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Lake Newell and Kitsim Reservoir (AB015)


Lake Newell and Kitsim Reservoir (AB015)

Brooks, Alberta

Latitude 50.417°N
Longitude 111.937°W
Altitude 765 - 805m
Area 114.67km²

Site Description

Lake Newell and Kitsim Reservoir are located 7 km south of Brooks in southeastern Alberta. The site includes Little Rolling Hills Reservoir, Kinbrook Island Provincial Park and some gently rolling uplands. Lake Newell is a large, mildly eutrophic reservoir with extensive marsh habitat and a number of small to medium sized islands, most of which are included in Kinbrook Island Provincial Park. Two highways run along several sides of the lake. Aside from a small amount of natural drainage, the lake is fed via the Bassano Dam diversion (from the Bow River) and drains into Bantry Canal or Little Rolling Hills Reservoir. Kitsim Reservoir (about a third of the size lies just to the west). The area is underlain by Oldman Formation, which is mostly sandstone, siltstone, mudstone and shale. The site is significant for a population of Great Plains Toad (red-listed in Alberta) and is also possibly the only site in Canada for Water Hyssop and one of only three known Alberta locations for Slender Mouse-ear Cress.


Over 1,000 American White Pelicans have been recorded here, which is about 1% of the national population. In 1976, 6,091 Ring-billed Gull nests were recorded on Lake Newell this would have been over 1% of this species national population at the time. Since then, Ring-billed Gull numbers have decreased (4,272 nests in 1998), but there are still impressive numbers. In addition to Ring-billed Gulls, a 1998 survey of Lake Newell and Kitsim Reservoir found the following nesting species: California Gull (760 nests), American White Pelican (21 nests), Double-crested Cormorant (1,324 nests), and Caspian Tern (74 nests). Eared Grebe, Great Blue Heron and Common Tern also nest here.

Shorebirds use the area during migration, sometimes in close to globally significant numbers, such as 1,300 Black-bellied Plovers (as much as 0.9% of the North American population) recorded on May 28, 1998. Generally, the Kitsim Reservoir is not as noteworhy for shorebirds due to lower food resources and narrow, steep shorelines. The lakes are ideal also staging areas for many other bird species including Western Grebes (more than 500 summering) and waterfowl (over 3,000 a day in spring and fall).

Long-billed Curlew (nationally vulnerable) and Burrowing Owl (nationally endangered) also nest here annually. The nationally endangered Piping Plover has been seen: 3 adults in 1986, 1 adult in 1991, and 2 adults in 1998.

Conservation Issues

The Lake Newell and Kitsim Reservoir site is used mainly for livestock pasture and water supply. One of the main threats to the site is gas extraction because the area lies on a major gas field. Recreational boaters and housing developments along the lakeshore are disturbing nesting birds. Surrounding mixed-grass prairie areas are being converted to agriculture, which will have a detrimental effect on grassland species such as Long-billed Curlew and Burrowing Owl. Fortunately, avian botulism has not been recorded here since 1938.

The Eastern Irrigation District owns more than 90% of the land. Access to Pelican Island is prohibited between April 15 and September 15 each year to protect colonial bird nesting sites. Lake Newell is managed for recreational and commercial fisheries (mostly Lake Whitefish and Northern Pike).

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Black-bellied Plover
Number Year Season
2,000 - 4,5081999Spring
Sprague's Pipit
Number Year Season
Number Year Season
Chestnut-collared Longspur
Number Year Season