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Great Bear Lake
Location Northwest Territories
Coordinates 66°N 121°W / 66°N 121°W / 66; -121Coordinates: 66°N 121°W / 66°N 121°W / 66; -121
Primary outflows Great Bear River
Catchment area 114,717 km² (44,293 mi²)[1][2]
Basin countries Canada
Surface area 31,153 km² (12,028 mi²)[1][2]
Average depth 71.7 m (235 ft)[1][2]
Max. depth 446 m (1,463 ft)[1][2]
Water volume 2,236 km3 (536 cu mi)[1][2]
Residence time 124 years[1]
Shore length1 2,719 km (1,690 mi) (plus 824 km (512 mi) island shoreline)[1][2]
Surface elevation 186 m (610 ft)
Islands 26 main islands, totaling 759.3 km² in area[1]
Settlements Deline, Echo Bay
References [1][2]
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.
Mackenzie River drainage basin showing Great Bear Lake's position in the Western Canadian Arctic

Great Bear Lake (Slavey: Sahtú, French: Grand lac de l'Ours) is the largest lake entirely within Canada (Lake Superior and Lake Huron straddling the Canada-US border are larger), the third largest in North America, and the seventh largest in the world.[3] The lake is situated on the Arctic Circle between 65 and 67 degrees of northern latitude and between 118 and 123 degrees western longitude, 186 m (610 ft) above sea level.

The lake has a surface area of 31,153 km² (12,028 mi²) and a total volume of 2,236 km³ (536 mi³). Its maximum depth is 446 m (1,463 ft) and its average depth 71.7 m (235 ft). The total shoreline is 2,719 km (1,690 mi) and the total catchment area of the lake is 114,717 km² (44,293 mi²).

The lake empties through the Great Bear River (Sahtúdé) into the Mackenzie River. The only community on the lake is Deline, Northwest Territories at the southwest end.

In 1930, Gilbert LaBine discovered uranium deposits in the Great Bear Lake region.

The Sahtú Dene people took their name from the lake.



Great Bear Lake lies between two major physiographic regions: the Kazan Uplands portion of the Canadian Shield and the Interior Plains. Originally it was part of preglacial valleys that were reshaped by erosional effects of ice during the Pleistocene. Since then, the lake has undergone various changes resulting from rebound following the melting of the ice.

Precambrian rocks of the Canadian Shield form the eastern margin of the McTavish Arm. These rocks of the Precambrian are made up of sedimentary and metamorphic deposits supplemented by igneous intrusions forming dikes and sills.


Great Bear Lake is covered with ice from late November to July.[2] Between 1950 and 1974, this climatic data set was collected at Port Radium:

Month Temperature
Bright sunshine
Jan –27.0 11 0.19
Feb –27.0 8 1.82
Mar –19.1 14 7.57
Apr –10.7 6 16.03
May +1.2 14 21.76
Jun +9.0 14 23.16
Jul +12.0 35 18.54
Aug +10.6 43 11.97
Sep +5.3 25 6.20
Oct –3.2 27 2.85
Nov –14.8 25 0.39
Dec –23.0 14 0.00
Average –7.2 10
Total 236

Ice road

Great Bear Lake has one ice road, Deline ice road. It is used for few weeks out of the year to deliver supplies to the remote community of Deline, Northwest Territories. The speed on the ice road is 70 kph just like the Tuktoyaktuk ice road because there are no portages or stretches of land within the lake. The ice road is used mostly by semi trucks and the road usually can handle 64,500 kg. The road is subjected to closure early in late March due to warm weather.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Johnson, L. (1975), "Physical and chemical characteristics of Great Bear Lake", J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 32: 1971–1987  quoted at Great Bear Lake (World Lakes Database)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Hebert, Paul (2007), "Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories", Encyclopedia of Earth, Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment,,_Northwest_Territories, retrieved 2007-12-07 
  3. ^ Great Bear Lake. The Canadian Encyclopedia.

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GREAT BEAR LAKE, an extensive sheet of fresh water in the north-west of Canada, between 65° and 67° N., and 117° and 123° W. It is of very irregular shape, has an estimated area of 11,200 sq. m., a depth of 270 ft., and is upwards of 200 ft. above the sea. It is 175 m. in length, and from 25 to 45 in breadth, though the greatest distance between its northern and southern arms is about 180 m. The Great Bear river discharges its waters into the Mackenzie river. It is full of fish, and the neighbouring country, though barren and uncultivated, contains quantities of game.

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