Big Bar Lake Provincial Park

History

The park’s characteristically rolling landscape was formed by debris left long ago by glaciers. The glacial eskers here are remnants of the last ice age; the melting of glaciers about ten thousand years ago left a hummocky landscape partially filled with small lakes and ponds. Eskers are formed when melt-water rivers transport gravel and silt underneath glaciers. Tunnels near the base of retreating glaciers fill with transported sediments that remain as sandy or gravelly ridges as the glacier melts away.

The area has been witness to much of the region’s history. The first people to occupy the plateau were the Salish Indians; they lived by hunting, fishing, and gathering edible plants. For most of the year the group was nomadic, spending the warmer months scouring the countryside for food. Winter villages, however, were semi-permanent. The Salish nomadic way of life did not survive the influx of white settlers. For the last 100 years, the area has been used for cattle ranching.

Conservation

Big Bar Lake Park includes representative ecosystems in both forest and lakeshore environments. The unique terrain imprints a snapshot of history on the landscape, telling the story of the area’s history of glaciation. The protection of such a landscape for its historical attributes and aesthetic appeal is important. Equally important is the conservation of the area’s wildlife habitat and plant and animal species. The scattered lakes, ponds, and wetlands support a host of wildlife species including large and small mammals, birds, and amphibians. Additionally, lakes in the area support healthy populations of rainbow trout.

The area’s dry, warm summers and winters with moderate snowfall greatly influence the plant species and wildlife species present. Since the park is away from the moderating influence of the ocean, the temperature extremes that must be tolerated by plant and animal life are greater than at the coast. Both the grass and tree species found in the area are uniquely adapted to this climate. Grasses grow quickly in spring and use the moisture from snowmelt and rain, while seeds and roots lie dormant during the summer’s hot and dry spell. Similarly, tree species are characteristically deep-rooted in order to access water. Common tree species include pine, spruce, and aspen – all of which are well adapted to dry areas and re-establish quickly following fire.

Flowers, trees and shrubs are part of the park’s natural heritage, please don’t damage or remove them.

Wildlife

The combination of grasses and trees with little undergrowth favours certain kinds of animals. In particular, deer are drawn to grazing areas closely interspersed with shelter in the trees. Coyotes, hawks and eagles are also common and prey on field mice and voles inhabiting grassland areas. Squirrels are plentiful, feeding on abundant pine and spruce cones. Black bear, moose, lynx and cougar are some of the large mammals found in the park and surrounding area. Park visitors also often see snowshoe hares, chipmunks and marmots. Big Bar Lake also supports an active beaver population. Please enjoy the beavers and other wildlife through quiet observation without disturbance.

Ducks Unlimited built a water control structure at the end of the marsh in 1988 to help encourage waterfowl nesting. There is excellent birdwatching here. Fishing for rainbow trout is a popular activity – the lake is stocked on a yearly basis.