This Is the Real Difference between a Pond and a Lake

We don't have time to get into creeks today.

lakeCreaturart Images

Whenever the lake would freeze over, every kid in the community would make sure their skates were sharpened, their sticks were taped, and their garbage can nets were freshly repaired. Winter is the only season that converts a geographical feature into a playing surface. Winter turns bodies of water across the world into hockey rinks, prime locations for pond hockey.

But pond hockey doesn’t necessitate a pond. It can be played on any thoroughly frozen-over body of water, be it a lake, river, or bay. But if one were to strictly play the winter sport on its namesake surface, what would define the parameters of a pond versus a lake? (Tangent: What exactly is the difference between bread flour and all-purpose flour?)

Well, it’s a bit complicated. Technically speaking, there is no official distinction between a lake and a pond; one may think that a pond tends to be smaller and a lake tends to be bigger, but a simple glance at Maine’s Great Pond (46-mile perimeter) can easily dispel any notion of uniformity. 

But when you ask people that study fresh water for a living, there is a distinction—most people just didn’t follow the rules when doing their body of water naming. Many limnologists (scientists who study freshwater) define a pond as a body of water which is shallow enough to allow rooted plants to grow throughout it. Sunlight needs to be able to shine through to the bottom to allow this to happen, and ponds tend to allow this process to take place. Lakes are usually far too deep. has three key questions that might help you in figuring out what body of water you’re looking at:

  • Does light reach the bottom of the deepest point of the water body?
  • Does the water body only get small waves (i.e., smaller than 1ft/30cm in height)?
  • Is the water body relatively uniform in temperature?”

If the answer to all three of these questions is a yes, the site claims that you have yourself a pond and not a lake.  Now, all you need to do is figure out the difference between jam and jelly and you can finally get some sleep at night.

[Source: Mental Floss]