Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Visit to the Okanagan Valley of B.C.

Right: Okanagan Lake
Left: Coquihalla Pass
Centre: Merrit Valley
Just got back from a week in British Columbia’s hot spot—the Okanagan Valley (pronounced Ohk-a-NAH-gan). The Okanagan is the closest thing Canada has to a desert. It is actually a part of the great desert basin that extends north from Mexico and the United States. Near the south Okanagan city of Osooyos, there is a portion set aside as a desert refuge complete with tumbleweed and rattlesnakes.

So the Okanagan is very warm and very arid and, unfortunately, subject to summer wildfires when the forests are tinder dry. Three separate fires started the day after we left (looks suspicious I know but neither of us smoke). Happily, they are now under control and there were only about 9 houses lost although 15,000 people were evacuated for safety reasons.

Hot and dry as the climate is, with the help of irrigation the whole valley has been turned into a delightful region of vineyards and orchards. And with a chain of lakes stretching from the city of Vernon in the north to the U.S. border and beyond, it is a summer holiday paradise.

There’s an easy way to get to B.C.’s interior and that’s over Highway 3 which, even though it climbs to over 4,000 ft. at the Coquihalla Pass, is a four lane highway with speed limits over 100 kms. per hour. This extends all the way from our Fraser Valley to Kamloops or Kelowna making the trip an easy four hour drive. It’s scenic but not as exciting as the Trans Canada highway route that takes you through the Fraser Canyon and the tourist spot known as Hell’s Gate. We’ll visit Hell’s Gate next month but for the next couple of weeks come with me as we visit to the fabulous Okanagan Valley.

Perhaps the thing that long, narrow Okanagan Lake is most famous for is the prehistoric monster that people believe live there, named Ogopogo. There are records of sightings of this serpent-like creature even before the white man came to settle. Have to admit I've never seen him but here's a link to a little more information in case you do get to visit this unique area. If you happen to get a picture of your particular sighting it's worth some money, so make sure you try.

Next week: we visit Vernon at the head of Okanagan Lake

No comments:

Post a Comment