Kalamalka park

Kalamalka Lake park

The series on the best Okanagan trails continues with Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park, the best public park in the North Okanagan for those who want to escape the urban centre of Vernon or who want a fine example of grassland at the north end of the valley.

Like Black Mountain/Sntsk’il’nten Regional Park east of Kelowna, a grassland ecosystem means relatively few ponderosa pine and groves of Douglas fir don’t get in the way of beautiful panoramas of Kalamalka Lake, undoubtedly the most beautiful lake in the Southern Interior.

Does anyone remember mood rings created in 1975 by two New York inventors, Josh Reynolds and Maris Ambats?

They bonded liquid crystals with quartz stones set into rings with the stone supposedly changing colours to match your mood. In reality, the crystals are sensitive to temperature. There are seven colours: for example, blue is supposed to mean happy; reddish brown means insecure; black means the wearer is upset; and golden yellow is a sign of tension.

However, unlike Kalamalka Lake, those crystals have a time limit of two years before turning black.

Kalamalka Lake has limestone deposits or calcium carbonate left by receding glaciers.

With warm temperatures, this dissolved calcite (CaCO3) precipitates forming crystals that reflect sunlight, and create its distinctive blue and green colours, says BC Parks. When the lake cools, the crystals disappear taking the green colour with it, making it one of only a handful of unique bodies of water in Canada known as “marl lakes.”

As a result, it has deservedly earned the nickname of Lake of Many Colours, ranging from deep blue to cyan to indigo to turquoise to bright emerald green.

When the Sheriff and Constant Companion Carmen kayak near the shore approaching Cosens Bay, the lime green makes it feel like you are exploring an alien planet. Surreal.

One of our favourite paddles is launching at the south end of Kalamalka Lake and following the east shoreline past a small cave and majestic cliff.

Another favourite outing is launching at Kekuli Bay Provincial Park, paddling past the distinctive yellow cliffs above the Okanagan Rail Trail, crossing the lake, going past Rattlesnake Point and along the unusual rocky bluffs of the park to Cosens Bay for lunch.

Often when driving north on Highway 97, the lake seen from above has several different colours at once, a multi-tone portrait of constantly changing shapes.

Two bits of trivia: Kalamalka Lake (aka Kal Lake) is named after the Okanagan First Nation chief who once lived on its northern shore.

The flow of water is south to north: the main inflow is from Wood Lake at the south via the Oyama Canal and the outflow at the north end is Vernon Creek which passes through Vernon and flows into Okanagan Lake (flowing north to south).

However, this provincial park is more than just beautiful lake views. The spring wildflower show is truly spectacular so bring your camera or cellphone.

And this 3,218-hectare park established in 1975 has a wide variety of animals, birds, reptiles and 432 varieties of vascular plants, rare for such a small area. We’ve even seen a black bear wandering between Jade and Juniper bays.

There are three accesses: Kidston Road to the Red Gate and then to Twin Bay. Or Cosens Bay Gate via Cosens Bay Road, Coldstream Road, Kalamalka Road and Highway 6. Well signed.

Effective May 11, though, the Red Gate parking lot was closed until further notice as the Coldstream began a road alignment and parking lot improvement.

Our favourite route (for experienced hikers) involves parking at the Cosens Bay Gate lot, then hiking downhill to Cosens Bay, then heading up Corral, Grassland and Crest trails to Rattlesnake and Turtles Head points, and Juniper and Jade bays. After lunch, we head up Lookout Trail to John’s Jump Lookout (at the top of the powerline and escarpment). The Wall will take you back down to the Cosens Bay Gate parking lot.

In the spring, by timing it right, this hike will take you past vast stretches of beautiful wildflowers, one of the best displays in the Okanagan.

This peaceful mostly undeveloped park is ideal for the study and appreciation of natural history all year-round with services from April 3 to Oct. 25.

BC Parks — in partnership with the Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development, the Okanagan Indian Band and municipality of Coldstream — conducted an ecosystem maintenance/wildfire mitigation project in the park starting the week of Feb. 24 and running until the end of March.

Cosens Bay parking lot also provides access to two other popular hiking areas.

High Rim Trail hugs the fence line heading south and over a steep rocky saddle into Bear Valley.

An easier route is down Cosens Bay Trail to join the High Rim Trail at the western end of Bear Valley.

The High Rim Trail then climbs steadily through forest, past the Cattle Pond to the Repeater Station Lookout 14 kilometres from Cosens Bay Gate. It continues to Oyama and then to Joe Rich east of Kelowna.

Access to Cougar Canyon Climbing Area Trail is from the parking lot located under the powerline on Cosens Bay Road.

J.P. Squire, aka the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff, is a retired reporter. Email: jp.squire@telus.net