If you and your family and friends are looking for a summer getaway to enjoy warm weather and glistening lakes, head to the Thompson Valley. Launch your boat and explore a region of beautiful tree-adorned lakes, meandering rivers, and white-water rapids. Dryland attractions like golf courses, go-carts, and mini golf are sure to keep everyone entertained. This tour only covers 280 kilometres (168 miles), but it can take weeks to explore all the lakes along the route.
The Water Recreation Circle Tour takes you through the east central side of the Thompson Okanagan Valley. You'll travel through the North Okanagan, across the Shuswap, and into the Kamloops area before heading back to the North Okanagan. This write-up doesn't include every community along the route, but you are encouraged to stop and see what each has to offer.
There's no better place to start a British Columbia water recreation tour than in Vernon. Surrounded on all sides by the warm lakes of Okanagan, Kalamalka, and Swan, the city plays host to a wide variety of water sports.
Kalamalka Lake, known as the "Lake of a Thousand Colors", is found in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park, which lies just 10 kilometres (6 miles) south of Vernon. Named as one of the top 10 most beautiful lakes in the world by National Geographic, Kalamalka fulfills the city's needs for swimming and sandy beaches and is renowned for its peaceful fishing and picnic areas. On the shores of Kalamalka, venture into the trails for horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking.
Okanagan Lake is surrounded by dozens of parks, providing an outdoor playground for all levels of recreation seekers. Most prefer to get wet and skidoo, wakeboard, parasail, and windsurf in the warm waters. With numerous beaches, marine campsites, and 113 kilometres (70 miles) of shoreline, there's plenty of hiking and mountain biking in the area as well.
Swan Lake soothes visitors with water just slightly cooler than the summertime air. As a large and shallow lake, it is an ideal environment for waterfowl to nest and feed. Be sure to bring binoculars to catch a glimpse of the many ducks, Osprey, Herons, and other shorebirds that call this lake home.
Leaving the city of Vernon, drive north along Alaska Highway 97 and continue north at the 97A junction. Entering the beautiful Spallumcheen Valley, you'll first come to the agricultural city of Armstrong. Well known for its cheese, more than one local factory offers tours and a close-up look at the cheese-making process. A little north, Enderby serves as the base camp for paddlers looking for a relaxing excursion on the Shuswap River. Here, the river meanders north alongside Alaska Highway 97A with a gentle current. The slow-moving water is popular with canoeists and kayakers.
Continue 53 kilometres (33 miles) up Alaska Highway 97A to the city of Sicamous, widely known as the houseboat capital of Canada. Visitors should spend a few relaxing days with friends and family touring over 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) of tranquil shoreline on a houseboat. The pristine environment is set against gorgeous mountains and azure skies, making it a popular destination for visitors from all over.
At Sicamous, you will meet Trans-Canada Highway 1 and head 30 kilometres (18 miles) west along the shore of Shuswap Lake towards Salmon Arm. Like Sicamous, Salmon Arm is surrounded by the inviting ambiance of Shuswap Lake. Around the perimeter of the lake, Shuswap Marine Park offers 26 locations that are popular for fishing, water sports, hiking, and even camping. Salmon Arm's portion has a harbour encircled by walking trails that serve as a convenient place to launch watercraft. If you get bored on the lake, a nearby water-park can be equally entertaining.
Follow the Trans-Canada Highway 1, 16 kilometres (10 miles) out of Salmon Arm to Sunnybrae Road. For a quick side trip, head east to Herald Provincial Park. Here, you can see the beautiful Margaret Falls, where over 60 metres (200 feet) of crashing white waters plummet into Reinecker Creek.
Getting back to Trans-Canada Highway 1, travel to the boomtown vacation community of Sorrento. Sorrento is a small but active community with an array of recreational activities during both summer and winter. Steep mountains, deep valleys, and thick forests all teeming with wildlife surround Sorrento. A short drive down the road, the main entrance into Shuswap Provincial Park is located in Squilax. This park has everything needed for summertime fun: fishing, camping, boating, swimming, hiking, waterskiing, windsurfing, and much more. There's also 1 kilometre (0.6 miles) of pristine beach with grassy picnic areas perfect for family barbeques or a game of beach volleyball with friends. For the more adventurous, whitewater rafting trips down the Adams River are always exciting.
Keep traveling on Trans-Canada Highway 1 and play a quick round of golf in Chase before reaching the Monte Creek turnoff. For the next 100 kilometres (61 miles), Alaska Highway 97 travels through the kind of cattle ranching country that put cities like Vernon on the map.
Eventually, you'll find Falkland, quite possibly the most patriotic community in Canada. High above town is an enormous Canadian flag that is more than a source of local pride: it's considered to be the largest Canadian flag in the world. Spend some time in the Heritage Park or take a trip out to The Pillar, an impressive natural rock formation a short hike from Pillar Lake. To complete your tour, continue 42 kilometres (26 miles) down Alaska Highway 97 and back into Vernon.
Need a place to stay or camp while exploring the Water Recreation Circle Tour?
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia
Header Photo Credit: Tourism Victoria/Deddeda Stemler