Quirky Attractions in the Kootenays
Unique, historic, and cultural gems to visit.
Osoyoos is known for its warm summers, gorgeous lakes, unique desert wildlife and great outdoor activities. It’s home to the Nk’Mip Desert, Canada’s only true desert environment, and the unique natural formation of Spotted Lake – a huge draw for visitors to the area. This mineral lake is located along Highway 3, northwest of Osoyoos in the Eastern Similkameen Valley.
Spotted Lake is a small lake rich in a variety of minerals, including calcium, sodium sulphates and magnesium sulphate. During the hot summer months, much of the water in the lake evaporates, leaving concentrations of these minerals that form the spots visible in the lake. Throughout the summer, the spots shift in size and colour as the minerals within each change with further evaporation. Colours ranging from blue to green to yellow appear, depending on the mineral makeup of each individual spot.
Spotted Lake is known to the First Nations People of the Osoyoos area as Kliluk, and it is a sacred site that has been considered a revered place of healing for centuries. The belief is that each of the different circles holds its own unique medicinal and healing properties. The land surrounding the lake was privately owned for 40 years, but in 2001 the federal government acquired it for the benefit and uses of the Okanagan Nation. This ensures that this historically important land can be protected from development, so that future generations of the Okanagan Nation will continue to benefit, as did their ancestors. It also ensures that future visitors will still be able to view this incredible natural phenomenon. If you are interested in learning more about the Okanagan First Nation, The Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre is a great place to explore and learn more about their rich cultural history.
During World War I, minerals from the lake were used to create ammunition. The minerals were harvested or mined by Chinese labourers, who drew up to one ton of salt from the surface of the lake each day. It is said that prior to the pillaging of these minerals, the lake displayed an even greater variety of colours and an even greater artistic beauty. The salt extracted from the lake was shipped to eastern Canadian munitions factories.
Spotted Lake is located in the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area. To reach the lake, follow Highway 3 west out of Osoyoos for 10 km (6 mi). The lake itself is on private property, but the view and photo opportunities from the highway are excellent. Be aware of traffic if you plan to stop along the highway.
It’s no wonder that this unique and beautiful area is at the top of visitors’ must-do lists on a visit to Osoyoos. It really must be seen to be fully appreciated. For more information about Spotted Lake, or to find out about other great places to visit in Osoyoos, stop by the British Columbia Visitor Centre @ Osoyoos.
Things To Do
BC offers a wide variety of nature trails for people of all mobility levels. Here are 10 hiking trails to explore when accessibility is a consideration.
Adventure & Outdoors
Want a unique experience? Here are 10 Indigenous experiences to consider for a getaway.