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Pottle Lake

We are soon to be known as Pottle Lake Optometry

Pottle Lake Optometry

A brief history of the area indicates Captain James Pottle, born in Bonavista Newfoundland about 1779, came to Cape Breton in 1808 and later became a harbour pilot after years in the coastal trade. In 1813, he married Charlotte Allen. Pottle’s Lake, from which the town gets its water supply, was first called Saw Mill Lake because of a sawmill which was there in the 1790’s.

In 1835, Captain Pottle received a 172-acre crown grant of land at the southeastern part of the lake that soon bore his name. Entirely spring-fed, the lake’s water is so free of minerals that the Western Union employees were able to use it, instead of distilled water, in the plant’s batteries, when the company operated here.

Today, it not only supplies the town of North Sydney with water, but Sydney Mines, Florence and outlying areas as far as Alder Point.

Pottle’s Lake has even been the inspiration for a book of poetry “Local Poems, The Shores of Pottle Lake by Harry A. Archibald”. An excerpt includes a reference to our locally famous Allen’s Ice Company which supplied ice to the fishing industry;

“…we stopped to view the scenery at the foot of Pottle’s Lake…The structures you espy, are Charlie Allen’s gold mines against the evening sky and here he made a million and plenty more to make, selling frozen water from the shores of Pottle’s Lake”.

Pottle Lake Optometry


In 1701, James Pottle left England and arrived in Trinity Newfoundland. Over the years, Pottle’s have inhabited the communities of Harbour Grace, Trinity and Bonavista. It was from Bonavista, his descendent, also named James Pottle, arrived in Cape Breton. Captain James Pottle, born about 1779, came to Cape Breton in 1808. He later became a harbour pilot after years in the coastal trade as Captain.

In 1813, he married Charlotte Allen, daughter of Jeremiah Allen. In 1835, he obtained a 172 acre Crown grant at Saw Mill Lake. Around this time, the lake then became known as Pottle’s Lake.

On the upper side of Jackson’s Lake, along which the 125 Highway runs, David Jackson built a sawmill. With his own lumber, he and his son Samuel built the ship-Industry. This ship was 24 tons, about forty feet long with a single deck and two masts. For several years, this was the ship commanded by Captain James Pottle.

A branch of the family was also present on Cornishtown Rd in Sydney. These were the most recent relatives of the current North Sydney optometrist, Dr. James Thomas Pottle.


This lake has great ecological importance. Pottle’s lake is spring fed and so free of minerals that the Western Union employees were able to use it instead of distilled water for the plant’s batteries when the company operated here.

Today, Pottle’s Lake - a protected watershed area - supplies water to over 19,000 residents in the area. Recognized for its water quality, it is one of the most important lakes in Nova Scotia as well as Canada. It is a habitat for two species of mussels. One of these species is actually endangered. These mussels filter the lake twice daily. For more information see the following.

Did you know...
Pottle Lake is a Provincially Protected Water Area.

Pottle Lake is the drinking water source for urban areas on the Northside, including North Sydney, Sydney Mines, Alder Point, Balls Creek, Bras d'Or, Florence, Georges River, Leitches Creek, Little Pond, Mill Creek and Point Aconi.

Water has been drawn from Pottle Lake for over a century. On average, more than 9 million litres of water are pumped through the treatment plant each day, serving 18,900 residents!

Fresh water mussels that inhabit the lake act as natural filters, cleaning the raw lake water. It is estimated that 5.5 million Yellow Lampmussels live in Pottle Lake, and these amazing organisms filter between 66 and 132 million litres of lake water each day!

Species at Risk

Yellow Lampmussels

Yellow Lampmussel
(Lampsilis cariosa)

A species at risk is a plant or animal that is listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), on scale of concern for the stability of a population.

Yellow Lampmussels are designated as a species of special concern under SARA, being very sensitive to changes in their habitat and requiring a healthy population of white perch to complete their lifecycle.

Pottle Lake is one of the few ecosystems in Canada to host the rare species!

Source: ACAP Cape Breton

Cultural Significance

Pottle’s Lake was featured in local brochures, postcards, local newspaper articles and even a book of poetry - Local Poems/ The Shores of Pottle’s Lake and Others by Harry A. Archibald.

Cultural Significance