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Lake Whatcom (from the Lummi word for "loud water") is a lake located near Bellingham, Washingtonmarker, United Statesmarker, forming part of the city's eastern border, and is about 14 miles (23 km) long. Over 85,000 Whatcom Countymarker residents rely on Lake Whatcom for drinking water. Lake Whatcom is also a popular recreational site, used for boating, swimming, fishing, and other activities. Lake Whatcom empties into Bellingham Baymarker by way of Whatcom Creek.


The lake is divided into three basins. Basin 1, the Silver Beach Basin is the furthest north, and has a maximum depth of . It is surrounded by housing through the entire basin, and includes the most popular of swimming areas in Bellingham, Bloedel-Donovan Park. Basin 2, the Geneva Basin is the central basin where the drinking water for the city of Bellingham is removed. This basin is the shallowest, with a maximum depth of just 40–60 feet (12–18 m). Basin 3 is the furthest southern basin, and is the most remote. At its greatest depth basin 3 is deep, and is estimated to contain 96% of the lake's total water volume. Large scale logging operations occur around this basin.

The lake has only one island, the Reveille Island, owned by Camp Firwood, which is believed to be the site of past ceremonies by Native Americans, due to the presence of pictographs and a zoomorphic stone bowl found on the island.

Pre–white settlements

Prior to the arrival of white settlers, areas around Lake Whatcom were used by several tribes, including the Stick Samish, Nooksack, and Saquantch, before they were pushed out by Lummi around 1800. In particular, the Nooksack had a village at the southern end of the lake called Kaw-tchaa-ha-muk.


Lake Whatcom is the center of a large debate occurring in Whatcom County, in regard to drinking water quality, homeowners' rights, and environmental protection. The lake is contaminated with PCBs, mercury, and dieldrin. Also, large scale additions of nutrients, notably phosphorus, have altered the water chemistry of the lake, causing concern about its overall health. In 2008, the State issued a TMDL study and report, which set limits for allowable phosphorus inflow. Local jurisdictions have a determined time-frame to return the lake water to the condition known in a previous year.



  • Moore, F. Stanley, An Historical Geography of the Settlement Around Lake Whatcom Prior to 1920. Institute for Freshwater Studies, Bellingham, Washington, 1973.

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