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What Are Kettle Lakes?

Updated on January 30, 2017
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Learn all about the geographical mystery behind kettle lakes.

On our constantly changing earth, there are phenomena which 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 crenelated lakes called kettle lakes. In this picture, 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 run off forever and I expect one day it will simply dry up.

Picture by Peter Broster

Have you ever visited a kettle lake?

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Kettle Lakes: Definition

Discover what a kettle lake is and how it forms

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, 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.

By Radiowallah

Famous Kettle Lakes in North America

Journey from Walden Pond to Puslinch Lake to Wonder Lake

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 holiday makers.

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 skiiers.

Wonder Lake, Dinali

Wonder Lake is a famous kettle lake located in Dinali 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.

Physical Geography Books Sold Through Amazon

These books are well researched tomes ideal for a Geography student or anyone who wants to learn more about the Physical Geography of our unique planet. Kettle lakes are just one product of Glacial scenery, it is a fascinating subject and brings with it world that except for the high mountain ranges of the Alps or Rockies, largely disappeared.

Beyond Walden: The Hidden History of America's Kettle Lakes and Ponds - The best book about kettle lakes in America.

Beyond Walden: The Hidden History of America's Kettle Lakes and Ponds
Beyond Walden: The Hidden History of America's Kettle Lakes and Ponds
A fascinating book written by professor Robert M. Thorson about his journey around 19 different kettle lakes in America. Each kettle lake the author visits has a story to tell, and the author does a marvellous job of translating their stories into a language we can understand. He covers topics as wide as the beauty and cultural significance of the lakes, to how we can strive to preserve them. If you are interested, his blog can also be found above in the 'Links' section of this page.

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 its 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.
  3. By Nick Bonzey from Corvallis, OR (Kettle Lakes) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Cast your vote for How To Recreate Your Own Kettle Lake

Kettle Lakes in Winter on YouTube - See six different kettle lakes during the winter months.

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 Now its time to find one of your own. There are only two confirmed in England and six in Scotland. However there are many in Canada, USA, Siberia, 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

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

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      It's a cool place to bring my children.

    • gnd5969 profile image


      7 years ago

      No, but definitely looks interesting.

    • takkhisa profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • ismeedee profile image


      7 years ago

      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!

    • tvyps profile image

      Teri Villars 

      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

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

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      No but I like your lens.

    • steph-naylor profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a pretty cool lens!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This was very informative and very interesting! Thanks!

    • manutara69 profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice lens. Thanks for the info.

    • Melissa Miotke profile image

      Melissa Miotke 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      I have in WI. Great lens:)

    • Larry50 LM profile image

      Larry50 LM 

      7 years ago

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

    • profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • nozzmoking profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • ae dc profile image

      ae dc 

      7 years ago

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

    • sweetstickyrainbo profile image


      7 years ago

      love the scenery

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      7 years ago from New Zealand

      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.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      7 years ago from Hollister, MO

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

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image


      7 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      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 Stone1 profile image

      David Stone 

      7 years ago from New York City

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

    • TheMinuteIdea LM profile image

      TheMinuteIdea LM 

      7 years ago

      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 :)

    • squidoopets profile image

      Darcie French 

      7 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

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

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Natural Places..Lovely

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Such a lovely place, I love lakes.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Yes, we actually camped near one in northern Ontario.

    • BowWowBear profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      7 years ago from Southampton, UK

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

    • ITCoach LM profile image

      ITCoach LM 

      7 years ago

      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

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      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~

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Never heard about kettle lakes before, interesting.

    • profile image

      Deadicated LM 

      7 years ago

      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 profile image

      wedpittsburgh lm 

      7 years ago

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

    • profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • pheonix76 profile image


      7 years ago from WNY

      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 profile image

      Michey LM 

      7 years ago

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

      Angel Blessings!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 

      7 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      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**

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Kettle lakes are indeed interesting, great post!

    • SheilaMilne profile image


      7 years ago from Kent, UK

      Not that I know of, but maybe. :)

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 

      7 years ago from Somewhere in England

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

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      7 years ago from La Verne, CA

      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 profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • LisaDH profile image


      7 years ago

      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.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      7 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

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

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 

      7 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

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

    • profile image


      7 years ago

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


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