Pavilion Lake, British Columbia, Canada

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Canada - British Columbia -

Something’s going on at Pavilion Lake in British Columbia’s Cariboo region . . .something besides the trout fishing, the camping, hiking, canoeing and scuba diving. Pavilion Lake is the home base of a joint space exploration research project between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency. For over seven years the joint research project has been investigating the proliferation of rare freshwater microbialites which have created coral-like structures on the floor of the lake. Fossil microbialites are some of the earliest remnants of life on Earth, and were common from 2.5 billion to 540 million years ago. Microbialites are found today in environments where conditions are often too harsh for most organisms. However, the microbialites in Pavilion Lake and nearby Kelly Lake are growing at the present time in environments that also support fish, plants and other aquatic species! The space exploration research teams hope by studying these rare life-forms to better understand the conditions under which extreme space environments might possibly support life.

Scuba divers at deep, spring-fed Pavilion Lake were the first to discover what they believed to be ‘fresh-water coral’. Some interested divers broke off a piece and sent it to a research center several years ago, which promptly rejected it. Later, however, space researchers realized that the ‘fresh-water coral’ sample was NOT fossilized coral from some long-forgotten sea but a calcium carbonate structure created by currently-living microscopic bacteria. Research funding was sought and research begun almost immediately. Much to the disappointment of the divers, scuba diving is now limited to carefully controlled areas to protect the delicate life-forms. However they realize the necessity of the regulation and are pleased to see their ‘found’ treasures identified and investigated.

Pristine Pavilion Lake lies along Highway 99 northeast of Kamloops. Marble Canyon Provincial Park encompasses a portion of the eastern shore. The park and lake have long been popular for camping and trout fishing. The clear waters support trout planted by the province, primarily rainbow trout, with some cut-throat trout and bull trout. Few other fish species are present as the lake is extremely oligotrophic and has few plant species growing to provide habitat for many varieties. The lake receives very little run-off so remains very clean and the water pure. Canoeing and kayaking on the long narrow lake is a popular way to experience the scenic grandeur of the surrounding chalk cliffs and enjoy the local wildlife. Car-top boats can be launched from the shore at the nearby campground.

Marble Canyon Provincial Park, hidden in the rugged Pavilion Mountain Range, lies in a unique limestone canyon which was once part of a Pacific island chain. Smaller Crown Lake and Turquoise Lake also lie totally within the park. There is a rustic campground available with a picnic area nearby. Crown Lake offers a small swimming beach. The park is extremely popular with climbers, who say that Marble Canyon has the best and most easily-accessed ice falls in the region. A number of other canyons run off the main Marble Canyon.

The white, chalk-faced slopes of Marble Canyon are composed of limestone, unlike the granite slopes of the nearby Coast Mountains. The weathered peaks, surmounted by the remarkable Chimney Rock, have the appearance of a crumbling castle wall. Chimney Rock, known as Coyote Rock by members of the Fountain Band First Nation, draws the eye and is the most easily recognized feature in the area. The area is extremely arid – almost desert climate – and tends to get very hot during the mid-day summers. A hand pump for drinking water is available at the campground.

Wildlife viewing and photography find many subjects for study near Pavilion Lake. Black bears and cougars are common in the area and should, of course, be avoided. A waterfall at the end of Turquoise Lake is a favorite for vacation souvenir pictures, and the water attracts a variety of small mammals and birds. Turquoise describes the color of all three lakes – a color attributable to the lakes’ slightly alkaline state. The Ts’kw’aylaxw First Nation, also known as Pavilion Indian Band, owns and operates the Sky Blue Water Resort on Pavilion Lake where they rent cabins, offer tent camping and rent canoes and boats for use on the lake. The resort is temporarily closed, likely due to the research activities going on at the lake. Other than tribal homes, development along the lakeshore is nearly non-existent.

The settlement closest to Pavilion Lake is the Village of Cache Creek. Located 30 miles to the east at the junction of Trans-Canadian Highway 1 and Highway 97, the well-known Caribou Highway of gold rush fame, Caches Creek enjoys its reputation as a tourist’s destination.

Hat Creek Ranch, once a roadhouse serving the express stage coaches that traversed the old wagon road near Pavilion Lake, is a museum today, and the original buildings still stand as they did in 1901. Here visitors can see blacksmith demonstrations, take a wagon ride, or go trail riding. The local Stuctwesemc (Shuswap) people from the Bonaparte Reserve have reconstructed a traditional Shuswap Village beside Hat Creek with an actual kekuli pit house. Guides will show you the crafts, tools, and technologies of a self-sufficient culture from the recent past. The Ashcroft Museum, located five miles south of Cache Creek, has displays of historical artifacts of the area. Year-round Horstings Farm Market offers fresh baked bread and fruit pies, and the store is brimming with fresh produce, local honey, jams, syrups, country crafts, wicker and unique gift items. Close by is Loon Creek Hatchery, which raises kokanee salmon and rainbow trout.

Also in Cache Creek, visitors come to watch the BC Old Time Drags and Rod Run, when hot rods from all over the Pacific Northwest arrive to take part in races and a hot rod parade. That same weekend, the Cache Creek Graffiti Days bills itself as an escape back to the 50s and 60s, with the racing, sock hops, car cruise and other fun nostalgic activities.

Pavilion Lake has something going on, but much of it is hidden in plain sight. A quieter, more natural setting for a vacation or a trout fishing trip cannot be found. Other than the currently closed resort, rental properties can’t be found on the shore of the lake. Nearby, however, hotels, private rentals and fishing cabins can provide lodgings for those not attracted to rustic camping. And, although real estate isn’t often available at the lake itself, there are purchase opportunities in the vicinity, even along the shores of other bodies of water. If you are a scuba diving fan, you simply must make the excursion to Pavilion Lake your next diving destination. Plenty of the famed microbialite structures are located in the allowable diving zones to fill your underwater album with some very rare and unusual pictures. Oh, and bring the fly rod and tackle; a shore lunch will be just the ticket to end your strenuous day. See you at Pavilion Lake!

Things to do at Pavilion Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Scuba Diving
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Provincial Park
  • Museum

Fish species found at Pavilion Lake

  • Bull Trout
  • Kamloops
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Trout

Pavilion Lake Photo Gallery

Pavilion Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 650 acres

Shoreline Length: 8 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 2,699 feet

Maximum Depth: 213 feet

Trophic State: Hyper-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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