Spotted Lake: Canada’s Weirdly Colourful Lake

The lake northwest of Osoyoos in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley looks to be just another pool of water in the spring. However, when the majority of the water evaporates in the summer, hundreds of large brackish puddles are left behind, creating a polka-dotted scenery of yellow, green, and blue dots.

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Spotted Lake is a salted alkaline lake in British Columbia’s Similkameen Valley, northwest of Osoyoos. Spotted Lake includes a high proportion of minerals, including magnesium sulphate, calcium sulphate, and sodium sulphate. It also contains significant amounts of eight other minerals, as well as smaller amounts of silver and titanium. Most of the lake’s water evaporates throughout the summer, displaying colorful mineral deposits.

Magnesium sulphate, which crystallizes in the summer, contributes significantly to spotted color. During the summer, minerals in the lake solidify and build natural “pavements” around as well as between spots. The vibrant pools are the consequence of a heavy proportion of mineral elements, including calcium, sodium sulphates, and magnesium sulphate. The minerals and salts have washed off from the neighboring slopes. The different bright colors are determined by the mineral content in each pool.

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The indigenous population of the Okanagan Nation has cherished Spotted Lake for generations. Spotted Lake, formerly known as Kliluk by the Okanagan Valley’s First Nations, has been and continues to be venerated as a holy location considered to offer healing waters for decades. They thought that each of the various circles possessed unique therapeutic and medicinal powers. Spotted Lake minerals were utilized in the manufacture of ammunition during World War I.

Minerals from the lake have been utilized to make ammo during World War I. Laborers dug up to one tonne of salt from the lake per day to extract the mineral deposits. According to the British Columbia Visitor Centre, the lake “showcased a more even larger variety of colors and an even higher aesthetic beauty” previous to this mineral mining.

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Subsequently, for approximately 40 years, the region was under the ownership of the Ernest Smith Family. Smith sought to generate interest in a lakeside spa in 1979. It was bought in 2001 for the welfare and for use of the Okanagan Nation. The purchase assured that the property would be preserved and restored as a cultural and natural asset. A deal was made by acquiring 22 hectares of property for a total of $720,000, with the First Nations contributing around 20% of the price. The balance was paid for by the Indian Affairs Department.

Visitors who wish to see the lake from a distance cannot approach too close. A fence has been built to protect the area, together with a sign indicating that it is culturally and ecologically valuable. However, there are several open spaces along the roadway upon which to glimpse the lake’s famed polka dots.

To this very day, a fence prevents anyone from strolling down from the roadway to the lake’s beach. While traveling at high speeds, one can clearly see the lake. Many people pull over to the side of the road to have a closer look. A tiny sign informs tourists about the lake’s healing properties at the gate of a road leading to a residence near the lake.

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Spotted Lake is a sacred medicine lake as well as a Syilx Okanagan People cultural heritage site. The significance of this sacred place cannot be taken for granted. The Syilx Okanagan Nation supervises entry to the lake in order to preserve it for future generations. Those who wish to visit the lake should obtain permission from the Okanagan Nation Alliance.

Late July is the ideal moment to see the lake just before pools completely dry out and water covers its spots. If you can’t get permission to walk along the lake, you can drive roughly six miles west from Osoyoos and park on the side of the road to take a look.

Spotted Lake is a strange naturally occurring phenomenon, and if you get the chance to visit, try to learn more about the lake’s history as well as the indigenous people’s culture and their relationship to the lake.

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