Ultimate parks: Hottest

By Jenny Manzer

A warm lake, bountiful bird life, and beach-side camping make this Osoyoos park a hub for summer fun.

Haynes Point. Photo: David R. Gluns.

The south Okanagan specializes in the kind of dry heat that bakes the earth underneath your toes. These are the days to float in an inner tube, wobble through a waterski, or stretch out in the sand with a fizzy drink and thick paperback. If you’re seeking heat, you’ll find it at Haynes Point Provincial Park in Osoyoos.

It’s true that in the summer you could fry flapjacks on the pavement in several hotspots in the province, such as Kelowna, Kamloops, Keremeos, Oliver, Osoyoos, and Penticton—all have cracked 39 degrees Celsius in recent memory. Then there’s Lytton in the Fraser Valley, which cooked the record books in 1971 when it hit 42.2 degrees.

We chose Haynes Point as our “hottest” park in part because it sits amid Canada’s only desert, includes precious wetlands, and has a unique population of fragile blue- and red-listed species including the spadefoot toad and tiger salamander, as well as five species of protected plants. Plus, it’s simply a hub for hot summer fun.

Positioned by the Cascade Mountains to the east and the Columbia Mountains to the west, its 38 hectares include a natural marsh with a gravel trail leading to a viewing platform and a boardwalk. Hikers can raise their binoculars to California quail, marsh wrens, and the exquisite calliope hummingbird, which is the weight of a single grape—making it the smallest bird in Canada.

Greg Byron, a local birder and operator of Great Horned Owl Eco- Tours, says the marsh is his preferred area of the park. He visits Haynes year-round, often making daily trips during spring migration to glimpse feathered visitors, such as the American white pelican, which might stop there en route to their breeding grounds near Williams Lake.

The park has 41 campsites located on a sandspit—some of which have little vegetation or shade—but many are steps from the lake, one of the warmest in Canada. Swimmers, windsurfers, boaters, and water-skiers all congregate there. Fishing is also a popular way to wile away summer hours, and Osoyoos Lake supports more than 40 species of fish.

Byron recalls that before the summer reservation system was introduced, vehicles used to line up outside the park before dawn hoping someone would leave their coveted camping spot.

Mike Ladd, area supervisor for the Kootenay Boundary region of BC Parks, suggests visitors flock to Haynes for the heat, the sun, and the relaxing atmosphere. People have even tried to hawk their Haynes reservations on eBay, he adds. “It’s one of the few places that you can camp just a few feet from the water’s edge.”

It may be busy during the hot season, but Byron says the park still has a laid-back family atmosphere. “It’s a very positive place. I think people really relax while they’re here.”

Getting there

Haynes Point Provincial Park (www. bcparks.ca) is located two km south of Osoyoos along 32nd Avenue, off Hwy 97.

Field notes

If you’re thinking of camping, book ahead (800-689-9025; www.discovercamping.ca).

To read about the other “Ultimate parks” see the Summer 2011 issue of British Columbia Magazine.

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Christine Ly

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