South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area
Due to the ongoing Testalinden Creek wildfire, there is an area closure for the northern sections of the park: the Mt. Kobau section and the North Kilpoola section (area north and west of Spotted Lake). This closure includes the Kobau Forest Service Road. Please remain out of these areas until further notice.
About This ParkThe 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
- 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.
Location and MapsPlease note: Any maps listed are for information only – they may not represent legal boundaries and should not be used for navigation.
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.
Maps and BrochuresAny maps listed are for information only – they may not represent legal boundaries and should not be used for navigation.
- Park Map [PDF 8.6MB] Motorized and non-motorized access routes through South Okanagan Grassland Protected Area are shown on this map. Both Kruger Mt. Rd. and the road to Mt. Kobau are gravel roads and maintained infrequently. Strawberry Creek Access Road is a very rough, unmaintained dirt road. Some sections may be difficult to pass even with a 4 x 4 vehicle. Please respect private land, including private conservation lands.
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.
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.
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.
Management PlanningManagement Planning Information
- Approved Management Directive Statements are available for Chopaka East, Chopaka West, Kilpoola and Mt. Kobau Sites.
- Chopaka East Approved Management Direction Statement [PDF 841.8KB]
- Chopaka West Approved Management Direction Statement [PDF 805.08KB]
- Kilpoola Approved Management Direction Statement [PDF 969.81KB]
- Mt. Kobau Approved Management Direction Statement [PDF 1.01MB]
Activities Available at this Park
Mt. Kobau-Testalinden Trail. The trail begins at the parking area atop the mountain. It is a 5 km loop around the summit that passes through mixed sub-alpine forest and open grasslands. The trail provides interesting landscape diversity and excellent views of the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys and the Cascade Mountains.