A natural advantage that comes from Vancouver Island’s relatively damp climate is the sheer abundance of rivers, lakes and ponds that can be found dotted all across its expansive landmass. Nanaimo residents have long enjoyed the beauty and recreational potential of local lakes such as Diver, Long and Westwood Lakes, while the rugged splendor of the Nanaimo Lakes, located to the south of the city, not only serves as a source of outdoor adventure, they also provide much of the community’s drinking water.
As popular and appealing as these water courses are they are relative dwarves in comparison to some of the larger lakes that can be found across Vancouver Island’s more than 31,000 square kilometer (nearly 12,000 square mile) expanse. Cowichan Lake, Shawnigan Lake, Buttle Lake, Nimpkish and Campbell Lakes are all much larger than any local lake – but they in turn are also diminutive when compared to some of the true giants found on Vancouver Island.
By a considerable margin Kennedy Lake, located just north of Ucluelet on the Island’s central west coast is the largest lake on the Island. Named after Sir Arthur Kennedy who was the last governor of what was then the Colony of Vancouver Island, Kennedy Lake covers more than 6,500 hectares of area, (16,000 acres) and was formed thanks to the confluence of the Clayoquot and Kennedy Rivers.
Outflow from the lake to the ocean traverses a short portion of the Kennedy River flowing into nearby Tofino Inlet. The lake also features an extensive northern arm that is called Clayoquot Arm. The lake is located in part on the ancestral lands of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations, one of a number of distinct First Nations peoples who have resided on the Island’s west coast for millennia.
An area prized for its natural beauty and recreational potential, much of the region around Kennedy Lake is protected from forestry activities thanks to the creation of a number of adjacent parks. Some of the primary parks in the lake’s immediate area include the world-famous Pacific Rim National Park, Clayoquot Plateau Provincial Park, Clayoquot Arm Provincial Park, Kennedy Lake Provincial Park, and Kennedy River Bog Provincial Park.
A prized destination for outdoor enthusiasts of every type, Kennedy Lake appeals to boaters and sports fishers, and is a vital spawning habitat for sockeye and various species of salmon, and trout.
Another of Vancouver Island’s major fresh water attractions is the Great Central Lake, considered one of the Island’s top recreational destinations. Located only a few kilometers from Port Alberni, the Great Central Lake is 35 kilometers (nearly 22 miles) long, with an area of 49 square kilometers (19 square miles) and is up to 333 meters (1,100 feet) deep, making it Vancouver Island’s deepest.
Long and narrow in shape, except for Trestle Bay at its eastern end, the Great Central Lake is idyllically located nestled beneath low mountains surrounded by verdant stands of second-growth timber. Thanks to its steep and rugged shoreline the area around the lake has been left virtually undeveloped. The lake’s depth is controlled by a dam located along its eastern side which ensures that water levels will remain controlled and consistent regardless of the season.
Vancouver Island’s expansive inventory of lakes is just one of the myriad natural wonders that have helped to make the Island a true world-class visitor destination.