North America > Canada

Nettilling Lake: The Largest Lake on an Island

lakeNettilling Lake
surface area4,873 km2
maximum depth132 m
average depth24 m
lake typeNatural freshwater lake
length123 km
catchment area63,400 km2
altitude18 m
volume114 km3
inflowsAmadjuak Lake
outflowsKoukdjuak River
shore length7,168 km
residence time2,013 days
trophic stateoligotrophic
average discharge656 m3 / sec.

Nettilling Lake Information and Facts

Nettilling Lake is located in Canada’s newest, largest, and northernmost territory, Nunavut. Situated on Baffin Island, it is the World’s largest lake on an island, with a surface area of 5,542 square kilometers.

Geography and Surroundings

The lake is the 11th largest in the country and the 30th biggest freshwater lake in the World. It lies in the Great Plain of the Koukdjuak, an arctic lowland region, which is mainly made up of sedimentary rock covered with glacial drift. The plain is an important stopover for migrating birds and it is home to the World’s largest colony of geese.

The lake is crossed by the Arctic Circle and is the largest body of freshwater in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The lake’s Western shoreline has mainly gravel ridges. It is located 280 kilometers from Iqaluit, the largest city and the capital of Nunavut.


Nettilling is fed by the second largest lake on the island, Amadjuak, through the river with the same name, as well as other smaller streams. Its main outflow is Koukdjuak River, which empties into the Foxe Basin. The lake is frozen most of the year.

The eastern part of Nettilling is shallow and has many islands. It also has slightly warmer waters than on the West side. The Western part is deeper, without any islands on it.

Plant and Animal Life

The vegetation around the lake is mostly composed of tundra, which is an extremely important area for Barren Ground-Caribou, which come here for feeding and calving. The largest herds of caribou of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago can be found around the lake in late spring or early summer. A few Ringed Seals can also be seen around Nettilling.

Only three fish species were ever recorded in Nettilling Lake: the Arctic Char, the Threespine Stickleback and the Ninespine Stickleback. The fish feed on the Chironomid Larvae, which make up more than 90% of the lake’s micro fauna.

History and Origins of Its Name

The renowned German-American anthropologist Franz Boas explored the lake’s Southern shore in 1883 and became fascinated by the culture and language of the Inuit people on Baffin Island. Joseph Dewey Soper, who was a Canadian explorer, also surveyed the area around Lake Nettilling between 1924 and 1926.

The name “Nettilling” is of Inuktitut origin, referring to the adult ringed seals that live in the surroundings of the lake.

Nettilling Lake Fish Species


Nettilling Lake Reviews

A. Bourque

2016-12-04 19:24:22

Beautiful clear waters, abundant bird life, magnificent ...


Beautiful clear waters, abundant bird life, magnificent Arctic Charr, fossils galore and plenty of prehistoric evidence of human habitation.