Saturday, January 19, 2008

Vaseaux Lake Wildlife Viewing Area

Vaseaux Lake is nestled in the narrows of the valley between Okanagan Falls and Oliver, BC on Hwy 97 in the sunny South Okanagan. The Vaseux Lake Wildlife Area surrounds the northern end of the lake as well as the north end marsh, constructed by a Ducks Unlimited Canada. It is a haven for both migrating and resident waterfowl, other bird and wildlife species. This area is a designated National Waterfowl Sanctuary and is a important wintering area for swans and geese. The nearby area also includes Vaseux Lake Provincial Park and Okanagan Falls Provincial park as well as the provincially protected area (non-park), California Big Horn Sheep Wildlife Viewing and Information Site. This area is host to the largest California Big Horn Sheep herd in Canada. Building Vaseux Wetlands - Brief History Prior to the construction of the viaduct, the Okanagan River migrated through the valley, providing fresh water creating a natural ecological balance between wetland and lake. With the demand for a more efficient, agricultural water supply and the ability to re-claim riverside land for agricultural purposes, the viaduct was built. The river now by-passed the marsh and dumped directly into Vaseaux Lake. This action eliminated the fresh flow of water to the wetland and left it only to receive local seepage through naturally sandy soils or backflood from the lake during spring runoff. This created a stagnant wetland that encouraged excessive vegetation growth. The wetland literally choked itself with vegetation leaving too much cover and not enough open water for nesting waterfowl. In addition, there was still a water level fluctuation problem that tended to overturn or flood nests during the critical nesting season resulting in less waterfowl egg survival. Through the co-operation of local landowners and water licensee s, Ducks Unlimited took control of the marsh by installing a dam, water control structure and pumping system to stabilize the wetland during nesting periods. An added benefit would be that the higher water level creates more open water areas with immediate cover from predators. After a few years a controlled burn was done in the winter to again eliminate the existing choking vegetation to enhance nesting opportunities for birds. Vaseux Lake itself is a very good fishing lake famous for its big largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and good sized rainbow trout. See our Bass Fishing page for more on Vaseaux Lake. The Vaseaux Lake area also may contain one of the highest concentrations of rattlesnakes , especially at the north end of the lake where the Ducks Unlimited dam intersects with the Okanagan River dyke and viaduct. When the Ducks Unlimited dam was constructed, a number of large boulders where place where it joined the dyke to prevent vehicle access. Every year as the heat increases and the vegetation grows thick the rattlesnakes move from the hot rock hillside and take shelter in the long cool grasses and convenient shelter created by the boulders. NOTE: It is highly recommended that if one is to venture onto the dyke or dam (between May and Sept) they should be extremely cautious, wear protective clothing including hip waders and carry some sort of walking stick to ward off any snakes that may be too close for comfort. Do not kill the snakes, they are in a protected area. Vaseux Wetlands is an environmentally sensitive area for many wildlife, flora and fauna species. It is worth a visit any time of the year but particularly in the spring during bird and waterfowl migration. You can access the wetland on foot at the north end of the wetland just off the Green Lake Road on the west side of the Okanagan River viaduct. A hike (going south) along the dyke will get you to the wetland. Bring your binoculars! Dave Ouellette was an Engineering Tech for Ducks Unlimited Canada for 11 years. While constructing over 200 wetland segement in the Southern Interior of BC, Dave managed to fish almost as many lakes and streams in his travels. As an avid flyfisherman, Dave spends most of his ice free seasons devoting intense research and development days to the rainbow trout lakes in the southern interior of British Columbia. See more of Dave s information at Best in British Columbia - Fly Fishing Vacations

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