Okanagan Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - British Columbia -

Also known as:  Lake Okanagan

Okanagan Lake, located in British Columbia’s Napa of the North Country, is a vacationer’s paradise. Its sheer size and convenient location make this well-developed area the perfect destination for any activity you can imagine. Visitors can enjoy an active day on the water fishing, boating, parasailing, wind surfing, water skiing, canoeing, or swimming. On dry land there are beaches to sunbathe, trails to explore on foot, horseback, or bicycle, golf courses to test your skills, and small towns to explore. Okanagan Lake even has its own monster to boast of, called Ogopogo. This majestic lake offers plenty of opportunity for recreation for the whole family or to just relax and enjoy the scenery with a glass of locally produced wine.

Surrounded by the semiarid hills and plateaus of the Okanagan Valley, Okanagan Lake was glacially formed when the last continental ice sheet retreated 10,000 years ago. Summer water temperatures reach 78 degrees in this oblong-shaped lake that drains into the Okanagan River after passing through the Okanagan Lake Outlet Dam. Also known as Lake Okanagan, the name has a history of multiple spellings and interpretations. Most people agree that the name comes from an Interior Salish word meaning “place of water”. Today, the native people who inhabited the area, long before the arrival of missionaries, fur traders, and ranchers, remain on reserves around the lake. The terraced land and fertile soil of the valley has long supported fruit orchards, in particular grape vineyards. With dry summers and mild winters, the climate is perfect for high quality grapes producing wine known throughout the world. After the river flows through the valley, waters from the lake eventually join the Columbia River near Brewster, Washington.

Anglers looking for a big catch can count on a great fishing experience at Okanagan Lake. The lake’s deep waters make it well-suited for trolling, especially for the large rainbow trout that are frequently caught here. Anglers often come away with 20-pound rainbow trout. Other species include kokanee, salmon, whitefish, ling cod, carp, and burbot. Fishermen will also find numerous bays and coves all around the lake to drop a line and relax while enjoying the majestic scenery. Access to the lake can be found via boat ramps and marinas located in parks as well as private property around the lake. Visitors looking forward to cooking up their catch are in luck as there no fish consumption advisories as of 2009. Water quality in the lake is an extremely important issue to government and private interests in the region. There has been a concerted effort in recent years to improve the quality of the water, which has resulted in increased fish populations.

In addition to excellent fishing locations, countless beaches, campgrounds, and parks dot the shores of Okanagan Lake, providing camping, swimming, fishing, hiking, and numerous other activities. Some parks have playgrounds, basketball and volleyball courts, picnic shelters, beaches, campgrounds, and interpretive trails. With the exceptionally deep waters comes the opportunity to SCUBA dive, which is available on the northeastern side of the lake at Ellison Provincial Park. Additional features to check out around the lake include a popular cliff-diving area called Squally Point, a floating bridge called the William R. Bennett Bridge, and Rattlesnake Island near Okanagan Mountain Park.

Rattlesnake Island is supposedly home to the very famous lake monster, Ogopogo. The native people of the area called the monster N’ha-a-itk, meaning “snake of the water.” European settlers reported sightings dating back to 1872. Since then, Ogopogo has captured the imagination of authors, film makers, TV writers, and video game makers. A search on the internet will result in thousands of links to stories and pictures from professional and amateurs alike fascinated with this creature, which has been feared by many for centuries.

Okanagan Lake has something for everyone along with any type of accommodations you can dream of. Whether you’d like a cottage on the lake’s edge or a villa complete with a boat, Okanagan Lake has vacation rentals available for you, located just about anywhere on its shores. The lake features various resorts with all the amenities along with public and private campgrounds. For those looking to relocate to the area, plenty of real estate is available. Three cities are located along Okanagan Lake’s shores: Vernon on the north end, Kelowna mid-way down on the eastern side, and Penticton at the south end. The cities are bustling with tourists, which is a major economic factor for the communities. Additionally, the agriculture and forestry industries are top employers, as is copper mining.

Less than a half hour’s drive from Kelowna International Airport, Okanagan Lake is extremely convenient for visitors. You could stay busy for weeks with all the activities just at Okanagan Lake, without taking into account the endless options in the rest of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Region of British Columbia. No matter how particular each member of your family is, Okanagan Lake is sure to keep the entire family happy at rest and play.

Things to do at Okanagan Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Water Skiing
  • Parasailing
  • Wind Surfing
  • Scuba Diving
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Provincial Park
  • Playground

Fish species found at Okanagan Lake

  • Burbot
  • Carp
  • Cod
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

Okanagan Lake Photo Gallery

  • (C)Darren Kirby

Okanagan Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Water Management Branch of the Ministry of the Environment

Surface Area: 86,733 acres

Shoreline Length: 167 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,122 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,118 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,125 feet

Average Depth: 249 feet

Maximum Depth: 754 feet

Water Volume: 19,943,545 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1920

Water Residence Time: 52.8

Drainage Area: 2,389 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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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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