Bearhills Lake is located 13 km west of the town of Wetaskiwin in central Alberta. Louis Bull and Ermineskin Indian Reserves are to the south. Bearhills Lake is a shallow lake, with a maximum depth of 15 to 20 feet, and has a small buffer of aspen around the perimeter. The site includes some grassland, shrubland and sandhill areas in the surrounding uplands. The adjacent uplands are quite extensive since the basin for Bearhills Lake is one of the largest in the region. The old shoreline is up to 1.2 km from the present, so most of the backshore areas are fairly low with a high water table. The majority of the shoreline areas consist of bulrushes and cattails. The lake is fed by Maskwa Creek at the south end, and is drained by Bigstone Creek at the north end.
Bearhills Lake is an important site for staging ducks during fall migration. Well over 100,000 ducks were recorded here in November, 1980, while 40,000 waterfowl (mainly ducks) were counted in late September, 1981. Annual fall staging duck numbers are consistently over 20,000, and consist of several species. Ducks Unlimited therefore considers the lake to be a critical moulting and staging area for waterfowl.
Rangeland and pasture for livestock in the surrounding uplands, and recreation on the lake are the two primary land uses for Bearhills Lake. Threats to the lake are many. The proximity to Highways 2 and 13 degrade the productivity of the wetlands. Recreational power boats on the lake swamp and destroy many duck and shorebird nests near the edge of the lake. Cattle are also grazing right to the lakes edge and are destroying nesting cover for ducks. Drought years cause problematic water level fluctuations, but this has been largely controlled by a weir built on Bigstone Creek in 1974 by Ducks Unlimited (this lake is a licensed Ducks Unlimited Canada project). Finally, the lake overlies a coal field which, if developed, could have a major impact on ground water levels. County management plans indicate that the lake has low recreational value so will be managed for waterfowl, although some upland areas will be allowed to be developed into subdivisions.IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status