Okanagan Lake – 7 Important Things to Know

How deep is Okanagan Lake

Located in Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Okanagan Lake is the fifteenth deepest lake in Canada and the sixth most profound lake in British Columbia. This one hundred and thirty-five kilometres long and five kilometres wide lake has an average depth of around seventy-six meters. The Lake covers a staggering surface area of three hundred and fifty-one square kilometres.

Here are 6 important things to know about the lake-

1. Location

Situated in: British Columbia Canada (49:30-50:22N, 119:20-119:45W)

It lies in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia between the Columbia and Cascade mountain ranges.

This lake was originally a part of Lake Penticton and currently lies 342 meters above sea level.

okagan lake
By Stan Jones / Shutterstock

2. Origin of the Name “Okanagan lake”

It is quite noteworthy that the name Okanagan Lake was officially certified recently, on October 6th, 1936. However, the lake itself existed long before that and in quite several variations.

It is said that the Lake had as many as 46 variations in the past, which is reflected in accounts of famous travellers such as the epic Canadian explorer David Thompson.

However, the name most likely originates from ‘Kana,’ meaning ‘the place of,‘ and ‘Gan,’ meaning ‘Lake.’

According to the Okanagan Indian Band website, the name originates from Suqnaqinx and means ‘takes to the head or mind.’

3. Geography

Okanagan Lake, as mentioned before, is located between the Columbia and Cascade Mountain ranges in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. The Okanagan valley itself is a U-shaped valley with mountains on its sides. The Okanagan Provincial Park is beside this lake.

The entire Okanagan Valley itself has a rich historical background. In 1976, several native tribes of the region created the Okanagan Nation Alliance here. This alliance is currently more known as the Okanagan Indian Band. ( Okanagan Indian Band, a part of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, alongside seven other bands. The Okanagan people refer to the Okanagan Indian Band as ‘head of the lake’ or ‘ Inkumupulux.’)

Okanagan Lake
By Stan Jones/Shuttterstock

Lake Okanagan is surrounded by the cities of Penticton on the south, and Vernon on the north, along with Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, and the municipality of Lake Country. Kelowna lies at the heart of Okanagan, while Vernon is a small town connecting the Monashee mountains.

William R Bennett Bridge

Lake Okanagan region has quite a several interior plateaus and terraces due to the lowering of the ancestor of the Lake, Lake Penticton.

Over 10,000 years ago, a glacier surrounding the Okanagan region melted, which caused several topological changes, ultimately creating the glacial lake Penticton.

A five-lane bridge connects Kelowna with West Kelowna and Westbank. The predecessor of this bridge was created in 1958, which was a three-lane bridge connecting Kelowna to West Kelowna. Ferry services were the main means of transport before the creation of these bridges.

4. Hydrology

Okanagan Lake Canada
by Elena_Alex_Ferns / Shutterstock

Okanagan Lake is a fjord lake. It is a deep lake and an oligotrophic body of water. Three main basins made up this lake. The large northern basin, the middle-sized basin at the centre, as well as the smallest basin at the south. Vernon Creek joins it with Kalamalka Lake, and the Okanagan River joins it with Skaha Lake.

The Okanagan River is also the main outflow of the lake, which gets out of the lake from a southern canal, flows through Penticton and ultimately joins the Columbia River near Washington.

During the Pleistocene era, glacial sediments were deposited in these regions and still can be found. Several hundred meters of such deposits can be found in the valley bottom, sometimes reaching up to seven hundred and fifty meters.

The Okanagan Great Divide

The Okanagan Great Divide is just a bit north of Armstrong. This divide, although not much known, is a significant geographical feature. Long story short, this divide demonstrates which routes the water sources are going to take.

To put that into context, if water falls into the north side of the divide, it will flow to Shuswap Lake and ultimately fall into the Pacific Ocean via Fraser River. If the water falls into the southern side of the divide, it will take the route of Okanagan Lake to the Penticton channel and into the Columbia River, ultimately falling into the Pacific Ocean.

5. Ecology

Columbian ground squirrels, quails, Cedar waxwings, Northern shafted flickers, Gopher snakes, and hummingbirds are the most common wildlife observable near the lake. Okanagan Provincial Park is just beside the lake, and Ponderosa pine and Sagebrush are the most prevalent trees.

As for the fish in the lake itself, the most common ones are Kokanee Salmon and Rainbow Trout, along with several other species.

Okanagan Lake even has its very own lake monster. Looking back on its native origins, this elusive lake monster, also known as ‘The Ogopogo‘, is currently a mysterious creature that is rather friendly.

Just a bit south of Rattlesnake island, Scully Point is the supposed home of this monster. We can trace it back to the folklore of First Nation people in the early nineties.

A supposed sighting of Ogopogo was noted in Kelowna by almost quite several people in 1926.

6. How Deep Is Okanagan Lake?

The Okanagan Lake is 232 metres deep.

The Lake houses a total of two islands, those being the abovementioned Grant Island and Rattlesnake Island. Grant Island lies in the northern region and is about one kilometre from the shore of Lake Country. On the other hand, Rattlesnake Island is in the southern part, near Squally Point.

The Lake’s deepest point is two-hundred and thirty-two meters deep near Grant island, also commonly known as Seagull Island or Whiskey Island

7. Activities

In Summer, Okanagan Lake becomes a summer destination in British Columbia. With quite a several beaches, swimming is a really enjoyable activity on this lake.

The Lake is known for its boating activities. Various kinds of boating, such as ski boating, kayaking, charter boating, canoeing, or padel boating, are all permitted here. Every kind of waterboarding is allowed here, making it one of the most famous water activities here.

Okanagan Lake
By Cerise Noire77/Shutterstock

Boating Systems:

As Okanagan Lake is famous for its boating, which reflects the number of boat launches here. Between Kelowna and Vernon, you will encounter a total of six boat launches. Depending on your tastes, some really popular spots here include Okanagan Landing of Paddlewheel Park & Beach.

Another similar region to explore would be the Lake Country, with Wood Lake and Kalamalka Lake all within proximity.

Cedar mountains, Canyon Falls Park, and Big White Mountains provide excellent hiking locations. These trails here are long and beautiful. Chichester and Rotary Bird Sanctuary are the places you want to visit in case you’re a bird lover.

Fishing is arguably one of the most popular activities in the Lake. Lake Whitefish, bourbon, and Rainbow trout are the most common species in this lake and are mainly caught by bait fishing from the shore. Trolling is also used to catch fish here. Another species, kokanee, also used to be one of the main species in this lake, but the recent Mysis shrimps have strained their population severely.

8. FAQs:

Okanagan Lake
By Lijuan Guo/Shutterstock

8.1. Where is Okanagan Lake?

This fjord lake is actually in British Columbia. If we were to discuss its geographical location, Lake Okanagan is situated in British Columbia, in between the Cascade mountain ranges and Columbia. The lake lies between Westbank and Kelowna.

8.2. When was the Okanagan Lake Name Officially Coined for this Lake?

On October 6th, 1936, to be exact. Make no mistake, this lake was still called Okanagan Lake by the indigenous residents of Okanagan Valley for a long time but was officially taken only in 1936. The Lake itself has a variety of spellings and pronunciations. Originally, almost 46 spellings existed for the name of this lake, and even now, that reflects. The lake’s spelling is ‘ Okanogan’ across the American border. The name has come a long way.

8.3. Is Okanagan Lake safe to swim in?

Okanagan Lake is especially popular for its recreational activities, and yes, that does include swimming as well. Boating, swimming, fishing, water sports, sunbathing- all these activities complete the Lake experience. On the more than thirty beaches on the shore of this lake, you can swim as much as you want, and no one will have a problem with that.

8.4. Is Ogopogo the Loch Ness monster?

Not quite. Although both of these cryptids share a striking resemblance, they two are not the same. The reason’s simple. Nessie, our beloved monster of Loch Ness, is in the, well, Loch Ness of the Scottish Highlands. Ogopogo is strictly a part of Okanagan Lake and the folklore surrounding it.

8.5. Are there steamboats in Okanagan Lake?

Back in the day, the current bridges were nonexistent; steamboats were the modes of transportation for the Lake. Because Okanagan Valley and the surrounding region were still under development during that period, the road networks were not up to the mark, automatically increasing the importance of the boats.

The Canadian Pacific Railway Lake and River Science was the main transportation provider for passengers and goods. They mainly operated on the southern mainline, in Penticton and also Vernon. Other vessels mostly included smaller vessels, although that made them no less important. One of the more significant ones consists of the SS Namrata, another passenger carrier and an excursion boat.

8.6. Where is the deepest point in Okanagan Lake?

It’s located near Grant Island, with a total depth of about two hundred and thirty-two meters. Notably, the lake’s average depth is between seventy-one to seventy-six meters. Grant Island itself is located about a mile away from the Lake Country Municipality. Locals also call Grant Island Whiskey Island.


Hope this article answered all your questions regarding Okanagan lake, including how deep is the lake. Deep, beautiful, thriving ecosystem, and most importantly, the recreational activities here.

Also read: Interesting Things to Do in Killarney Provincial Park.

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