Top 10 Facts About The Great Bear Lake

One of the most fascinating lakes in the world can be found in the northwestern part of Canada.

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of interesting facts about Great Bear Lake!

1. It’s located in the Boreal Forest of Canada

The Canadian Boreal Forest is a huge forest in the northern part of Canada which covers about 60% of the country’s land area. It also consists of about 1/3 of the boreal forest which surrounds the Northern Hemisphere, with other parts located in Russia, Alaska, and the Scandinavian countries in Europe.

The Great Bear Lake is located in the northwestern part of Canada, a region referred to as the “Northwest Territories,” within this massive boreal forest.

Apart from its name, it also doesn’t have any reference to the Great Bear Rainforest, a large temperate rainforest located in the western part of Canada, apart from its name.

2. It’s the largest lake completely located within Canada

One of the most amazing facts about the Great Bear Lake is that, with a total surface area of 31,153 square kilometers (12,028 square miles), it’s the largest lake located entirely within the borders of Canada.

Granted, Lake Superior and Lake Huron are both bigger, but they are located on the US-Canadian border with means some parts are located within the United States.

The total catchment area of the lake is an enormous 114,717 square kilometers (44,292 square miles) and its entire shoreline has a length of 2,719 kilometers (1,690 miles), excluding the 824 kilometers (512 miles) of island shoreline.

Great Bear Lake fun facts and map
Map of the area / Shannon1 /

3. The Great Bear Lake is one of the largest lakes in the world as well

Because of its size, it’s also the 4th largest lake in North America, which means it has a larger surface area than both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario which are part of the 5 Great Lakes of North America.

If we include the Caspian Sea, which is sometimes referred to as the largest lake in the world, even though Lake Baikal in Siberia is the largest which is entirely disconnected from the Ocean, then the Great Bear Lake is the 8th-largest lake in the world as well!

4. The name of the lake is derived from a Native American word

The name of the lake has been derived from the word “satudene,” which translates to “grizzly bear water people” in the Chipewyan language.

The Sahtú Dene or North Slavey, a Dene First Nations people, were named after the lake as well. These people live exclusively within the vicinity of the Great Bear Lake.

5. A great mountain near the lake was also named after bears

Part of the lake and its surroundings are part of the so-called “Saoyú-ʔehdacho National Historic Site of Canada.” The areas on land consist of two peninsulas located on the south side of the lake which are considered to be sacred land by the Sahtu people and have been declared a cultural landscape.

One of the most famous mountains in this area is called the “Sahoyue,” which translates to “bear large hill.” This mountain is referred to in English as the “Grizzly Bear Mountain.”

6. It’s a relatively deep lake with very clear water

What are the odds that one of the most important rivers of the lake is named after bears as well, right?

Well, the lake has multiple inflows, including the Whitefish River, the Big Spruce River, the Haldane River, the Bloody River, the Sloan River, the Dease River, and the Johnny Hoe River.

It also has one major outflow which is fittingly referred to as the Great Bear River! This river eventually flows into the Mackenzie River, the longest river system in Canada.

It’s also a relatively deep lake with a maximum depth of 446 meters (1,463 feet), even though the average depth is only 71.7 meters (235 feet) and has extremely clear water.

This means that it doesn’t have a large volume compared to other lakes with just 2,236 cubic kilometers (536 cubic miles), but remarkably the residence time is still 124 years.

Great Bear Lake facts depth
Depth of the lake / TomGonzales /

7. The Great Bear Lake consists of multiple arms on each side

The lake has a peculiar shape that consists of multiple arms on each side. These include:

  • Northwest: Smith Arm.
  • Northeast: Dease Arm.
  • South: McVicar Arm.
  • Southwest: Keith Arm.
  • Southeast: McTavish Arm.

The outflow through the Great Bear River is located near the settlement of Déline on the Keith Arm. This a small village with a population of just over 500 people which was named after the river as its name translates to “where the waters flow.”

8. It was originally part of a much larger lake

The Great Bear Lake is a glacial lake that was formed right after the end of the Pleistocene around 11,700 years ago. One of the most interesting facts about the Great Bear Lake is that it used to be part of a much larger lake called Lake McConnell.

This pre-historic lake had a maximum surface area of about 210,000 square kilometers (81,000 square miles) about 10,500 years ago and a length of 1,100 kilometers (680 miles). This would have made it the longest freshwater lake of any existing lake today!

The lake eventually split up during the post-glacial rebound, the rise of land masses after the last Ice Age, and went on to form the Great Bear Lake, the Great Slave Lake, and Lake Athabasca.

Great Slave Lake
Great Slave Lake / Wiki Commons

9. A fascinating world record was set at the lake in 1995

Some extremely large freshwater fish live in the lake, which makes it a popular spot for fishing. Some fishermen had the surprise of their life when they were angling and caught something huge!

What they pulled up was a lake trout with a total weight of 32.8 kilos (72.3 lbs), the largest fish ever caught by angling!

10. A prophecy predicts that life will end on the banks of the Great Bear Lake

The Délı̨nę people who live near the lake are quite superstitious. One man was considered to be a prophet and is believed to have made 30 prophecies that have come through already.

Perhaps his most intriguing prophecy is his prediction of what will happen when everything on earth dies and life will inevitably come to an end.

He mentioned that all surviving people in the world will flock to the banks of the Great Bear Lake and that it will become the final inhabited place on earth.

Perhaps the fact that they consider the lake to be sacred and the “beating heart of humanity” had something to do with the vision he had.

Great Bear Lake Deline
Deline / Mattcatpurple /