Located on the southern end of Skaha Lake in the Okanagan Valley, and known locally as OK Falls, the little community of Okanagan Falls was originally known as Dogtown, from the Okanagan Indian word Skaha (meaning dog), after which the nearby Skaha Lake was named.
The actual Okanagan Falls were reduced to gentle rapids many years ago with the construction of the flood control dam in the 1950s to control the level of water flowing south in the Okanagan River.
Okanagan Falls is located on Highway 97 at the southern end of Skaha Lake in the south Okanagan, 28 km (17 mi) north of Oliver and 26 km (16 mi) south of Penticton.
The little grey Bassett House, which today houses the Museum, was ordered from the T. Eaton and Company catalogue in 1909 by the pioneer Bassett family, which operated a freight and stagecoach company in the area. Arriving in prefabricated kit form at Okanagan Lake by rail, the house crossed the lake on a sternwheeler and was carried the rest of the way to Okanagan Falls by horse-drawn wagon.
Those with green fingers won't want to miss the Memorial Rose Garden, across the highway from Barrett House. The best time to visit is when the flowers bloom from May to October.
The radio telescopes here are used to study the universe and its origins. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the a 26 metre parabolic antenna and a sophisticated computer-linked antenna array. On the grounds of the observatory is pond-sized White Lake, which attracts some unusual birds, including Sandhill cranes, loggerhead shrikes, long-billed curlews, Brewer's sparrows, and sage thrashers. A guide will be on duty in the Visitors' Centre at the Observatory on weekends as well as statutory holidays from 10am until 5pm. The Observatory grounds and the Visitors' Centre will be open during normal working hours. There will not be a guide in the Visitors' Centre on weekdays.
Just above the Okanagan River, cool deciduous trees provide a contrast to the parched hills above. This oasis is famous among naturalists for its superb bird watching, wildlife viewing, nature study, photography opportunities and a variety of bats. A lovely array of colours occurs in autumn. The diverse recreational opportunities will please nature lovers, campers and fishing enthusiasts alike.
Nestled in the tall cottonwoods and riverside thickets along Okanagan River, the park protects a few hectares of this rapidly diminishing habitat. It also provides a welcome retreat from the Okanagan sun. It is the perfect spot for the more rustic camper and those who like to experience a more natural setting. Campsites sit in the shade of large trees, and it's a short trail to the cool river, where you can carry your canoe for an afternoon of exploring or fishing. Recreation opportunities include camping and natural value appreciation, bird and wildlife watching.
Stretching along 500 kilometres of scenic gravel track, the gentle 2.2% grade into Penticton travels through vineyards, orchards, and wineries, and offers unparalleled views of Okanagan Lake. This historic former railway is shared by the Trans-Canada Trail and is ideal for walking or cycling. Guided day/overnight excursions are also available.
Featuring unique architectural styles, there are some 60 wineries surrounded by more than 2,000 hectares of vineyards within the valleys picturesque landscape. Visitors are welcome to sample, shop, and, in select wineries, dine at their establishments. Step off the world and enter the wonderful world of wine in Penticton & Wine Country!
Winter provides kilometres of trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Downhill and snowboard skiing is available an hour away at Apex Mountain Resort.
The beautiful sandy beaches of Skaha Lake and Okanagan lake provide great swimming and boating in summer.
Throughout the year bird-watchers visit the South Okanagan with the hopes of seeing some of the rare species that make the area their home. One ideal spot for naturalists is at Vaseaux Lake, located about 15 kilometres north of Oliver. Over 25 species of birds have their homes on the lake and the surrounding marshlands, which are a federal bird sanctuary. A wildlife interpretation center offers walking trails and a viewing blind.
The Haynes Lease Ecological Reserve and Osoyoos Oxbows Wildlife Management Area off Road 22 north of Osoyoos is another great spot for bird watching. You might be able to see Canada's smallest hummingbird or the rare Burrowing Owl, as well as bats, canyon wrens, sage thrashers, and the chukar partridge.
The area around Okanagan Falls Provincial Park is also a prime viewing ground for different birds, including a number of species of bats. Closer to town is Haynes Point Provincial Park, where trails take people into the marshlands to get closer to nature. The park naturalist at Haynes Point discusses the natural history of the area during the programs held each week at the park's amphitheatre.
The Okanagan Spring Wine Festival is a perfect marriage of wine and culinary tourism. For the first four days in May each year, it offers a tantalizing experience for anyone who loves fabulous wine accompanied by fine cuisine. And what better way to announce the grape growing season than to hold a festival during bud break!
Guests can choose an incredible 100+ events throughout Okanagan Wine Country at a time of year when it is absolutely delightful to savour Spring in the warm sunshine. The Okanagan Spring Wine Festival has been described as "one of Canada's best small festivals" and it is no wonder that its success continues to grow.
The Peach Festival features a whirlwind week of family entertainment, a pancake breakfast, sandcastle competitions, music concerts, a large parade, a children's parade, food vendors, crafts, and much, much more!
Penticton & Wine Country
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia