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History of Stettler's Cold Lake

By Claudia Lipski



Stettler's Cold Lake (also known by the locals as Buttermilk Slough) has undergone a refurbishing project where three local fellows featured in this East Central Alberta Review newspaper article. We wanted to hear more about what they did, so we contacted and invited them to attend our regular meeting on March 21st.


If you don't know, Cold Lake lies between the southeast edge of the town of Stettler and along the north side of Highway 12. Highway 12 is a major route in East Central Alberta that runs west of Lacombe through Stettler and east to the Saskatchewan border.


But we're not talking about the city of Cold Lake, which is north and east of Stettler and runs pretty close to the Saskatchewan border! That said, people travelling through Stettler on their way to Cold Lake may have, on occasion, found themselves at taking a little rest stop at this local bird sanctuary!


We're grateful that Al Campbell attended our meeting and gave a short presentation about the project's history. Here's what he shared.


Cold Lake was originally known as Buttermilk Slough because the runoff from the local factory caused the water in the slough to turn almost buttermilk-coloured. Waterfowl still visited regardless. This little lake has existed since before the rail line was built, followed by the town of Stettler. Only until 1991 did the lake finally get some attention as a bird sanctuary, which required some attention.


Dave Dennis, who then worked with Alberta Forestry, Wildlife, and Parks, hatched the idea for the project. In 1991, the Department of Forestry granted approval via a license to install four tire nests and four rock islands. Work began in 1992. Straw was placed in tires supplied by Dave Dennis. The Town of Stettler supplied the rock islands. Today, two of the four islands remain, as the others have sunk below the water level.


Stu Salkeld of the ECAR (East Central Alberta Review), happened by Cold Lake on March 1 and saw the endeavours. He wanted to get more insight into this thirty-three-year-old project and decided to interview the gentlemen responsible for an interesting newspaper piece. Of the three gentlemen he spoke with, Bob Rawlusyk and Al Campbell volunteered to maintain the nesting platforms for the last several years.


Wally McComish helped over the last three years and crafted several platform nests. About three years ago, Bob got the barley straw from Kevin Baird, who farms north of Gadsby. Kevin suggested that canola straw would work much better instead, as the oil content of the stalks makes the straw nearly waterproof and sticks together much better. Romar Powersports loaned an ATV for the project.


We encourage you to check out Stettler's Cold Lake and see what wildlife it has attracted. A gravel walking trail has been created all around the lake, which is about one mile long in circumference. Watch for waterfowl such as Canada geese, Tundra swans, lesser scaup, goldeneye, mallard ducks, shovellers, blue-winged teals, different species of shorebirds, and more. Remember your camera (or binoculars) when you go visit this local bird sanctuary!

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