Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park

Where Dreams Take Flight

On the west side of St. Albert is Big Lake, where a little time spent can be a soaring wildlife experience.

More than 235 bird species have been recorded at Big Lake, with some 180 recorded annually. At-risk species that use the lake include Trumpeter Swans, Sprague's Pipits, Peregrine Falcons, Short-eared Owls and Bald Eagles that nest on the west end of the lake.

In the fall, the lake is a staging area for Tundra Swans and Pelicans. Fall populations of swans have been as high as 20,000! Cormorants, Loons, Great Blue Herons and Ospreys fish the lake. Lesser Yellowlegs, Dowitchers, American Avocets and Sandpipers reside during low water years.

Fish species found in the lake include Northern Pike, Goldeye, White Sucker, Walleye and Sticklebacks. Did you know that Big Lake was once a spawning area for Sturgeon for which the river system is now named?

Lands surrounding Big Lake provide important habitat for Moose, White-tailed Deer, Beaver, Muskrat, Mink, Skunk, Coyote, Red Fox, Porcupine, Snowshoe Hare, and Red Squirrel.

Settlers from the St. Albert Mission, founded in 1861, hunted waterfowl on the lake and moose and deer along its shores, fished its waters and trapped beaver and muskrat from the wetlands. The lake and river provided drinking water to St. Albert residents well into the 1900s.

Viewing deck on wetland

Boardwalk over wetland

Big Lake Facts

  • Alberta Fish and Wildlife considers Big Lake to be one of the 20 most important habitat areas in Alberta.
  • In May 1999, the Alberta Government created the Big Lake Natural Area comprising 1,119 hectares of lake and wetlands.
  • The lake was declared a "Special Places 2000" site, and on June 5, 2001, it became an Important Bird Areas site.
  • It has been designated a "Wetlands for Tomorrow" by Ducks Unlimited Canada.
  • On Earth Day 2005, the Alberta government made Big Lake the province's newest Provincial Park, dubbed Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park in honour of the late Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.
  • Big Lake is about 8 km in length and 3 km at its widest point. The lake offers one of only three birdsfoot deltas in Alberta.
  • In Summer 2013, Big Lake Environmental Support Society(BLESS) conducted a vegetation survey report. View the report.
  • In March 2020, repairs to the BLESS Viewing Platform were completed and included the installation of helical piles to strengthen the foundation, improvements to the wood structure, and new decking and railing. Enhancements were also completed and included a wheelchair accessible pedestal table and a second set of viewing binoculars. 

Outdoor Ice Surface Safety

The City of St. Albert cautions everyone to stay off rivers, lakes, ponds and stormwater management facilities (SWMF) throughout the city in the winter. These ice surfaces are unpredictable and not safe for any type of recreational activity.

Learn more ice safety

How do I get there?

Big Lake is located west of Ray Gibbon Drive. Access to the Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park parking lot (A on the map below) is available at the intersection of Ray Gibbon Drive and LeClair Way. Parking is also available at the Rotary Park parking lot (B on the map below) in Riel Recreation Park, where you can walk/bike along the Red Willow Trail System to the lake and wetland.


Related Pages

Last edited: September 2, 2021