I’ve always been a sucker for weird natural formations. Phallic fairy chimneys in Turkey’s Cappadocia, the hoodoos surrounding Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park, the Chocolate Hills in the Philippines, Kauai’s Na Poli Coastline, Gullvoss in Iceland – the list goes on. First time I heard about Spotted Lake, it sounded unique enough to belong within the Bucket List book itself. Problem being that a: it’s a weird, but not essential experience, and b: it sits on private land, so you can’t really explore the lake other than take a few pictures next to a gate that says “No Trespassing”.
Fair enough, since this is a medicine lake for the First Nations of the Okanagan, a place of special meaning and beauty. They finally managed to buy it in 2001 after the original owner failed in an attempt to turn it into a spa resort. Minerals from the lake were also used to create ammunition during World War I. It’s far better that the lake today is a source of healing as opposed to killing and maiming.
You can view Spotted Lake from Highway 3 northeast of the BC town of Osoyoos, one of the hottest places in the country, where temperatures in summer routinely crack 38C. Osoyoos is also one of two true semi-arid deserts in Canada (the other is in Carcross, Yukon), home to scorpions, horned toads, and turtles you won’t find anywhere else in the country. It’s the northern tip of the Sonoran Desert that runs all the way to Mexico. The town is an oasis for holidaymakers in the summer, guaranteed hot sun on the sandy beaches of Lake Osoysoos, the warmest freshwater in all of Canada.
The coloured pools of Spotted Lake are formed each summer when the lake evaporates, leaving mineral-rich deposits of calcium, magnesium sulphate, and even silver. When I stopped by, the gate was fortunately open as some local First Nation ladies were collecting “smudge” sage and flowers to be used for a natural shampoo. They didn’t seem to mind if I walked down the dirt road to get some pictures, but they did lock the gate when they returned to their car (which sported a head-scratching bumper sticker “100% Cowboy!”) A sign next to the gate revealed that a viewing deck was in development. In the meantime, cars just line up on the narrow shoulder of Highway 3. “I’ve always drove past this but never looked at it,” says a guy who pulls up behind us. A common enough sentiment found throughout the country.