring gull, Ring-billed gull, Double-crested cormorant and Greater scaup.
Lake Winnipeg has two sites considered globally important in the fall migration. Large populations of waterfowl and shorebirds use the sand bars east of Riverton as a staging area for fall migration. The Netley-Libau Marsh, where the Red River enters Lake Winnipeg, is used by geese, ducks and swallows to gather for the southward migration.
Piping Plovers, an endangered species of shorebird, are found in several locations around the lake. The Gull Bay Spits, south of the town of Grand Rapids are considered nationally significant nesting sites for this species.
A list of protected areas on Lake Winnipeg
Beaver Creek Provincial Park Camp Morton Provincial Park Elk Island Provincial Park Fisher Bay Provincial Park Grand Beach Provincial Park Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park Hnausa Beach Provincial Park Kinwow Provincial Park Patricia Beach Provincial Park Sturgeon Bay Provincial Park Winnipeg Beach Provincial Park