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Lake Simcoe is a lake in southern Ontariomarker, Canadamarker, the twelfth-largest lake in the province. It is also one of the world's largest freshwater lakes to freeze over completely in the winter.

The lake is bordered by Simcoe County, Durham Regionmarker, and York Regionmarker. The city of Barriemarker is located on Kempenfelt Bay, and Orilliamarker is located at the entrance to Lake Couchichingmarker. The watershed draining into the lake contains a population of roughly half a million people, including the northern portion of the Greater Toronto Area.

The Town of Georginamarker lies along the entire south shore of Lake Simcoe and contains smaller residential towns and communities, including Keswickmarker on Cook's Baymarker, Suttonmarker, Jackson's Point, Pefferlawmarker, and Udoramarker among others.


Lake Simcoe is a remnant of a much bigger, prehistoric lake known as Lake Algonquin. This lake's basin also included Lake Huron, Lake Michiganmarker, Lake Superiormarker, Lake Nipigonmarker, and Lake Nipissingmarker. The melting of an ice dam at the close of the last ice age greatly reduced water levels in the region, leaving the lakes of today.

At the time of the first European contact in the 17th century, the lake was called Ouentironk ("Beautiful Water") by the Wyandot (Huron) natives. In 1687, Lahontan called it Lake Toronto, an Iroquoian term meaning gateway or pass. Since then, many subsequent mapmakers adopted this name for it.The name 'Toronto' found its way to the current city through its use in the name for the Toronto Carrying-Place Trail (or Toronto Passage), a portage running between Lake Ontariomarker and Georgian Baymarker, that passed through Lake Toronto, which in turn was used as the name for an early French fort located at the foot of the Toronto Passage, on Lake Ontario. The Severn River, its outlet stream, was once called 'Rivière de Toronto' which flows into Georgian Bay's Severn Sound, then called the 'Baie de Toronto'.

The later French traders referred to it as Lac aux Claies, meaning "Lake of Grids (or Trellises)" in reference to the Huron fishing weirs in the lake.

It was renamed by John Graves Simcoe, the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, in 1793, not in honour of himself, but in memory of his father, Captain John Simcoe. Captain Simcoe was born on 28 November 1710, in Staindropmarker, in County Durham, northeast Englandmarker and served as an officer in the Royal Navy, dying of pneumonia aboard his ship, HMS Pembroke, on 15 May 1759.
Lake Simcoe in Southern Ontario
The lake is about long and wide. Its area is roughly . It is shaped somewhat like a fist with the index finger and thumb extended. The thumb forms Kempenfelt Baymarker on the west, the wrist Lake Couchichingmarker to the north, and the extended finger is Cook's Baymarker on the south. Couchiching was at one time thought of as a third bay of Simcoe, known as the Bristol Channel; however, the narrows between the two bodies of water separate them enough to consider this to be another lake. The narrows, known as "the place where trees grow over the water" was an important fishing point for the First Nations peoples who lived in the area, and the Mohawk term toran-ten eventually gave its name to Torontomarker by way of the portage route running south from that point, the Toronto Carrying-Place Trail.

Watershed and navigation

A number of southern Ontario rivers flow, generally north, into the lake, draining of land. From the east, the Talbot River, part of the Trent-Severn Waterway is the most important river draining into Lake Simcoe, connecting the lake with the Kawartha lakes system and Lake Ontario. From its connection to Lake Couchiching, the Severn River is the only drainage from the lake to Georgian Bay, part of Lake Huronmarker (Simcoe itself is not one of the Great Lakesmarker). The canal lock of the Trent-Severn Waterway make this connection navigable.

A number of creeks and rivers flow into the lake:

Georgina island

Lake Simcoe contains a large island, Georgina, on which there is a First Nations reserve. The lake is dotted with several smaller islands, including Thorah Islandmarker (a cottage destination), Strawberry Island (a Basilican retreat), Snake Island, and Fox Island. Pope John Paul II stayed on Strawberry Island for four days just before World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto. Before the completion of the Trent Severn Waterway, the water level on Lake Simcoe was quite low enabling residents to cross in wagons or walk in ankle deep water to the mainland. However when it was completed, the water table increased by several feet.


When a lake is healthy, cold-water fish like lake trout, herring and whitefish are abundant and active. It is sometimes known as Canada's ice fishing capital.

Environmental problems

Lake Simcoe has been victim to significant eutrophication. Lake Simcoe has seen a dramatic decline in these fish species, along with an increase in algae blooms and aquatic weed growth. Phosphorus emissions from both urban and rural sources have upset the lake's ecosystem and fostered excessive aquatic plant growth, raising water temperatures, decreasing oxygen levels, and thereby rendering limited breeding grounds inhospitable.

Lake Simcoe has been victim to zebra mussel, Purple Loosestrife, Black crappie, spiny water flea, and Eurasian milfoil invasions.

The zebra mussel, which arrived in North American waters in 1985. It originated in the Black and Caspian Seas area and is thought to have been brought to this continent in the ballast of foreign freighters. Zebra Mussels are particularly harmful to Lake Simcoe because they increase the clarity of the water allowing sunlight to penetrate to the bottom of the lake, where more algae and aquatic weeds can grow accelerating the eutrophication process.

The Rainbow Smelt are another introduced species and they were first observed in the early 1960's. They were believed to compete with native Lake Whitefish and somewhat responsible for a decline in their populations.

Several initiatives, such as the Lake Simcoe Environmental Management Strategy (LSEMS), the Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation, and the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, are making efforts to rectify some of the lake's environmental woes.A local activist group, The Ladies of the Lake, are using the $250,000 they raised from the sale of a nude picture calendar to rally government, business, the school system and the local citizenry to rescue the lake. Several towns and communities on the lakeshore depend on Lake Simcoe for their drinking water.


  1. Ontario - Lake Areas and Elevation (lakes larger than 400 square kilometres) at the Atlas of Canada
  2. Lake Simcoe Ontario Resort Destination Lake Simcoe Ontario North
  3. Data summary at the International Lake Environment Committee
  4. John Paul to rest as cross makes way through Toronto

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