You don’t have to travel to a tropical island to find warm water and sandy beaches in Alberta – not in the summer anyways. Fourteen kilometres south of Brooks lies Lake Newell, one of the largest and warmest man made lakes in the province. The broad sandy beach at Kinbrook Island Provincial Park is a real treat on a sunny day and there are nice playgrounds and campgrounds there. Other activities include boating, fishing and birding. It’s a beautiful place to be on a warm day and there are plenty of warm days in this arid region of southern Alberta.
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History of Lake Newell
Lake Newell is a man made reservoir that was created after the Canadian Pacific Railroad built the Bassano Dam in 1914. The dam was built to irrigate the semi-arid farmland in this part of Alberta and entice homesteaders to settle the region. Today Lake Newell is one of the largest reservoirs in the province with a surface area of more than 66 square kilometres. It is about 6.5 kilometres wide and 14 kilometres long. It’s still important for crop irrigation, but it’s also a popular recreation area that people have been using for more than a century. The City of Brooks also uses the lake for drinking water. The lake was named after T.H. Newell, a local landowner and irrigation expert. The surrounding County of Newell is also named for him.
Kinbrook Island Provincial Park
In 1944, the Kinsmen Club of Brooks obtained a recreational lease for Kinbrook Island, which they named after their club. The island became a provincial park in 1951. The park has since been increased in size to include all of the islands in the lake. The park has a wide sandy beach, a shady campground, playgrounds, two boat launches, picnic areas and shelters, a concession and a swimming area. Popular summer activities at this provincial park include swimming, motor boating, sailing, fishing, bird watching, windsurfing and canoeing. In winter, Lake Newell is a hot spot for ice fishing, ice sailing and skating.
Birding at Kinbrook Island
The wetlands and the islands of this warm lake attract a variety of birds and are classified as an important bird area. The islands provide undisturbed nesting sites for many species including double-crested cormorants, eared grebes, great blue herons, terns, gulls and American white pelicans. Lake Newell also serves as a staging area for shorebirds during migration. Significant numbers of black-bellied plovers, western grebes and waterfowl can be seen in the spring and fall. Vulnerable and endangered species that may be seen include long-billed curlew, burrowing owl and piping plover. Walking trails and viewpoints provide good bird viewing.
Related: If you like birding, you’ll want to visit Lois Hole Provincial Park, another fantastic birding spot in Alberta.
Lake Newell Camping
There are several options for camping near Lake Newell. Kinbrook Island Provincial Park has 169 sites for RVs and tents. The lakeside campground is well shaded and there is a beach and an interpretive trail through the wetlands. Rolling Hills Reservoir Campground has 79 sites for daily use and 70 seasonally leased sites. The campground is well treed and has serviced sites and a modern marina. The Crawling Valley Reservoir Campground in Bassano is another option. It has a beach, a marina, showers and 79 serviced sites. Nearby Dinosaur Provincial Park also has an excellent campground with sites for both tents and RVs.
Related: Is comfort camping more your style? Read our post about Glamping in Alberta.
Lake Newell Resort & Marina
Lake Newell Resort is located at the north end of the lake. It is a hamlet with homes and a public marina. The Lake Newell Marina sells fishing supplies, snacks, ice cream, drinks and boat fuel.
Fishing at Lake Newell
Lake Newell has been stocked with several different species of fish over the years and some fish have made their way into the lake from the Bow River. Today, the main sport fish are walleye, northern pike, yellow perch, burbot, and lake whitefish. Be sure to check Alberta’s sportfishing regulations to know which species can be harvested from the lake and which are catch and release only.
Attractions Near Kinbrook Island
There are many wonderful attractions in this part of Alberta. One of the attractions that should not be missed is Brooks Aqueduct National and Provincial Historic Site. The Brooks Aqueduct was built between 1912 and 1914 to irrigate this part of Alberta and it is part of the history of Lake Newell and Kinbrook Island. The other attraction that simply must be visited is Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It contains amazing badlands and the highest concentration of late Cretaceous Period fossils in the world.
Where to Eat
Lake Newell and Kinbrook Island Provincial Park are a short 15-minute drive from the city of Brooks. You will find many different types of cuisine in this diverse little city. Enjoy great curry at Indian PanFlame. For Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine, Wasana Restaurant is a good pick. If you like sushi, Nikko Sushi is good. You’ll also find plenty of fast food and chain restaurants like Montana’s, Denny’s and Boston Pizza.
If camping isn’t your thing, there are a lot of good hotels in Brooks. The Ramada by Wyndham Brooks is one of the top ranked hotels. The property has a pool. a fitness area and an included breakfast. Canalta Brooks is another good hotel with a pool, fitness centre and included breakfast. Both hotels have excellent cleaning and sanitizing procedures.
Discover More Secrets About Alberta: Read our post about the Best Kept Secrets in the Canadian Rockies.