Girl playing in water

Beneath the Surface: Why is Lake Windermere so windy?

There’s a reason for its name: Lake “Windermere” translates roughly to “windy lake”.

If you’ve spent much time on Lake Windermere, you’ve probably been caught once or twice underdressed and revising your plans when unexpected winds shifted the surface from calm to choppy, sending shivers down your arms. There’s a reason for its name: Lake “Windermere” translates roughly to “windy lake”.

So why does it get so windy on the lake? The relatively shallow depth of Lake Windermere (on average 3.4 metres), together with the shape of the Rocky Mountain trench, produce a wind tunnel effect prone to strong winds and rapid wave buildup.

As boating season begins, remember to check weather conditions and be prepared for unexpected changes. Paddle boarders are smart to keep a lifejacket clipped on and a leash attached to the ankle at all times to avoid losing your board along with your balance!

Test your Lake IQ:

Lake Windermere is 18 kilometres long. It is a windy day, and waves on the lake are moving northward at 18 km/hr. How long will it take a drop of water in a wave crest at the south end of the Lake to reach the north end?


Days, perhaps even weeks. Water does not move with the waves. The drop of water in question will simply move up and down in an elliptical motion.

This tricky question was submitted to us by Bill Thompson, retired hydrologist and steering committee member of Columbia Lake Stewardship Society. Thanks Bill for keeping us sharp!

Beneath The Surface is based on the principle that there is often more to know than what is visible from the “surface” of an issue. For more information, call Lake Windermere Ambassadors program co-ordinator Megan Peloso at 250-341-6898 or email

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