South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area
About This Park
The Richter Pass has long been a priority for conservation efforts in the Okanagan. The primary role of the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area is to protect the dry grasslands and open forests that represent one of the four most endangered ecosystems in Canada.
The protected area comprises four sites: Mt. Kobau, Kilpoola, Chopaka East and Chopaka West and protects all known Canadian sites of at least three plant species and habitat for an astonishing number of rare and endangered birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
Park Size: 9, 364 hectares
Location and Maps
Access to the sites is via Hwy 3 and Kruger Mountain Road, 9 km west of Osoyoos. 9 km west of Osoyoos and 11 km southwest of Oliver.
The four sites that make up the South Okanagan Grasslands are in the Richter Pass 9 km west of Osoyoos on Hwy 3. They are separated by both crown and private land. The Mt. Kobau site is at mid to high elevation and roughly bounded by Tinhorn Creek in the northeast, Cawston Creek in the northwest and Hwy 3 in the south. Chopaka West is centered on Little Chopaka Mountain and roughly bounded by the Similkameen River, Nighthawk Road and the international border. Chopaka East encompasses Black Mountain from Richter Lake to the international border. The Kilpoola Lake valley separates Chopaka East from the Kilpoola site, which encompasses Kruger Mountain. These locations are very general, the boundaries between protected area and private land are irregular.
Nature and Culture
- History - The South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area was established on April 18, 2001 as a result of the Okanagan-Shuswap LRMP process.
- Cultural Heritage - There is a long history of First Nations use near Spotted Lake. Mining was common throughout the grasslands of Kilpoola and Chopaka East near the international border and on Mt. Kobau. The Dewdney Trail passes through the northern portion of Chopaka West.
- Conservation - Chopaka East protects four red-listed plants and is one of the best known sites for rare dry ground lichens (cryptogams) with several species new to science. Almost all Canadian observations of the rare Lyall's Mariposa lily occur within the site.
Kilpoola protects three red-listed plants and one blue-listed plant as well as the Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass plant community. Blue Lake has unusual water chemistry and high salinity with significant growth of rare anaerobic purple sulphur bacteria and an extreme temperature gradient with depth that prevents mixing. A mosaic of open forest, burned areas, grassland, deciduous and wetland habitats is present here.
Mt. Kobau protects rare terrestrial lichens, including species new to Canada and new to science. It contains Bighorn sheep range and Class 1 Mule deer winter range and provides an excellent example of mid and high elevation climax grassland/sagebrush communities. Of special note are the red-listed Vasey's Big Sagebrush and Big Sage/Bluebunch wheatgrass-balsamroot plant communities.
- Wildlife - Chopaka East contains six red and six blue-listed wildlife species. The feature birds are the Sage thrasher and the Grasshopper sparrow.
Chopaka West contains 11 red and nine blue-listed wildife species. Two of these red-listed species which have been observed in or adjacent to the park (Pygmy short-horned lizard and White-tailed jackrabbit) are now thought to be extirpated in the Province. The feature bird is the Sage thrasher. Chopaka West is the only place in the province that they regularly breed.
Kilpoola contains eight red and seventeen blue-listed wildlife species. The feature bird is the Grasshopper sparrow.
Mt. Kobau contains one red and three blue-listed wildlife species. The feature bird is the Brewer's sparrow.
- Approved Management Directive Statements are now available for Chopaka East, Chopaka West, Kilpoola and Mt. Kobau Sites.
- The Chopaka East and Chopaka West sites are closed to motor vehicles. Kilpoola is closed to motor vehicles with the exception of Kruger Mountain Road. The main road to the summit of Mt. Kobau is open to motor vehicles, all other roads are closed
- Mine adits found in the protected area are closed to the public. They are hazardous and entry is strictly prohibited.
- The extremely hot, dry Okanagan climate can result in overexposure to the sun. Visitors should use a sunscreen and wear a hat during long periods in the sun. Hikers are reminded to bring plenty of water since there is none available in the park and consider scheduling their activities to avoid the heat of the day.
- The value of the park lies in its rare wildlife. Tread lightly wherever you go. Use established trails only to help minimize disturbance and prevent the spread of unwanted plant species.
Activities Available at this Park
Cycling is permitted. Recreational mountain biking is allowed on designated roadways only.
Pets on Leash
Backcountry areas are not suitable for dogs or other pets due to wildlife issues and the potential for problems with bears.
The summit of Mt. Kobau is considered one of the best places in Canada for astronomy. The annual Star Party attracts enthusiasts from throughout the Pacific Northwest.