A lovely ancient Juniper tree overlooks the waters at Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park. (Roseanne Van Ee photo)

Kal Lake Provincial Park a gem

North Okanagan lucky to have this beauty in its backyard, but how did the area get so lucky?

We’re so lucky to have Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park, a sentiment so often echoed by locals.

But how were we so fortunate to get this?

Dedicated residents and local naturalists fought hard to preserve and protect one of the last remaining native bunchgrass ecosystems in the Okanagan for its natural beauty, wildlife and future generations to experience and enjoy.

Park visitors enter a rare landscape preserved as a living museum of the region. One steps back over 100 years in time.

For thousands of years this area was part of the Okanagan First Nations territory.

They called the lake Chelootsoos meaning long lake cut in the middle (the middle, Oyama’s isthmus, was formed from an ancient beaver dam that separated Kalamalka and Wood lakes).

Eventually, between the 1870s to 1890s, a few British settlers pre-empted and developed this land with residences, grain, a grist mill, small orchard, livestock, corrals and farm buildings. They called the lake Long Lake.

In 1891, Lord and Lady Aberdeen bought 13,261 acres on the lake’s northeast corner to develop the Coldstream Ranch with eventually 2,000 head of cattle, 70 horses and a mostly apple orchard.

In 1923, Long Lake was renamed Kalamalka Lake. It’s unsure if the lake was named after an Okanagan chief or is Hawaiian. The western far reaches of Coldstream Ranch were used as a Second World War commando training area.

By the early 1970s, Marathon Realty, a subsidiary of CPR, proposed buying 1,500 acres in the Cosen’s Bay area from the Coldstream Ranch for development of a posh resort and golf course.

This was almost approved, but lifelong resident and Coldstream councillor Dennis Seymour knew the value of preserving this precious natural habitat. He alerted the North Okanagan Naturalist Club.

NONC advocated for the Kalamalka Lake end of Coldstream Ranch to be maintained as a park. They spearheaded a petition to declare it as a park with publicly accessible land.

Support was overwhelming and there was no significant opposition. So Seymour and MLA Pat Jordan went to Victoria with the petition to lobby the government to have the land protected.

In 1975, the B.C. government, with strong financial support from the Nature Conservancy Fund and others, purchased 2,459 acres.

A local public advisory committee helped plan the park’s development in 1980s with the Jade and Juniper Beach parking lot, trails and beach to safely allow access with minimal impact on this rare grassland wilderness. A further 5,493 acres of protected area was added in 2008.

It’s believed that Cosen’s Bay, Twin Bays and Juniper Beach, with its cliffs, beaches and attractive bays, together comprise some of the most beautiful freshwater shoreline in B.C.

This is a favourite bird watching area with at least 130 species. Meadowlarks, Western and Mountain Bluebirds and other endangered wildlife inhabit the park.

Walkers and joggers on the trails don’t really disturb the natural ecology. A few hiking trails and the existing gravel roadway should be enough to let people experience and enjoy this special park without wrecking it. Why over develop this precious wilderness?

It’s a wonderful place to visit. But, dogs off leash spread havoc. They can spread destructive, noxious weed seeds, frighten and sometimes kill wildlife.

Make sure you read the interpretive signs at the parking lots and at Juniper Beach. They’re really interesting.

When you’re at a viewpoint, stop and look towards Vernon, then look around and think about how lucky we are to have this park.

Some great resources to learn more about Kalamalka Lake:

• A Guide to the Natural History of Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park-1986. It lists the park’s wildflowers and their bloom times and has drawings and information on its wildlife.

• Friends of Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park have a wonderful brochure kalamalkapark.ca

• BC Parks website at env.gov.bc.ca

Roseanne 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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