A lovely jade colour day on Kalamalka Lake. (Dale Dunlop photo)

Get Outdoors! Our lake of many colours

Take a look at what’s behind Kalamalka Lake’s colours

Roseanne Van Ee

Get Outdoors!

Kalamalka Lake is very special; it’s one of the few large marl lakes in the world. Marl lakes have high concentrations of dissolved minerals like calcium carbonate with little plankton and vegetation creating aesthetically attractive clear water with sandy or rocky bottoms.

Magic crystals (wink, wink), the calcium carbonate crystals from limestone, float up to the summer’s warm surface water acting like prisms refracting sunlight, thus giving “the lake of many colours” its vivid aquamarine, turquoise, azure, cyan, sapphire and jade tropical colours in summer that change daily. It’s a lovely indigo and emerald In winter.

Kalamalka Lake Is 16 kilometres by three km with a surface elevation of 392 metres. The average depth of the lake is 58.5m (192’) and the maximum depth is 142m (466’). Kalamalka Lake has two overland inflows; Coldstream Creek carries 80 per cent of the overland flow and from Wood Lake via Oyama canal. However, underground springs are likely a large but unknown component. Coldstream Creek strongly impacts the entire north arm during runoff and storms and has significant agricultural activity and streamside development along it. One outflow —Vernon Creek — flows from Kalamalka Lake through Polson Park and into Okanagan Lake. The flushing rate (turnover of water) for Kalamalka Lake is 55-65 years.

Historically, the Okanagan Indians called the lake “Chelootsoos” meaning “long lake cut in the middle”. This refers to the Oyama isthmus between Wood and Kalamalka Lakes. Legend had it that the narrow isthmus was created from an ancient overgrown beaver dam. In 1965, workers digging a six foot deep trench for a water pipe came across great masses of beaver-cut sticks which proved the “legend” was true. New settlers called the lake “Long Lake”. More recently it became known as Kalamalka Lake, possibly after an old Indian chief or some Hawaiian ancestry.

The lake has Kokanee, Rainbow Trout, Lake Trout, Yellow Perch, Northern Pikeminnow, Pumpkinseed, Redside Shiner, Lake Whitefish, Peamouth Chub, Largescale Sucker and Cutthroat Trout. Historically, the lake was stocked with Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Steelhead and Kokanee, but lake stocking was stopped in 1978. Some pebbly beaches are used by shore spawning Kokanee in October wherever the gravel provides protection for eggs and newly hatched fry.

I always thought it was cool to find Western Crayfish hiding under rocks in shallow bays. They look like miniature lobsters. And Freshwater Shrimp give trout pink-coloured flesh. There used to be lots of native freshwater mussels that gulls would drop on rocks to crack open. Osprey and Bald Eagles catch fish. And Kalamalka Lake provides habitat for a variety of ducks, grebes, loons, mergansers and Canada Geese.

The lake has two provincial parks, Kalamalka Lake and Kekuli Bay Provincial Parks and several beaches along its shores. Rattlesnake Point (a.k.a. Turtle’s Head) projects scenically into Kalamalka Lake. People enjoy the lake for swimming, paddling, boating, fishing and water skiing. Surrounding land uses include residential, agricultural, a major highway, beaches, campgrounds and parklands, and until recently a railway — now a world-class hiking and cycling trail. And it’s a primary source of drinking water for Greater Vernon and Lake Country.

Our uses and activities within the watershed can have a severe impact on the lake.

Please respect and enjoy this lake carefully!

Check out – The Society for the Protection of Kalamalka Lake (SPrKL) www.spkl.ca

KEEP KAL LAKE BLUE!

Roseanne Van Ee enthusiastically shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Discover exciting and adventurous natural events, best trails, and wild places. Follow her on Facebook for more.

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