The following information was obtained from A Survey of Phytoplankton in Kipawa Lake, Quebec. a study that was carried out in 2004 by C. Moreau. This study found that Kipawa Lake (at Edward's Narrows) is a pristine environment as the conductivity values and algal populations observed indicate very clean water that is free from organic pollution. For more information on this study please contact the author. References were used for this study. Any duplication in whole or in part of the study contents without permission is in violation of copyright laws.
Lake Kipawa is located in the South-West portion of the province of Quebec South-West of the town of Temiscamingue.
Kipawa Lake has shores of a mixed-wood forest, composed of stands of big red pines and white pines which tower over smaller cedars. The major industries in the area are logging and tourism. Tourists visit the area to hunt or fish on Lake Kipawa. There are at least 15 different fish species present in the lake including northern pike, yellow perch, ling, lake whitefish, lake herring, and white sucker. However, the yellow walleye and the lake trout are the main sport fish.
In the 1980s a moratorium was established that prevented any new land from being sold or developed. However, there are 21 outfitters on the lake as well as many privately owned cottages and homes.
Lake Kipawa is an ecological entity and an important watershed. It is often classified as a reservoir simply because it is composed of many smaller lakes interconnected by small channels. Therefore its name, Kipawa (or Kippewa as it was originally spelled) is fitting as it stems from a Nishnabi phrase meaning “narrow passage between rocks” or “closed off waters”. This is a good description of the lake as it consists of several very long narrow arms. Lake Kipawa covers a surface area of 300 km2 and its overall length is approximately 65 km. However there are over 965 km of shoreline as it is a large body of water with deep bays, narrow arms or inlets, and numerous large islands.
Lake Kipawa is oligotrophic, with a neutral to slightly acidic pH, and it has very high water clarity. Its low pH can be attributed to both the geology of the area as well as acid precipitation. Kipawa Lake belongs to the Precambrian Canadian Shield and therefore its basin is composed primarily of granitic rock .
The lake has several inflows but only two main outflows, Gordon Creek and the Kipawa River. Gordon Creek is situated near the village of Kipawa and the Kipawa River is located near the town of Laniel. Both of these outflows are controlled by dams. The dams help keep the water levels fairly consistent. Prior to the construction of the dams the water levels of Lake Kipawa fluctuated considerably.
Kipawa Lodge is located on a section of Kipawa Lake known as Edwards Narrows. Edwards Narrows is a channel that connects Lac Bedout and Hunter Lake. It is less than 0.5 km in width and about 1 km in length. The maximum depth in Edwards Narrows is approximately 40 meters. This section of the lake is undeveloped with the exception of Kipawa Lodge. It is also an area that receives very little boat traffic, as it is one of the more remote sections of the lake, being inaccessible to the general public by car. Furthermore, it is a distance of at least 30 kilometers from Kipawa and a minimum of 50 kilometers from Laniel which are the more populated sections of the lake.
Up until the 1870s Lake Kipawa was largely undisturbed except for the small parties of Nishnabi (Algonquin's) that inhabited its shorelines. Europeans began to settle in the area and with them they brought the fur trade as well as the lumber trade.
In 1847, a Hudson’s Bay Company Trading Post was opened on Lake Kipawa. It was named Hunter’s Lodge after its first manager James Hunter. He managed the post until 1871 at which point the command was taken over by Charles Cobbold Farr. Charles Cobbold Farr operated Hunters Lodge for 9 years from 1871-1880, although it remained in operation until 1902. Hunter’s Lodge was located near what is now known as Hunter’s Lake. Today nothing remains of Hunter’s Lodge as the site on which it stood was submerged when the lake level was raised in 1911.
Logging in the area began as early as 1840-1850. The first lumber men cut square timber, which had very little environmental impact and the amount of timber they took was very minimal. This type of logging was in operation until about 1900. At which point logging switched from square timber to saw logs. This type of logging employed more men, and equipment and much larger areas were logged. The federal government flooded the lake in order to facilitate logging operations, and dams were built to help control water levels and flooding on Lake Kipawa as well as on the Ottawa River. One dam is located near Laniel and controls flow to the Kipawa River while the other is in Kipawa and controls flow to Gordon Creek.
The Kipawa River is the only natural outflow of Lake Kipawa. It flows from Lake Kipawa near Laniel down to Lake Temiscamingue. It along with the entire lake basin was created by receding glaciers over 12, 000 years ago. Recently the survival of the Kipawa River has been threatened by the Tabaret Dam Project which has been proposed by Hydro Quebec. This project would divert the Kipawa River from its natural streambed and create a completely new outflow from Lake Kipawa equipped with a 132 MW generating system. If the project goes ahead, the Kipawa River will be eliminated, fish habitats will be destroyed and the water quality in certain areas of Lake Kipawa will be adversely affected.
Gordon Creek is 14 Km long and runs through an urban landscape of approximately 4000 inhabitants, the lower portion of the creek is a man-made channel with industrial and residential intakes along its length. Gordon Creek has a fall of about 300 feet and is 9 miles long. Gordon Creek is not a natural outflow, but an artificial channel created in 1888. Its purpose was as a timber slide for sending logs downstream to Lake Temiscamingue. The Gordon Creek Improvement Company formed by Alex Lumsden, J.R. Booth and Alex Gordon were responsible for the creation of Gordon Creek and the construction of dams at Laniel and Kipawa. Prior to the construction of the dam at Gordon Creek, when Lake Kipawa was at its highest level it would overflow into Gordon Creek which would follow a channel of about 9 miles and pass through several small lakes.
A more direct route was created by cutting a new channel that connected Gordon Creek to the Ottawa River. This allowed the logs cut on the shores of Lake Kipawa to be sent downHistorial Kipawa Photo Gordon Creek to the Ottawa River. Prior to the construction of this new channel, logs had to be towed all the way to Laniel then sent down the Kipawa River to Lake Temiscamingue. Once the logs reached the Ottawa River or Lake Temiscamingue they were transported to Quebec City and finally overseas to England. After the creation of Gordon Creek, the logging industry boomed and many logging companies were found on the lake including; McLaughlin Brothers, J.R. Booth, Hawkesbury Lumber Company, as well as several other smaller companies. However, J.R. Booth was the greatest timber tycoon in the area. Timber shanties became a regular feature on Lake Kipawa. The importance of agriculture in the area increased as logging operations expanded and the patches of potentially fertile land scattered around the shore were soon occupied with settlers. At one point there were over 20 farms. The main crops grown were hay and oats which were sold to the logging companies and fed to their horses. Depots around Gordon Creek were established by many of the Lumber Companies in the area that is now the Village of Kipawa.
At the turn of the century the native economic base shifted from hunting to agriculture and lumbering. ManyHistorial Kipawa Photo villages were formed and sustained by gardens and hay farms. Many of the Algonquin women began to marry European men, and their children were Métis. Many Métis villages were created at Kipawa, Hunter’s Point, and Brennan Lake (now known as Lac Sairs). However by 1955 the majority of families from these villages had moved to Kipawa. Today, the population of Kipawa is over 900 and the aboriginals in the area are descendents of the Algonquin tribe.
Even though lumber operations on the lake were shut down in the early 1930s, they are believed to have caused severe environmental damage, particularly as a result of the log drives. As logs were run down lakes and rivers, the majority of the bark would work loose and sink to the bottom. This was especially true of those logs that remained submersed in water for a year or longer. The impacts were most noticeable at the foot of rapids where the bark accumulated and decomposed, destroying spawning beds. Oxygen depletion may also have been a problem as decomposition of this organic matter consumes oxygen. The flooding and damming of the lake also likely caused severe environmental damage. It is believed to have had a dramatic impact on the fish populations, particularly the lake trout
In 1895, the Canadian Pacific Railway reached the village of Kipawa. Subsequently, tourism in the area increased dramatically. By 1905, the village had a station as well as hotel and two stores.