How are lakes named?

Steam fog rising from a lake's surface.

The name of a lake often reveals its history (Quarantine Lake), unique natural features (Grass Lake), animals that live nearby (Elk/Beaver Lake), its shape (Spectacle Lake), or what it is used for (Quarry Lake).

Most lakes near Victoria take their names from people (Langford Lake), and a few seem to be named after animals but are actually named for people (Pike Lake and Eagles Lake). Some lakes are named after military boats (Thetis Lake), and some just have numbers for their names (Second Lake).

In British Columbia the names of geographic places, including lakes, are assigned by the provincial government. Place names change, however, and communities often define their own names for places. Names such as Lookout Lake or Mary Lake are not listed in the province’s geographic registry of place names.

Most of Victoria’s lakes have had multiple names given to them by colonial settlers since they started arriving a few hundred years ago. Yet Indigenous people have lived on Vancouver Island for much longer and have their own place names. Many locals now refer to local landmarks, such as Mount Doug, by their Indigenous place name, in this case, PKOLS.

Place names are fascinating and powerful. Nondescript names, such as Site C, can obscure the true nature or context of a place, which can impact public interest in them.

Learn more in the full Lakes of Victoria, BC guidebook.

Cover of Lakes of Victoria, BC.

In the full guidebook, discover where to:

  • Walk: enjoy lakeside strolls & boardwalks.
  • Hike: discover single-track trails & scenic views.
  • Swim: find the best beaches to soak up the sun.
  • Fish: learn about stocking trends and piers.
  • Paddle: explore shorelines, and hidden bays.
  • Bike: plan your next route and hit the trails.

Along the way you will meet the animals and plants that call these lakes and watersheds home, unearth forgotten place names, and learn stories of days past.

The book is full of useful maps, access information, and local trivia to get you started on your next family day or great adventure.

From locals to visitors, everyone will learn something new about the freshwater lakes that bring Victoria to life.