If you enjoy fishing, hiking, canoeing, or simply getting out and exploring nature, you’ve probably encountered both ponds and lakes.
Most people take the differences between ponds and lakes for granted, as the name of the body of water often tells you what it is.
However, there are some key differences between lakes and ponds that help to determine, more accurately, which is which.
What’s the difference between a lake and a pond?
Although it may seem that there should be some definitive difference between lakes and ponds, the definitions of these two bodies of water are quite loose.
What constitutes a lake in some areas, such as across different states, regions, or countries, won’t mean the same thing in other areas.
Whether a body of water is a lake or a pond is often up to the people who live near it or the person who named it.
There are a few things, though, that can help you get a better idea of the difference between lakes and ponds, including size, depth, and what the area is like.
How big is a pond?
In general, a pond is any body of water that is less than 200 acres in size. Ponds are also usually between 4 and 20 feet deep.
However, some regions, countries, or individuals regard ponds to be anything less than 5 acres in size.
The Environmental Protection Agency regards any body of water under 10 acres to be a pond.
How big is a lake?
Lakes are larger than ponds, and they must usually have a minimum surface size of 10 acres.
Other people or regions regard lakes as anything larger than 200 acres.
Early explorers mapped out lakes and ponds in hectares, but even then, how big a lake should be was a matter of dispute.
Some people thought lakes needed to be larger than 8 hectares, or 20 acres, while others thought lakes should be at least 40 hectares or about 99 acres or more in size.
How big a body of water has to be before it’s considered a lake truly varies depending on where the lake is located.
Areas that have many bodies of water tend to label only the largest as lakes, with any medium or small-sized bodies of water labeled as ponds.
Areas without as many ponds and lakes, on the other hand, tend to label medium to large bodies of water as lakes, with only the smallest in surface area labeled as ponds.
Lakes are generally between 20 and 4,000 feet deep.
What constitutes a pond?
Depth has a lot to do with makes a pond a pond.
As mentioned above, ponds are usually shallower than lakes.
The physical depth is important, but the changes that this causes in the ecosystem of the body of water also help to define ponds.
For example, aquatic plants can root in the bed of a pond and grow upward, reaching towards the sun and receiving nutrients in order to photosynthesize.
In lakes, the water is too deep for plants to root and still receive nutrients from the sun.
This means that, if a body of water has rooted plants growing through it, it’s often considered to be a pond.
If there are no rooted plants, the body of water is most likely a lake.
Many people consider ponds to be any body of water that is completely enclosed, with no outlet to rivers or other larger bodies of water.
Still other people call any man-made body of water a pond and refer to lakes as any naturally occurring body of water.
Other people refer to man-made bodies of water as reservoirs and use a different definition for ponds and lakes.
What constitutes a lake?
We know that lakes are usually larger in surface area than ponds, but this isn’t always the case. Other factors, however, help to determine what a lake is.
Depth also plays an important role in defining lakes.
Lakes don’t usually have rooted plants, as they’re too deep, but depth also causes other changes to the water.
During the warmer months, lakes stratify. This means that the water in the lake will be warmer at the top, with several layers, each with a different, cooler temperature, descending deeper into the lake.
This stratification can only happen in deep bodies of water, where the lower water is so deep that it can still remain cool or even cold.
Any body of water that experiences temperature stratification is almost always regarded as a lake and not a pond.
Stratification of water only occurs when the water is at least 9.5 feet deep.
Many people also feel that, in order to be classified as a lake, a body of water must have an open outlet that connects to a river or another body of water.