North America > Canada

Okanagan Lake, Canada

lakeOkanagan Lake
countryCanada
surface area349 km2
maximum depth232 m
average depth108 m
lake typeFjord lake
length135 km
width5 km
catchment area5,964 km2
altitude342 m
volume38 km3
inflowsNumerous Creeks
outflowsOkanagan River
islandsRattlesnake Island, Grant Island
shore length281 km
mixing typeMonomictic
settlementsVernon, Lake Country, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Penticton
residence time13,261 days
frozenJanuary and February
trophic stateOligotrophic
average discharge33 m3 / sec.

Okanagan Lake Information and Facts

Okanagan Lake is a 135-km long and a 5-kilometer wide lake in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada. It is a relatively deep lake, with an average depth of 76 m and a maximum depth of 232 m near Grant Island (also known as Whiskey Island or Seagull Island by locals).

Geography and Ecology

The lake is neighbored by Okanagan Provincial Park, which is mainly covered by ponderosa pine and sagebrush. Gopher snakes, Columbian ground squirrels, Western toads, Cedar waxwings, quails, Northern shafted flickers, Western meadowlarks and hummingbirds are the most frequently encountered animals in the wilderness of the lakeshore.

Okanagan Lake is bordered by the cities of Vernon on the North, Penticton on the South, and Kelowna, as well as the municipalities of Lake Country, West Kelowna, Peachland and Summerland. There’s a five-lane bridge connecting Kelowna to Western Kelowna and Westbank called the William R Bennett Bridge, which replaced an old three-lane bridge, which had a lift span to let large boats to pass. Besides Grant Island, the lake is also home to Rattlesnake Island, located farther south by Squally Point, a popular cliff-diving area.

The lake is also abundant in terraces, which formed because of a periodic lowering of the lake’s ancestor, Lake Penticton.  These terraces are used today for agricultural purposes such as fruit cultivation (especially grapevines).

Hydrology

Okanagan Lake is made up of three main basins: a larger one on the north, a mid-sized basin in the center and a smaller southern basin. Its main outflow is the Okangan River, which exits the lake on the south through a canal, passing the city of Penticton. The river flows to Skaha Lake, from where it continues its journey towards the south, into the rest of the South Okanagan, thence through Okanogan County of Washington, joining the Columbia River.

In particular areas of the lake up to 750 meters of glacial and post-glacial sediments can be found, which were supposedly deposited during the Pleistocene. The average water temperature in July is between 19 and 23 degrees Celsius.

Leisure and Recreation

The most important and widely practiced activity at Okanagan Lake is fishing. Rainbow trout, kokanee, Lake Whitefish and burbot are the species that mostly govern the lake’s waters. The best ways to catch fish is either through trolling or bait fishing from the shore. The introduction of the Mysis shrimp to the lake has had a negative effect on the kokanee population, since they compete over their food, which mainly consists of zooplankton.

All kinds of boating activities are permitted, and very beloved, on Okanagan Lake, such as sail boating, ski boating, pedal boating, charter boating, canoeing or kayaking. Waterskiing is one of the most popular water sports activities. Sunbathing and swimming on one of the more than 30 beaches of the lake are also practiced.

Golf courses (Black Mountain Golf Course), wineries (Arrowleaf Cellars), casinos (Lake City Casino), breweries (The Brewering Beer Institute), distilleries and cideries all offer great leisure opportunities.

Hiking is best at the Big White Mountain, Cedar Mountain Park and Canyon Falls Park. Biking is also permitted on some of these trails. The prime areas for bird watching are the Rotary Marsh Bird Sanctuary and the Chichester Bird Sanctuary.

In Kelowna you can participate in Garden Tours at the Guisachan Heritage Park, or go hiking at the beautiful Myra Canyon. Cross-country skiing is the most frequented winter sport.

Okanagan Lake Fish Species

Rainbow trout
Kokanee
Lake whitefish
Burbot
Pike minnow
Carp
Salmon
Cod
Trout
Kokanee salmon
Whitefish