Lake Memphremagog

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Lake Memphremagog
Lac Memphrémagog
Lake Memphremagog.JPG
Lake Memphremagog
Location Memphrémagog Regional County Municipality, Quebec, Canada;
Orleans County, Vermont, United States
Coordinates 45°0′18″N 72°13′53″W / 45.00500°N 72.23139°W / 45.00500; -72.23139Coordinates: 45°0′18″N 72°13′53″W / 45.00500°N 72.23139°W / 45.00500; -72.23139
Catchment area 686 sq mi (1,777 km2)
Basin countries Canada / United States
Max. length 32 mi (51 km)
Surface area 41 sq mi (110 km2)
Average depth 15.5 m (51 ft)
Max. depth 107 m (351 ft)
Surface elevation 208 m (682 ft)
Islands 20

Lake Memphremagog (French: Lac Memphrémagog) is a fresh water glacial lake located between Newport, Vermont, United States and Magog, Quebec, Canada.[1] The lake spans both Quebec and Vermont, but is mostly in Quebec. Most of the watershed that feeds the lake is located in Vermont, and is a source for accumulated phosphorus, sediments and other pollutants. Recent clean up efforts have started to improve the water quality. The lake furnishes potable (drinking) water for 200,000 people.

The lake is within the larger territory originally inhabited by the Abenaki tribe. The lake's name, Memphremagog, is derived from the Algonkian language:[2]

  • Memphremagog comes from the word "Memrahabegek", which means "where there is a big expanse of water".
  • Memphremagog was also pronounced as "Mamphremagog". This came from the Abenakis "Mamlawbagak" which signifies "a long and large sheet of water". The prefix "mamlaw" denotes largeness or abundance; the particule "baga" denotes water; and "k" marks the name as given in local term.[3]

Physical characteristics[edit]

The lake is 31 miles (50 km) long with 73 percent of the lake's surface area in Quebec, where it drains into the Magog River.[4] However, three-quarters of its watershed, 489 square miles (1,270 km2), is in Vermont. The total is 687 square miles (1,780 km2), with 198 square miles (510 km2) located in Quebec.[5] In Vermont, the lake lies in parts of the towns of Derby and Newport, in addition to the City of Newport, all in Orleans County. In Quebec, the lake lies in parts of Austin, Magog, Ogden, Potton, Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, and Stanstead Township, all in Memphrémagog Regional County Municipality. The lake occupies most of what the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources calls "Basin 17."[6] At the very south end of the lake, there is a South Bay, connected by the narrowest part of the lake.

The lake elevation is 682 feet (208 m) and its maximum recorded depth is 351 feet (107 m), located near the international divide. The lake is the third deepest in Vermont.[7][8] It contains 20 islands. Province Island, the largest, is divided by the international border.[9] The lake is irregular in shape, and along its shores are several striking indentations, in some places low, and in some other parts high and rocky.[10] Along the western shore of the lake are several mountains, prominent among which are Owl's Head, Elephantis, and the Sugar Loaf.[11]


Four Vermont rivers directly empty into the lake: the Clyde, Barton, the Black and the Johns River. In the middle of the winter, the ice can become 3 feet (0.9 m) thick.[12]

The Quebec Magog River drains the lake towards the northeast.


During the ice age, the lake was a proglacial lake[13]:122 which covered Lake Magog, Lake Brompton, and much of the Saint François watershed including East Angus, Sherbrooke, and Windsor.[13]:121


Like many other lakes, Memphremagog is faced with accumulating phosphorus, sediments, and other pollutants from a variety of sources. In addition, exotic species infestations are a concern, with an existing Eurasian water milfoil population and the potential for a zebra mussel infestation. Since the 1970s, significant efforts have been made to reduce the polluting effects of direct discharges into the lake and its tributaries, and lake quality has improved.

In 1994, a Lake Memphremagog Watershed Association was formed to focus on solving lake and river issues.[14] Testing done in 2008 was unable to determine the cause of excessive nitrogen and phosphorus.[15] In 2010, a study revealed that farms contribute disproportionately to nutrient loads. Although farms have 16% of total land use in the drainage area, they produce 44% of the runoff. Baseline nutrients for a lake are 14 micrograms of phosphorus per litre of water. The lake was measured at 17 micrograms, 18% above normal. Although the acreage devoted to farming has decreased, the retired land has most often been developed, itself a source of runoff.[16]


Lake Memphremagog allegedly contains a cryptid named Memphre (or Memphré), which has received sightings since the 18th century and continues on in the folklore of the area.[17] A sighting of Memphre was reported in 2000.[citation needed]


Saint-Benoît-du-Lac Abbey is located in the village of Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, Quebec. The village is on the western shore of Lake Memphremagog

In 1753, the Abenakis brought the ransomed John Stark down the lake and came ashore where Newport is now.

Rogers' Rangers were forced to retreat south following their attack on Saint-Francis, Quebec in 1759. To confound their avenging pursuers, they split up on the east shore of the lake.[18]

The Mountain Maid paddlewheeler operated from 1850 to 1870.[19] The Lady of the Lake steam excursion/ferry paddlewheeler started operating in 1867. It stopped operations in 1917. It was based in Newport. The Anthemis steamer was built in 1909 to carry 300 people. It stopped operating after 1945.[19]

In August 1942, a single-engined Royal Canadian Air Force training plane crashed into the lake near the west shore near Newport, killing the pilot, its only occupant.[20]

In 2010 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accepted a bequest of 420 acres (170 ha) undeveloped land on the shores the lake on Eagle Point along the border with Canada. [21]


Lake Memphremagog is known to have had at least three lighthouses on the Vermont side, used in aiding boaters in navigating the waters of the large lake. All three of the original lighthouses have been demolished.

Maxfield Point Light[edit]

The small city of Magog, Quebec

The Maxfield Point Light was a small lighthouse constructed on the Vermont side of Lake Memphremagog in 1879. A conical, cast iron structure, it was 25 feet (7.6 m) tall, with a focal plane 40 feet (12.2 m) above sea level. It showed a fixed white light, visible for 10 (16 km) miles. The lighthouse no longer exists; it is unknown what happened to it, or when it was deactivated.[22]

Newport Wharf Light[edit]

The Newport Wharf Light was a tower that was built in the Newport section of Lake Memphremagog in 1879. The lighthouse was a steel skeleton tower, painted red, that was fixed on a concrete foundation. The tower showed a fixed red light that was visible for up to 12 mi (19 km), with the height of the focal plane being 37 feet (11.2 m). As with the Maxfield Point Lighthouse, the date this lighthouse was demolished is unknown.[23]

Whipple Point Light[edit]

Whipple Point Light was a tower that was built on the end of a pier on Whipple Point in Lake Memphremagog. Built in 1879, the tower was constructed of wood in a hexagonal shape and stood 13 feet (4 m). The light was fixed white and was visible from up to 10 mi (16 km) away, with a focal plane of 25 feet (7.6 m). The lighthouse was deactivated around 1906 and was demolished at an unknown date.[24]

There were also several small lighthouses on the Quebec side of the lake,[25][26][27][28][29][30][31] most of them originally established in 1878. None have survived, although some of them have been replaced by simple navigation lights.


The watershed in Vermont is largely agricultural and forest land with residential development increasing in recent years in both Vermont and Quebec.

The lake furnishes potable (drinking) water for 200,000 people.[6]

In 2011 a day cruise ship started summer operations on the Canadian side of the lake.[32]

Pop Culture[edit]

The Canadian band The Tragically Hip mentions Lake Memphremagog in their 2002 unreleased song Problem Bears; part of their In Violet Light album sessions.

Lake Memphremagog was mentioned and depicted in Disappearances, a 2006 film by director Jay Craven starring Kris Kristofferson, and co-starring Charlie McDermott and Geneviève Bujold.


  1. ^ "Géographie physique et Quaternaire, 1999, vol. 53". Late Wisconsinan Deglaciation and Glacial Lake Development in the Appalachians of Southeastern Quebec. Retrieved 2006-12-24. 
  2. ^ Philippe Charland: Définition et reconstitution de l'espace territorial du nord-est amériquain : la reconstruction de la carte du W8banaki par la toponymie abénakise au Québec Aln8baïwi Kdakina-- notre monde à la manière abénakise. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Department of Geography, McGill University, Montreal, 2005
  3. ^ Joseph Laurent, New Familiar Abenakis and English Dialogues, the First Ever Published on the Grammatical System. L. Brousseau 1884:p. 214
  4. ^ The Spell of Lake Memphremagog
  5. ^ Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (March 21, 2007). Meeting to establish Lake Memphremagog association. The Chronicle. 
  6. ^ a b "Two local public meetings to discuss watershed plan". the Chronicle (Barton, Vermont). November 30, 2011. p. 38. 
  7. ^ Behind Lake Champlain at 405 feet (123 m) deep and Lake Willoughby at 302 feet (92 m) deep
  8. ^ Lake Memphremagog Fishing in Orleans County
  9. ^ Jacques Boisvert. "Province Island". Retrieved 2006-11-04. It is the largest island in Lake Memphremagog, being 77 acres, of which 7 acres are in the United States. 
  10. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Memphremagog". Encyclopedia Americana. 
  11. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Memphremagog, Lake". The American Cyclopædia. 1879. 
  12. ^ Wheeler, Scott (February 2007). Standing On Thin Ice. Vermont Northland Journal. 
  13. ^ a b Parent, Michel; Occhietti, Serge (1999). "Late Wisconsinan deglaciation and glacial lake development in the Appalachians of southeastern Québec". Géographie physique et Quaternaire (Érudit) 53 (1): 117–135. doi:10.7202/004859ar. Retrieved 31 July 2014. 
  14. ^ Lake Memphremagog
  15. ^ The Chronicle, July 1, 2009, page 2A, "Search continues for sources of pollution," Richard Creaser
  16. ^ Creaser, Richard (18 August 2010). "Watershed association seeks to combat farm runoff". Barton, Vermont: the Chronicle. p. 16. 
  17. ^ Vermont Living Magazine
  18. ^ Darrell Hoyt (1985). Sketches of Orleans, Vermont. Mempremagog Press. ISBN 0-9610860-2-5. , page 1
  19. ^ a b Wheeler, Scott (August 2007). "Remembering the Days of the Big Tour Boats with Dreams of Bringing Them Back to Life". Vermont's Northland Journal: 3–6. 
  20. ^ "Salvage Operations on Crashed Plane Now Underway". Derby, Vermont: the November 13, 1943 Newport Daily Express as quoted in the Northland Journal. September 2008. pp. 29–30. 
  21. ^ "US accepts stunning gift of land": accessed 31 August 2010.]
  22. ^ Lighthouses at Lighthouse Depot ... Lighthouse Explorer Database ... Maxfield Point Lighthouse
  23. ^ Lighthouses at Lighthouse Depot ... Lighthouse Explorer Database ... Newport Wharf Light
  24. ^ Lighthouses at Lighthouse Depot ... Lighthouse Explorer Database ... Whipple Point Lighthouse
  25. ^ Lighthouses at Lighthouse Depot ... Lighthouse Explorer Database ... Black Point Lighthouse
  26. ^ Lighthouses at Lighthouse Depot ... Lighthouse Explorer Database ... Château da Silva Lighthouse
  27. ^ Lighthouses at Lighthouse Depot ... Lighthouse Explorer Database ... Lead Mines Lighthouse
  28. ^ Lighthouses at Lighthouse Depot ... Lighthouse Explorer Database ... Magog Lighthouse
  29. ^ Lighthouses at Lighthouse Depot ... Lighthouse Explorer Database ... Molson Island Lighthouse
  30. ^ Lighthouses at Lighthouse Depot ... Lighthouse Explorer Database ... Wadleigh Point Lighthouse
  31. ^ Lighthouses at Lighthouse Depot ... Lighthouse Explorer Database ... Witch Shoal Lighthouse
  32. ^ Escapades Memphrémagog :: Gourmet cruises on Lake Memphremagog, Magog, Qc. Retrieved on 2014-04-12.

External links[edit]