Lake Osoyoos, Washington USA & British Columbia Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - British Columbia - USA - West - Washington - North Central Washington -

Also known as:  Osoyoos Lake

Lake Osoyoos spans more than 5,700 acres and straddles the border of British Columbia, Canada and Washington state in the United States. The Okanagan River flows into Lake Osoyoos in a semi-arid region of British Columbia known as Desert Wine Country. This region has very low annual rainfall and some of the highest average temperatures in Canada. In fact, the lake is the warmest in Canada and is located in Canada’s only desert, the northern-most tip of the Sonora Desert.

On the United States side, Lake Osoyoos is located in northern Washington state. Zosel Dam, at the south end of the lake, regulates the water levels. In this hot environment, Lake Osoyoos offers visitors on both sides of the border a welcome oasis with its shady trees, lush lawns, and sandy shores.

Lake Osoyoos was once a primary encampment for Native Americans who came to the area for plentiful fish and hunting. The name Osoyoos (pronounced Oh-Soy-Use) originates from an Indian word “suius” meaning “narrowing of the waters” and refers to the cinched waistline of the lake. The “O” prefix was attached by early settlers who apparently wanted to adapt the name to be attuned with other O-names in the region: Okanagan, Oroville, Oliver, and Omak.

During the 1800’s, the region around Lake Osoyoos was on the north-south fur trade route. It then became an important border entry point for cattle drives as well as explorers and gold miners. Lake Osoyoos has evolved into a very popular destination for vacationers and retirees alike. The dry, warm climate is perfect for camping, hiking and golf as well as water sports including fishing, boating, canoeing, waterskiing, and swimming. In winter, visitors enjoy ice skating, ice fishing, playing in the snow, and downhill skiing within an hour’s drive of the lake.

Campers will find many campsites on both sides of the border. On the Washington state side, campers can visit Osoyoos Lake State Veteran’s Memorial Park, which is a 47-acre camping park with plenty of amenities to make for a comfortable stay. All sites have a picnic table, campfire grill, turf-blanketed tent pads, and a gravel pad for parking. Many camp sites have shade trees, and easy water access. On the Canada side, the shore is dotted with various commercial RV parks and campgrounds with electricity, laundry facilities showers, playgrounds and more.

Visitors to Lake Osoyoos can also enjoy a special wildlife and bird watching experience, as the area is home to white tail and mule deer, moose, elk, bear, turtles, beavers, and otters, as well as eagles, humming birds, ospreys, yellow-headed blackbirds, loons and mallard ducks. For orchardists, the climate is perfect for cherries, apricots, pears, peaches, plums, apples and grapes.

For off-lake attractions, the nearby town of Oliver is considered the wine capital of Canada, with the largest concentration of vineyards and commercial wineries in British Columbia. Annual festivals, wine tastings, and tours make the area a wonderful stop for anyone who appreciates good wine. Another fascinating side trip on the Canadian side of Lake Osoyoos is Spotted Lake. Less than two miles from the northern tip of the lake, Spotted Lake is a photographer’s paradise and just plain fun to look at. The lake covers about 38 acres and looks to be full of various colored spots. Due to the extremely high concentrations of minerals such as salts, titanium, calcium, and sulphates, pools of water begin to appear as the lake evaporates in late summer. The lake sits on private land, but is easy to see and photograph from the highway. The best time to check out the spots is between June and mid-September.

On the Washington side, the quaint town of Oroville sits on the shores of Lake Osoyoos. As the name suggests, the town is famous for its gold mines (the Spanish word for “gold” is “oro”). Most of the Oroville’s “gold” can now be found in the form of locally grown apples, but visitors can still rent a shovel and a pan and spend an afternoon panning for gold with the whole family.

Lake Osoyoos holds a variety of fish species for the avid angler: Black Bullhead, Black Crappie, Carp, Kokanee Salmon, Lake Whitefish, Largemouth Bass, Largescale Sucker, Mountain Whitefish, Northern Pikeminnow (formerly N. Squawfish), Pumpkinseed, Rainbow Trout, Smallmouth Bass, Sockeye Salmon, Steelhead, and Yellow Perch. For visitors bringing their own boat, the lake features several marinas and boat launches. Or leave the boat home and rent one instead. Rental options include sport boats, paddle boats, seadoo personal watercraft, skidoos, kayaks, canoes and more.

The waters of Lake Osoyoos are highly regulated and subject to international water-sharing agreements. Those agreements are governed by the International Joint Commission whose purpose is to help prevent and resolve disputes about the use and quality of boundary waters of the US and Canada, and to advise the two countries on questions about water resources. The International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control, which was formed in 1946, supervises the operation of the Zosel Dam. Each spring the six-member Board holds a public meeting to decide whether to raise or lower the levels of Lake Osoyoos based on that year’s drought conditions.

Vacation rentals including cottages, villas, cabins, homes and condos are available around the Lake Osoyoos shoreline. Plenty of waterfront property and homes are available for those looking to relocate to the area as well. The closest airport is Spokane International Airport 180 miles away. In British Columbia, the Vancouver International Airport is farther, at just over 250 miles away. But with such a wide range of activities in the area coupled with the beauty of the lake and surrounding area, the drive is well worth the effort.

Things to do at Lake Osoyoos

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Playground

Fish species found at Lake Osoyoos

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Bullhead
  • Black Crappie
  • Carp
  • Crappie
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sockeye Salmon
  • Steelhead Trout
  • Sucker
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Whitefish
  • Yellow Perch

Lake Osoyoos Photo Gallery

Lake Osoyoos Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control

Surface Area: 5,729 acres

Shoreline Length: 30 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 911 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 909 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 913 feet

Average Depth: 46 feet

Maximum Depth: 208 feet

Water Volume: 266,800 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1927

Drainage Area: 3,150 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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