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Nova Scotia's Lochaber Lake is nestled near the center of the main island near the Northumberland Shore region. Lochaber Lake shows its Scottish heritage proudly in its name. The name is taken from the Loch Abar region of the Scottish Highlands, the origin of most of the early European settlers. Long and narrow, Lochaber Lake is what is known as a 'ribbon lake', created by the scouring actions of glaciers long past.
Lochaber Lake is less than half a mile wide and several miles long. The lake is deep, reaching 172 feet near the center and currently hosts many rowing regattas each summer. The largest community of Lochaber has recently completed a new community center that will serve as the headquarters to the StFX and Antigonish Rowing Clubs. A boathouse to shelter the clubs will soon be built, and their first international championship rowing competition has already been held on Lochaber Lake. Lessons are offered for beginning rowers. Many seasonal and year-round cottages grace the southwestern shore, with many of the property owners commuting from the City of Antigonish a few miles to the north. Cottagers enjoy boating, water sports and fishing, with plenty of room for every sport. Much of the shoreline is undeveloped and heavily wooded.
In the past, brook trout had been stocked in Lochaber lake. Little is found online about the current fishery, although there is some mention of trout fishing. With eight incoming streams, spawning territory for trout of all types remains good. Reports describe lake trout, rainbow smelt and other cold-water species in Lochaber Lake. Ice fishing is popular in wintertime. It doesn't appear that either Antigonish County or the Province of Nova Scotia provides any public boat launching facilities, although some may exist. Cottage owners enjoy kayaking, canoeing, power boating and swimming on the 759-acre lake.
Despite a growing density of housing, Lochaber Lake's water quality remains good. A community organization, the Friends of Lochaber Lake, works with residents and visitors to monitor water quality and educate property owners about environmentally healthy lakeshore plantings and construction. The group works to encourage a sense of community so that all will feel they have an investment in the health of their lake. Farming has evolved to specialize in strawberry growing, with an annual Strawberry Festival held each summer. Farming in the area is primarily confined to strawberries, blueberries and growing vegetables for the farmers' market trade. U-Pick farms and roadside stands are a common sight. Many of the old logging roads are now public and offer plenty of space for both nature observance and bicycling. In winter, the same old roads are popular for cross-country skiing. Discussion is ongoing about developing a formal trail system, and several local informal trails can lead the adventurous to lovely waterfalls and scenic delights.
The Town of Antigonish is less than 15 miles to the north along what Nova Scotia calls the 'Sunshine Coast'. The beaches along the shoreline boast the 'warmest water north of the Carolinas' and are a popular spot for a swimming holiday. Antigonish is still a strongly Scottish town, and the Antigonish Highland Games, in existence for over 150 years, bring a huge influx of visitors to the town. As home to St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish offers the wide range of arts and cultural events found in a typical college town. Some of the better known include the Antigonish Summer Theatre, Antigonight-Art After Dark Festival, and the Antigonish International Film Festival. The Town of Antigonish has numerous restaurants and choices for lodgings. Hotels, inns and bed & breakfasts can all be found in or near the town.
Shorelines along the longest margins of Lochaber Lake are relatively steep, making it difficult to either farm or build near the shore. Only the north and south ends of the lake, where the North River St. Marys flows in and out, provide low wetlands. Familiar with inhabiting steep sloping lands from their homeland, a number of Scottish families settled here soon after 1810. The lake's somewhat colorful history reflects the religious rivalry that engaged two denominations of Scottish Presbyterians and the few Irish Catholic families. After a couple of congregation splits and rival churches, the Presbyterian community finally resolved their differences and settled down into one church. The Catholic congregation remained faithful to their church all along. Regardless of their private religious disputes, the new settlers worked with great vigor to create a lakeshore community complete with productive farms and timber businesses. It has only been in recent years that Lochaber Lake has been home to a large cottage community, primarily along the southwestern lakefront.
Lochaber Lake is located about 140 miles northeast of Halifax along Highway 7. Campgrounds can be found in the area, although there don't appear to be any at Lochaber Lake. Numerous private cottages are rented on a short-term basis and make a stay at Lochaber Lake possible any time of year. Enjoy the views, the lake breezes and the local trails. Gorge yourself on strawberries, sample the jams and preserves . . and just plain enjoy laid-back country lake living.
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