Great Bear LakeThis is Great Bear Lake, long shrouded in mystery and superstition

Great Bear Lake

The question that may be running through your mind is - why of all places Great Bear Lake?

Let us elaborate.

If you are someone who likes to fish, hunt, view wildlife in a pristine natural setting or just enjoy being "out there" about as far away from civilization as you can get without resorting to space travel, then imagine having an ocean at your personal disposal - an inland sea to be precise - that features among other things 12,000 square miles of pure, sweet drinking water.

Great Bear Lake also offers you a glimpse into the past - the distant past - because there are very few places left on earth where you can see and experience the land as it was thousands of years ago, fish water that has never known a line, or walk where no person has ever set foot.

If you're planning a visit to Great Bear then it's best to think in terms of July and August, which is about the only time of the year where the weather is relatively stable, and the ice should have pretty much dissipated. While there, you will be sharing this inland sea with less than 100 fishermen during any given week.

Many of us likely know more about the moon than we do Great Bear Lake, yet it is uniquely Canadian - a national treasure in our opinion - that has no equal anywhere on this planet.

So what exactly and where is Great Bear Lake or Sahtu?

Although it's North America's fourth largest fresh water lake and the eighth largest in the world, if you ask people about Great Bear Lake more often than not you will get a blank stare.  I know of some amateur geographers who have placed it in Texas, Prince Edward Island and many points in between.

Great Bear Lake is located in Canada's Northwest Territories and is intersected by the Arctic Circle at its northern extreme. But for the tiny village of Deline, it is virtually uninhabited. Summers while intense, are very short in this land of the midnight sun, and therefore the lake is ice free for little more than six to eight weeks, although it is rarely completely free of ice.

Wildlife such as Musk-oxen, Caribou, Barren Ground Grizzly Bears, Bald and Golden Eagles, Gyrfalcons and water birds too numerous to mention abound throughout the area.

It is also the greatest Lake Trout and Arctic Grayling fishery on earth - bar none.

Not a great deal has been written about Great Bear.  Notations in the journals of various explorers and adventurers such as Sir John Franklin, George Back, John Hornby, George Douglas and Charles Camsell dating from the 1800's  to the early 1900's represent the bulk of the written record.  Their journals and formal reports focused primarily on their scientific observations, and the hardships they personally encountered, rarely did they comment on the land or its people. Most of them were just passing through on their way to somewhere else.

That said the people of Great Bear Lake, the Sahtu Dene, have wandered over this vast expanse since the beginning of time, as perhaps we would understand it. They have a rich history; much of it handed down over the centuries through stories told by tribe elders to each successive generation.

The only book I have come across where the lake itself is central to the story was written by Fredrick B. Watt, and is called Great Bear - A Journey Remembered. In his book he chronicles his time as a prospector's assistant during the "Great Depression," and gives a very personal account of what Great Bear meant to him and how it changed him as a person. He describes the lake in this way:

"It is a giant among the world's freshwater seas.  Astride the Arctic Circle, it is instantly identifiable on the smallest-scale map of Canada.  It stretches in burnished beauty under the unsleeping summer sun, 12,000 square miles of liquid ice moving restlessly between its low western shore and the craggy heights that contain it to the east.  With autumn comes twilight and grey turbulence.  The huge swells have 150 miles in which to gather strength before they shatter against the eastern mountains.  Even after winter's shield has crushed the life from them, the fury of the waves can be seen chiseled in crystal, high on the naked stone.

This is Great Beat Lake, long shrouded in mystery and superstition, as cold and pitiless as the treeless Barren Ground which lies to its north."

The purpose of this site will be to create a much higher degree or awareness and appreciation for Great Bear Lake, and while the focus will be primarily on the "Bear," we also hope to provide a space within which to share information about some of the other lakes and rivers throughout the area as well.

If you have already visited, or are just curious about Great Bear Lake, then you will now have a forum to share your thoughts, experiences and images together with the opportunity to chat directly with others who share your interest in Great Bear, and learn more about what this truly unique and spectacular piece of Canada has to offer.

Location66.0000° N, 121.0000° W

Where is Great Bear Lake

Great Bear Lake is located in Canada's Northwest Territories and is intersected by the Arctic Circle at its northern extreme.


Lake Trout, Trout, Arctic Char, Arctic Grayling, Whitefish


Area: 31,153 km2 (12,028 sq mi)
Cities: Deline