Osoyoos, BC in the southern Okanagan Valley - Canada's Pocket Desert
We didn't know what to expect when we stopped at Canada's only pocket desert. Could it really be as hot & dry as a typical southern desert? Osoyoos, in southwestern British Columbia, answered all of my questions.
Unlike the temperate rainforests of coastal BC, the Osoyoos area is unique in Canada. Towering dry mountains sparsely peppered with trees frame the deep arid valley. Even though the deep blue Osoyoos Lake looks quenching to the area, the surrounding uncultivated land is brown and dry and dotted with Ponderosa Pine trees.
This photo was taken in late fall, in October when Haynes Point Provincial Park was closed. The tourists were gone, the town was quiet and the wind was non-existent. The temperature was only +14 C yet the ground still radiated the summer heat.
Canada's only desert lies in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains and receives less than four inches of rainfall a year even though it's only 250 kilometers (3.5 hours) from the fertile & wet Fraser Valley (Hope, BC). The Osoyoos area boosts the lowest rainfall, highest temperatures and warmest lake in the Canada.
Summers are hot with temperatures regularly topping + 42 C and winters are barely below freezing. As a part of the Okanagan Valley, the area has orchards and vineyards. Being a desert, rattlesnakes and scorpions find refuge around Osoyoos.
It's odd, but there are very few solar panel installations to be found in this desert-like region, confirming that there are problems with solar energy collection in the Okanagan.
View Canada's Pocket Desert in a larger map
Haynes Point Provincial Park
Located on a sliver of a sandspit, Haynes Point Provincial Park juts into Osoyoos Lake. The surrounding water is warm and the beaches are sandy & narrow. Marshes just offshore act as a natural buffer and wildlife haven for birds.
This 38 hectare park is popular in the summer and offers swimming, boating (there's a boat launch) and fishing. Hiking is none-existent but walking is available along the paved road that extends the entire length. An interpretive trail along the shoreline follows the beach line.
- Haynes Point is located in the Osoyoos desert. Use suncreen, wear a hat and be aware of the signs of heat stroke. It's a desert & it gets HOT!
- There are steep drop-offs on either side of the spit. Be careful when wading into the lake.
- The wind can unexpectedly pick up since the sand-spit has no natural wind barriers in the middle of the lake. Secure tents and belongings at all times.
- This is a popular campground and stays are only permitted up to 7 days in a calendar year.
- The campground is open from April 1 to October 11 (approximately). The gates are closed after the fall season but walkers can easily hop over and enjoy the uncrowded views of the valley.
- Learn what poison ivy looks like and stay away! And be careful of rattlesnakes & scorpions that may be hiding in rocky crevaces and under rocks.
Get more insider tips on Canadian Adventures at Scenic Travel Canada.