As a child living in Northern British Columbia, I would marvel at the scenery and feel of the Okanagan Valley whenever my parents would take me there on vacation. To me it was the ultimate getaway and piece of paradise on earth. Little did I know that I would one day find myself not only living there but raising a family with my beautiful wife. Here are some of the fascinating things I have found about this extraordinary lake....
|Waves at Kin Beach/ PC Joe Harder|
It is approximately 135 km long with a surface area of 361 kilometres squared. Its maximum width is 6.4 km and its maximum depth is 242 metres. (Source: B.C. Place Names, Tourism Vernon). It is the largest lake in the Okanogan (American spelling) River drainage system which ultimately flows into the Columbia River and is also the 8th largest lake that is entirely within B.C. The lake is home to only two islands: tiny Grant Island to the north (also where the deepest point of the lake is) and Rattlesnake Island to the South.
|An arm of Okanagan from Adventure Bay/ PC Joe Harder|
As for the meaning behind the name B.C. Place Names recounts: “One of the more likely explanations is that the name comes from "kana" meaning "the place of," and "gan" meaning "water" or "lake". The Okanagan Indian band website however says that Okanagan is the “Anglicized version of Suqnaqinx and refers to the Indigenous people of the Okanagan territory, it translates as ―takes to the head or mind.” No matter how you spell it though (or translate it) the name Okanagan has become synonymous with beauty and tranquility.
The Okanagan Indian Band is also referred to as Inkumupulux or Head of the Lake – “ Inkumupulux is both a name for the people and where we live ( OIB website).” Of note among the Okanagan People was a chief named Hwistesmetxe'qen meaning Walking Grizzly Bear (1780/1785 – 1865). He would later be called Nicolas or Nicola by the fur traders and thus lent his name to many geographical features including the Nicola Valley.
sustainability and a good topic to express our connection to the land (Source: WFN )." Over the years, the Ogopogo has morphed into a rather happy but mysterious creature that supposedly inhabits the waters of Okanagan Lake. In 1926 a sighting of the Ogopogo was reported by over 30 cars full of people on Okanagan Mission Beach in Kelowna.
The name Ogopogo was actually coined that same year by the Kalamalka Players - an organization of local amateur performers. The Okanagan Historical Society reports (Vol 4:28): “A luncheon for the Vancouver Board of Trade was given at the Kalamalka Hotel by the Vernon Rotary Club and the Vernon Board of Trade. L. M. Richardson of Vernon, presided, and the writer was asked to sing. As it had been well received on the former occasion, he decided to sing the Ogopogo song again. At the time there was considerable talk about the mysterious creature in Okanagan Lake and…. the name and tune caught on, and the guests left the Kalamalka Hotel to spread the fame of Ogopogo far and wide.
|SS Sicamous at Okanagan Landing/ PC sssicamous.ca|
The first bridge to span Okanagan Lake was built in 1958 to connect Kelowna to Westbank (West Kelowna). This bridge was later replaced in 2008 by the current 5 lane William R. Bennett Bridge which sees significant traffic year round. Before the bridges, ferries like the MV Pendozi and Fintry Queen would carry freight and people across this point. The average temperature of the lake in July is 19-23 degrees C / 69-71 degrees F however, as hard as it is to believe now, the lake used to freeze. In fact in 1949-50 the lake frozen virtually from end to end.
|City of Kelowna/ PC Wikipedia|
There is almost every conceivable type of water activity on the lake, as well as camping, hiking, biking and world class wineries and resorts around the lake. With good reason, Okanagan Lake and its Valley have become a favourite destination amongst British Columbians, Canadians and people the world over.