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Lake Kliluk

Canada’s Spotted Lake: The Most Alien-Looking Lake on Earth

The natural world has many wonders. One of the most remarkable is that of the so-called Spotted Lake in British Columbia, Canada. It is a polka-dotted body-of-water that looks so bizarre you could be forgiven for thinking you were on an alien planet.

The lake is famous because during the summer it undergoes a remarkable transformation, becoming spotted with different colors and the waters resemble a polka-dot design. This lake is not only a remarkable physical feature, it is also a very important historical and spiritual site for the local First Nation Peoples.

Spotted Lake, Lake Kliluk. ("Tai-wiki-widbee")

Spotted Lake, Lake Kliluk. ( "Tai-wiki-widbee")

The body-of a water, known as Kliluk by the local First Nation tribe, is situated northwest of Osoyoos, in the Similkameen Valley of the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area of British Columbia and is often referred to as Lake Osoyoos. It can be seen from highway 3 and is not far from the US border and the state of Washington.

As the Water Evaporates, Osoyoos Lake Takes on its Seasonal Leopard Print

The Spotted Lake is around half a mile long (0.7 km) and about 200 yards (.25 km) wide. The length of the shore around the lake is 1.1 mile (1.7 km). Kliluk is a saline endorheic alkali lake and is unique among the many bodies of water in Canada and indeed the world.

The Spotted Lake from the shoulder of Highway 3. It is a saline endorheic alkali lake located northwest of Osoyoos in the eastern Similkameen Valley of British Columbia, Canada. (AndrewEnns/CC BY SA 3.0)

The Spotted Lake from the shoulder of Highway 3. It is a saline endorheic alkali lake located northwest of Osoyoos in the eastern Similkameen Valley of British Columbia, Canada. (AndrewEnns/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

It contains a large number of very concentrated minerals. During the hot summer months when there is more evaporation of the surface water, these minerals remain. As a result, the chemical balance of the lake is changed since there is less water as it dries up. The deposits of minerals crystallize and they form the colorful pools that give the lake its polka-dot effect. What is really incredible about the lake is that the color of the polka-dot pools changes color because of chemical processes in the mineral deposits. According to experts, there are approximately 360 spots. According to some sources, there is one for every day of the year.

The History and Healing Powers of the Spotted Lake

This striking lake has long fascinated people. The local First Nation People are the Okanagan tribe. They have lived in the area for up to 3,000 years and their territory spanned the US-Canadian border. This tribe developed a unique culture and way of life that allowed them to perfectly adopt to their environment. Today, many Okanagan live on a reservation near-the Nicola Valley. Spotted Lake is a sacred site for the tribe as it was considered to be mystical and magical. The waters have particular healing abilities and it is known as a ‘medicine lake’. It is believed that each of the spots has a specific power and can cure particular illnesses. In the past, the Okanagan would bathe or soak in the waters. Around Kliluk Lake there are also some First Nation stone remains and some cairns.

For many years, the lake was owned by private individuals. In the 1970s, the proprietor intended to turn it into a spa. This led to protests from the Okanagan who, with government support, were able to prevent the project in 1987.

Canada’s Spotted Lake. (Justin Raycraft/CC BY 2.0)

Canada’s Spotted Lake. (Justin Raycraft /CC BY 2.0 )

Late July Is the Best Time to Visit Kliluk Lake

Kliluk is perhaps one of the best-known sites in Osoyoos. Access is extremely limited due to the lake’s spiritual and cultural significance and it not permitted to bathe or soak in the waters.

An official is present to make sure that the lake is respected and that there is no behavior that could be deemed as disrespectful to the Okanagan people. It is important to remember that the site is not a tourist location although there are many areas from which you can photograph this amazing body of water. Photographers love the lake and its ever-changing spots.

How to Get to the Spotted Lake

There are several ways to get to the natural wonder. The lake is four-and a half hours from the city of Vancouver. It is located on Highway 3, approximately 7 miles (10 km) outside of the town of Osoyoos. There is no public transport to the lake, but it is possible to book a tour which will provide information on the lake and its history. Accommodation near the Spotted Lake is available in Osoyoos.

Top image: Lake Kliluk. Source: FAENAaleph

By Ed Whelan

References

McKeown, S., Vedan, A., Mack, K., Jackknife, S. and Tolmie, C., 2018. Indigenous Educational Pathways. Available at: http://www.bccat.ca/pubs/Indigenous_Pathways.pdf.

Merritt, W.S., Alila, Y., Barton, M., Taylor, B., Cohen, S. and Neilsen, D., 2006. Hydrologic response to scenarios of climate change in sub-watersheds of the Okanagan basin, British Columbia . Journal of Hydrology, 326(1-4), pp.79-108. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022169405005573

Vibert, E., 1992. D etermining Okanagan History. BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly , (96), pp.110-114. Available at: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?start=20&q=okanagan+history&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5

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