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What Are Kettle Lakes?

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This article discusses the nature and formation of kettle lakes, an interesting part of a glaciated landscape. Find the most famous kettle lakes in North America, further reading, and a video.

This article discusses the nature and formation of kettle lakes, an interesting part of a glaciated landscape. Find the most famous kettle lakes in North America, further reading, and a video.

The Geographical Mystery of Kettle Lakes

On our constantly changing earth, there are phenomena that occur so slowly that millions of years must pass before their result can be truly appreciated. One of these phenomena is the advancement and retreat of glaciers.

In this article, I will be discussing one of the most dramatic traces left behind by the presence of these glaciers – beautiful crenellated lakes called kettle lakes. In the picture below, you can see a classic example of a kettle lake located in Southern Ontario within the Oak Ridges Moraine.

At this point on Highway 9 just west of Newmarket there is a bulge in the moraine that must have contained a large block of ice. When the ice melted the roof material collapsed and this large pond was left. It is hard to imagine this pond being sustained by water runoff forever and I expect one day it will simply dry up.

Kettle Lakes: Definition

In laymen's terms, a kettle lake is a water-filled pothole left in the ground by a receding glacier that formed millions of years ago.

When a glacier recedes, the ice breaks off the front of it in a process called "calving." This sediment-rich ice block remains stationary, allowing meltwater from the glacier to gradually deposit sand, clay, grit and rocks around and on top of it.

Years later, after the deposited sediment has solidified, the ice block melts, causing the sediment layer to cave in and form a large hole in the ground. These holes are usually no more than two kilometres in diameter, but some famous kettle lakes such as Puslinch Lake in Ontario, Canada are over 400 acres wide.

It is important to note that these holes can only be classified as kettle lakes if they are continually supplied with water from an overground or underground river. Otherwise, they are called kettle ponds if the water comes from precipitation or the groundwater table, or kettle bogs if decaying organic plant matter causes the water to become acidic.

Famous Kettle Lakes in North America

The following is a list of some of the most famous kettle lakes across the North American continent.


Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts

Walden Pond is one of the world's most famous kettle lakes. It is 61 acres and 2.7 km in diameter, and was home to writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau. It is a popular state reservation often frequented by swimmers and holidaymakers.


Puslinch Lake in Ontario, Canada

Puslinch Lake is the second largest kettle lake in all of North America. It is mostly fed by underwater springs, lake outflows, and surface runoff, and has only a maximum depth of 5.5 meters. It is a popular spot for fishermen, swimmers, sailors and water skiers.

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Read More From Owlcation

Wonder Lake, Denali

Wonder Lake is a famous kettle lake located in Denali National Park in Alaska. On a good day, you can get a wonderful view of both Mount McKinley and the Alaska Range from the lake.

Important Book on Kettle Lakes

Interesting Fact:

Kettle lakes are often very short lived. If they are not constantly supplied with water, they tend to fill in with sediment or vegetation. This is exactly what happens and eventually they will all pass away until the next ice age.

How to Make Your Own Kettle Lake

For the younger reader, there may be some scepticism as to whether kettle lakes really exist. After all, I cannot think of anywhere in the world you can go and see a lump of ice frozen in boulder clay, the forerunner of a kettle lake. So maybe it's time to make one for yourself and prove it for yourself. Here is how you do it!



  • Sand
  • Water
  • Ice cube
  • Tin baking pan


  1. Mix together 3/4 cup of sand and 1/4 of a cup of water. Using a small tin baking pan, cover an ice cube with the mixture. Put the pan into the freezer and allow it to freeze overnight. The conditions in the freezer are similar to how things might have been during the last Ice Age.
  2. The next day, allow the now frozen mixture to defrost at normal room temperature. Observe with your children how the ice cube leaves a depression in the surrounding sand. This depression is equivalent to a real-life kettle lake.

Video of Kettle Lakes in Winter

See a set of gorgeous photos of six different kettle lakes during the winter months in Canada. On average these lakes are not large and they rarely have any stream that flows into them. They quickly silt up and disappear.

Southern Ontario is a particularly fertile ground for these features and if you have an opportunity to visit, follow the routes to the Oak Ridges Moraine and they pop up in the most bizarre of places. That is the beauty of a kettle lake, they make little sense geographically.


So there you have the complete description of what a kettle lake is. is. Now it's time to find one of your own. There are only two confirmed in England and six in Scotland. However there are many in Canada, the USA, Siberia, and Greenland search of Wikipedia will tell you if there are any near you. They are often in strange places and are usually very shallow. Needless to say, they are associated with other glaciated features such as sands, gravels, boulder clay, drumlins and moraines. Good luck in your hunt!

Sources and Further Reading

  • Wikipedia: Kettle (Landform)
    The official Wikipeda website for kettle lakes, holes and bogs. It provides you with basic scientific information about kettle lakes, as well as information about famous kettle lakes in North America.
  • Kettle Lakes in Michigan
    A simplified explanation of how kettle lakes are formed, coupled with some beautiful photos of kettle lakes in Michigan.
  • A Freshwater Journey from Maine to Montana
    A blog written by professor Robert M. Thorson about his journey to 19 different kettle lakes across North America.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Have you ever visited a kettle lake? - Please let us know you stopped by!

longlakelifestyle on August 13, 2013:

It's a cool place to bring my children.

gnd5969 on February 21, 2013:

No, but definitely looks interesting.

Takkhis on February 21, 2013:

No, i have not yet! I think it is a cool place to visit :)

ismeedee on February 21, 2013:

From Massachusetts so of course I've been to Walden Pond. Also there are impressive glacier potholes in Shelburne Falls, Mass but they are different! I love the experiment, will definitely be doing that with my little science geek!! Nice lens, very interesting and lovely photos! Angel Blessings!

Teri Villars from Phoenix, Arizona on August 01, 2012:

No, but I have a potbelly...just kidding! ha! Nice lens, blessed by a Squid Angel.

JamesDWilson on July 31, 2012:

No but I like your lens.

steph-naylor on July 23, 2012:

This is a pretty cool lens!

Gift-Master on July 21, 2012:

This was very informative and very interesting! Thanks!

manutara69 on July 21, 2012:

Nice lens. Thanks for the info.

Melissa Miotke from Arizona on July 21, 2012:

I have in WI. Great lens:)

Larry50 LM on July 21, 2012:

Never heard of a kettle lake until today. Nice article.

DebMartin on July 21, 2012:

I live and play in the land of kettle lakes but didn't know the definition. Thanks for the info and education. d

nozzmoking on July 21, 2012:

Many thanks for an interesting read. I learned something today.

ae dc on July 21, 2012:

oh..what a nice experiment. and beautiful pictures. i've always wanted to live in home near a lake... :)

sweetstickyrainbo on July 20, 2012:

love the scenery

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on July 20, 2012:

No I am not sure, this is the first time I have heard of a kettle lake, I will be taking more notice of this now to see if we have some Kettle lakes in New Zealand.

We have all sorts of waterholes here. Thanks for sharing. Blessed.

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on July 20, 2012:

Thank you for sharing some very interesting information! ;-)

Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on July 20, 2012:

No, this is the first time I've ever heard the term 'kettle lake'. Fascinating to learn that Walden Pond - which I HAVE heard of - is considered a kettle lake.

David Stone from New York City on July 20, 2012:

Yes, in Iceland, the youngest landmass in the world, with many glaciers and the still young lakes they created.

TheMinuteIdea LM on July 20, 2012:

I have never visited a kettle lake but I can say your lens has now put it on my list of things to see. Very nice :)

Darcie French from Abbotsford, BC on July 19, 2012:

Thank-you for the education about kettle lakes, I must have heard of them before, this was a good refreshment (pun intended :)

Sadheeskumar on July 19, 2012:

Natural Places..Lovely

getmoreinfo on July 19, 2012:

Such a lovely place, I love lakes.

SteveKaye on July 19, 2012:

I may have since I spend a lot of time outside taking photos. Thank you for publishing this lens. I'm always glad to know more.

rivercityconcepts on July 19, 2012:

Yes, we actually camped near one in northern Ontario.

BowWowBear on July 19, 2012:

We were able to see Wonder Lake in Denali on our Honeymoon.

Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on July 19, 2012:

I am not sure if I have, but geography and geology have always fascinated me, and I really enjoyed this lens.

ITCoach LM on July 19, 2012:

Your Post about the Kettle Lakes enhanced my exposure to visit these eyecatching places all around the world. I am really impressed to see this post. God has made almost a lot of things eye catching for human beings

MarcellaCarlton on July 18, 2012:

No, I have never visited a kettle lake before. But I live in Oregon, and a long time ago The Great Missoula Floods occurred. The melting glacial ice dam failed and flooded many times to form the Columbia River Gorge and other interesting features across Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. This was a wonderful lens that was very interesting.

fullofshoes on July 17, 2012:

I grew up less than 30 minutes from Walden Pond..... but to be honest... I had no idea it was called a "kettle lake". I have been enlightened! ~blessed~

ryanhx64 on July 17, 2012:

Never heard about kettle lakes before, interesting.

Deadicated LM on July 17, 2012:

Not yet, this was a timely and interesting Lens for me; I've been studying the aftermath of the glacier that formed New York as part of my Tour Guide studies. Thanks for the info.

wedpittsburgh lm on July 17, 2012:

Wow, I've never even heard of such a thing, but this was very informative and very interesting! Thanks!

ninalivre on July 17, 2012:

Nice to know about kettle lakes and got the opportunity to see on your lens.

pheonix76 from WNY on July 17, 2012:

Walden remains one of my favorite books. Yes, I have visited a kettle lake right here in NYS. Glacial features have shaped the landscape tremendously, thanks for sharing.

Michey LM on July 17, 2012:

Very interesting phenomenon indeed. Thanks for sharing. Also love your pictures.

Angel Blessings!

leonasharon on July 17, 2012:

I have not, but thanks to you to tell us so much about such beautiful nature's creation.

Laraine Sims from Lake Country, B.C. on July 16, 2012:

When we fly over the Rock Mtns. we see some kettle lakes. I'm not sure of their names though. Excellent educational lens! Angel blessings**

davecurrtis on July 16, 2012:

Kettle lakes are indeed interesting, great post!

SheilaMilne from Kent, UK on July 16, 2012:

Not that I know of, but maybe. :)

John Tannahill from Somewhere in England on July 16, 2012:

I thought Glaslyn in Snowdonia, Wales was a kettle lake, but I'm not sure - if so, yes.

Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on July 15, 2012:

Very interesting. I instantly thought of Convict Lake in California. I know a glacier existed in the area, but do not know if Convict qualifies as a kettle.

puppyprints on July 10, 2012:

these kettle lakes look cool - had never heard of them before

LisaDH on July 09, 2012:

Very informative. After reading this, I've learned a new term and now am curious to find out if Mirror Lake in Yosemite National Park is a kettle lake.

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on July 09, 2012:

I had never heard of a kettle lake. I bet they're gorgeous in person! Your photos are great!

Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 09, 2012:

Wow, I never knew Walden Pond was a kettle lake. And that photo of the kettle lake in your intro is gorgeous!

AngryBaker on July 09, 2012:

Thanks for teaching me about Kettle Lakes... This info is totally new to me.

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