Osoyoos is located at the southern end of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, butting up against the US border.
I recognize that, given its population of only 4,845 people, it is quite possible that you haven’t even heard of Osoyoos, British Columbia. However, its town motto is “Canada’s Warmest Welcome”, which is clever because it suggests that it is home to some of the warmest average temperatures in Canada (which it is) and that it claims to have the best customer service in Canada (which it doesn’t, but which is okay nevertheless).
Osoyoos Lake is divided into northern and southern portions, divided by what the Okanagan First Nations people called S’oo-yoos, which means The Narrows. Here, a dam of sticks called a weir was used to catch salmon running north through the lake. The Dewdney Trail came through The Narrows, and between 1864 and 1880, seven bridges were built here to connect the settlements of southern British Columbia.
After repairing the bridge in 1880, pioneer Theodore Kruger charged a toll of $1.25 per person on a horse and 75 cents per head of livestock. Twenty-three years later, the bridge collapsed under the weight of a herd of cattle and wasn’t rebuilt to its current concrete and steel structure until 1951. The ease with which I can walk or drive over the bridge makes me grateful, considering the challenges faced by early settlers trying to cross this span of water.
Above the town to the west on Highway 3 lies Spotted Lake, a mineral-rich body of water known to the First Nations as Kliluk. The Okanagan Syilx people consider this to be a sacred lake, known for its therapeutic waters. Because it is a culturally and ecologically sensitive area, visitors can only view the lake from the roadway. The view and peacefulness of the area make it worth the visit anyway.
Here are some other things you might not know about Osoyoos (which are also good reasons to visit):
• It is home to Osoyoos Lake, the warmest freshwater lake in Canada
• It is home to Canada’s only desert environment
• Nk’Mip Cellars, the first aboriginal owned and operated winery, is in Osoyoos
• It is only 227 meters above sea level, despite being well inland
• The average summertime temperature is 28 C (82.4 F) – wear sunscreen
• The bird-watching opportunities in this area are fabulous – really
And, as the visitors guide states, “Osoyoos does have it all – golf, spas, beaches, wineries, orchards, culinary delights, mountains, wildlife watching, First Nations culture and eco-desert experiences.”
Happy visiting! Enjoy the photos.