Lake Athabasca
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November 21, 2014
Facts & Figures

Lake Athabasca "where there are plants one after another" is located in the northwest corner of Saskatchewan and the northeast corner of Alberta between 58 and 60 N.

The lake covers 7,850 km; (3,030 sq mi), is 283 km (175 mi) long, has a maximum width of 50 km (31 mi), and a maximum depth of 124 m (406 ft), and holds 204 km3 (49 cu mi) of water, making it the largest and deepest lake in both Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the eighth largest in Canada. Water flows northward from the lake via the Slave River and Mackenzie River systems, eventually reaching the Arctic Ocean. Fort Chipewyan, one of the oldest European settlement in Alberta, is located on the western shore of the lake, where the Riviere Des Rochers drains the lake and flows toward Slave River, beginning its northward journey along the eastern boundary of Wood Buffalo National Park. Fidler Point on the north shore of Lake Athabasca is named for Peter Fidler, a surveyor and map maker for the Hudson's Bay Company.

Uranium and gold mining along the northern shore resulted in the birth of Uranium City, Saskatchewan, which was home to the mine workers and their families. While the last mine closed in the 1980s, the effects of mining operations have heavily contaminated the northern shores. The Lake Athabasca Sand Dunes, the largest active sand dunes in the world north of 58, are adjacent to the southern shore. After a long struggle with government bureaucracy and opposition from mining companies, the dunes were designated a "Provincial Wilderness Park" in 1992. Lake Athabasca contains 23 species of fish, with a world record lake trout of 46.3 kg (101.8 lb) having been caught from its depths in 1961 by means of a gillnet. - Wikipedia

Athabasca, Lake, 7935 km2, elev 213 m; located in northeast Alberta and northwest Saskatchewan, at the edge of the Precambrian SHIELD, fourth-largest lake entirely in Canada. It is fed by the ATHABASCA and PEACE rivers, and drains north via the SLAVE River into GREAT SLAVE LAKE. The lake was a pivotal point in the fur trade system, being as far west as canoes could go and still return before the ice. Northern brigades returned from the Arctic via the Mackenzie and Slave rivers, and western brigades from the Pacific via the Peace or Athabasca. Fort Chipewyan (est 1788) was the meeting point, and is still a centre of trade. Camsell Portage, URANIUM CITY and Eldorado are on or near the northern shore. The lake was discovered by Samuel HEARNE (1771). Its name is of Cree origin and might mean "where there are reeds" or "meeting place of many waters." The lake has a good stock of whitefish, which was used in earlier days to feed the fur traders. - Canadian Encyclopedia

Athabasca Oil Sands

The Athabasca Oil Sands (also known as the Athabasca Tar Sands) are large deposits of bitumen, or extremely heavy crude oil, located in northeastern Alberta, Canada. These oil sands consist of a mixture of crude bitumen (a semi-solid form of crude oil), silica sand, clay minerals, and water. The Athabasca deposit is the largest reservoir of crude bitumen in the world and the largest of three major oil sands deposits in Alberta, along with the nearby Peace River and Cold Lake deposits. Together, these oil sand deposits lie under 141,000 square kilometres (54,000 sq mi) of sparsely populated boreal forest and muskeg (peat bogs) and contain about 1.7 trillion barrels (270109 m3) of bitumen in-place, comparable in magnitude to the world's total proven reserves of conventional petroleum.

The Athabasca oil sands are named after the Athabasca River which cuts through the heart of the deposit, and traces of the heavy oil are readily observed on the river banks. Historically, the bitumen was used by the indigenous Cree and Dene Aboriginal peoples to waterproof their canoes. The oil deposits are located within the boundaries of Treaty 8, and several First Nations of the area are involved with the sands.

In 1926, Dr. Karl Clark of the University of Alberta perfected a steam separation process which became the basis of today's thermal extraction process. Several attempts to implement it had varying degrees of success, but it was 1967 before the first commercially viable operation began with the opening of the Great Canadian Oil Sands (now Suncor) plant using surfactants in the separation process developed by Dr. Earl W. Malmberg of Sun Oil Company.

Pembina Institute report stated "To produce one cubic metre (m) of synthetic crude oil (SCO) (upgraded bitumen) in a mining operation requires about 24.5 m of water (net figures). Approved oil sands mining operations are currently licensed to divert 359 million m from the Athabasca River, or more than twice the volume of water required to meet the annual municipal needs of the City of Calgary." and went on to say "...the net water requirement to produce a cubic metre of oil with in situ (emphasis added) production may be as little as 0.2 m, depending on how much is recycled". Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe and Mail paraphrased this report, saying: "A cubic metre of oil, mined from the tar sands, needs two to 4.5 cubic metres of water. Approved oil sands mining operations -- not the in situ kind that extract oil from tar sands far below the surface -- will take twice the annual water needs of the City of Calgary. The water will come from the Athabasca River, from which 359-million cubic metres will be diverted."

Current water license allocations totals about 1.8% of the Athabasca river flow. Actual use in 2006 was about 0.4%. In addition, the Alberta government sets strict limits on how much water oil sands companies can remove from the Athabasca River. According to the Water Management Framework for the Lower Athabasca River, during periods of low river flow water consumption from the Athabasca River is limited to 1.3% of annual average flow. The province of Alberta is also looking into cooperative withdrawal agreements between oil sands operators. - Wikipedia

Athabasca River

Athabasca River originates at the toe of the Columbia Glacier, between Mount Columbia, Snow Dome and the Sir Winston Churchill Range, in Jasper National Park, at an altitude of approximately 1,600 meters (5,249 ft).

The Athabasca River travels 1,231 km (765 mi) before draining into the Peace-Athabasca Delta near Lake Athabasca, south of Fort Chipewyan and Wood Buffalo National Park. From there, its waters flow north as Slave River into the Great Slave Lake, which discharges through the Mackenzie River system into the Arctic Ocean. The cumulative drainage area is 95,300 km (36,796 sq mi).

Many communities are located on the banks of this river. Among the larger ones are Jasper, Hinton, Whitecourt, Athabasca and Fort McMurray. - Wikipedia

Fort Chippewyan, Alberta

Fort Chipewyan is one of the oldest European settlement in the province of Alberta, Canada. The settlement was established by the North West Company when it setup a trading post there in 1788. The Fort was named after the Chipewyan First Nation living in the area. The Fort is located on the northwestern tip of Lake Athabasca, adjacent to Wood Buffalo National Park, in the eastern extremity of northern Alberta. In March 2006, Health Canada announced it was studying elevated rates of rare cancers in the area. - Wikipedia

Uranium City, Saskatchewan

Uranium City is a settlement in northwestern Saskatchewan, Canada. It is on the northern shores of Lake Athabasca near the border of the Northwest Territories. The settlement is 450 miles (760 km) northwest of Prince Albert, 450 miles (760 km) northeast of Edmonton and 30 miles (48 km) south of the Northwest Territories-Saskatchewan boundary.

In 1952, the provincial government decided to establish a town to service the mines in the Beaverlodge uranium area by Eldorado Mining and Refining Limited. In 1954 the local newspaper The Uranium Times noted that 52 mines were operating and 12 open pit mines were next to Beaverlodge Lake. Initially, most of the residences in Uranium City were simply tents. With the boom of uranium mining, Uranium City was a thriving town up to the year 1982, with its population approaching the 5,000 threshold required to achieve city status in the province. The closure of the mines in 1983 led to economic collapse, with most residents of the town leaving. It was later designated as a northern settlement with about 300 people remaining. After the closure of the local hospital in the spring of 2003, the population fell further to about 70 people. Currently southerners, Mtis and Natives live in and around the city. Its current population is 89 people. - Wikipedia


Learn more...

Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park
Tourism Parks Culture and Sport Saskatchewan

Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada
Parks Canada

Athabasca Oil Sands - Wikipedia

Athabasca River - Wikipedia

Fort Chipewyan, Alberta - Wikipedia

Uranium City, Saskatchewan - Wikipedia

Fish Species of Saskatchewan - Tourism Saskatchewan

Sportfish of Alberta -

Athabasca River - Fact Sheet - CHRS

Science Outreach - Athabasca - Athabasca University

Connecting the Drops - Athabasca River Expedition

Alberta's World Famous Delta; The Peace-Athabasca - Alberta: Naturally!

In the News...

Plane partners keep First Nation soaring - 9/27/08
Prince Albert Daily Herald, Canada

Shell and Tree Canada together plant one million trees - 9/25/08
Canada NewsWire (press release)

Alberta's oil was coveted long before it was extracted - 9/23/08
Trading Markets (press release)

Activists deliver Athabasca River water to oil companies - 9/4/08
FFWD, Canada

Taming the tailings - 9/4/08
Oilweek Magazine, Canada

Hathor finds high-grade uranium mineralization - 9/27/08
StarPhoenix, Canada

Barge Modules Suffer Sandbar Blues - 9/3/08
Slave River Journal, Canada

Paying lip service to fish - 9/3/08
Pique newsmagazine, Canada

New Poll Says Albertans Are Divided on Oil Sands - 9/14/08
660 News, Canada

Air-monitoring equipment in oilsands area found inadequate - 9/13/08
Edmonton Journal, Canada

Greenpeace Faces Suit - 9/3/08
Slave River Journal, Canada

Mutated fish alarms delegates at northern Alberta water gathering - 8/18/08, Canada

California company producing documentary on Fort Chipewyan doctor - 9/18/08
Fort McMurray Today, Canada

Fort Chip museum like a step back in time - 8/29/08
Fort McMurray Today, Canada

Rare cancer strikes - 8/30/08
Sarnia Observer, Canada

Chief Joseph Wants First Nations Informed on Nuclear Waste - 9/22/08
650 CKOM News Talk Radio, Canada

Issues - Dead forest standing - 9/17/08
VUE Weekly, Canada

Alberta's 'dirty' oil a sticky problem for Charest - 9/18/08
Globe and Mail, Canada

Oilsands Quest steps up Saskatchewan research - 9/6/08
Calgary Herald, Canada


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