Osoyoos - Highway 20 Loop

May 30 to 31, 2009

There are several ways to reach Osoyoos, either from Highway 3 or Coquihalla Highway. This time we followed Coquihalla Highway and before reaching Merritt we drove south on Highway 5A.

Highway 5A has some resting areas such as Allison Lake, a great spot for swimmers and those who love to fish. The park is known for its spectacular stands of aspen that burst into golden colours in the fall. This is a great overnight spot when travelling between Merritt and Princeton.

Once you reach Princeton, follow Highway 3 where there is another resting area on Bromley Rock Provincial Park. This is a striking rock bluff along the Similkameen River where in summer swimmers can enjoy a refreshing dip in a quiet pool.

8.8 kms (5.5 miles) west of Osoyoos you can see Spotted Lake. The lake is not open to the public, and is therefore not accessible, but you can get a good view from the highway.

(1) Allison Lake
(2) Bromley Rock Provincial Park
(3) Spotted Lake

In the hot sun of summer, the water of Spotted Lake evaporates and crystallizes the minerals, forming many white-rimmed circles: shallow pools that reflect the mineral content of the water in shades of blues and greens.

It contains one of the worlds highest concentrations of minerals: magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts), calcium and sodium sulphates, plus eight other minerals and traces of four more, including silver and titanium.

The Indians soaked away aches and ailments in the healing mud and waters. One story cites a truce in a battle to allow both warring tribes to tend to their wounded in the Spotted Lake, "Kliluk".

You can take some great camera shots of Osoyoos Lake from both the east and west side of Hwy 3 heading into Osoyoos. On the east is the viewpoint coming down the summit of Anarchist Mountain. Here you can see all the way down to the US in the south and, looking north, pretty well the whole of Osoyoos Lake. On the west there is Richter Pass - a very steep incline going into Osoyoos with panoramic views of the desert and lake.

Osoyoos Lake - East Viewpoint

We decided to call it for the day and spend the rest of the day in this beautiful place.

Osoyoos Lake is often considered Canada's warmest lake, with average summer water temperatures of 24°C (75°F). The lake is surrounded by several beaches and picnic grounds. The lake has a perimeter of 47.9 km, an elevation of 276 m, a maximum depth of 63 m and a mean depth of 14 m.

Osoyoos Lake

The origin of the name Osoyoos was the word suius meaning "narrowing of the waters" in the local Okanagan language (Syilx'tsn). The "O-" prefix is not indigenous in origin and was attached by settler-promoters wanting to harmonize the name with other O-names in the Okanagan region (Oliver, Omak, Oroville, and Okanagan).

Walking on nearby parks

The climate is semi-arid with summers that are generally hot and very dry. The result is one of the longest growing seasons in Canada. Normally, daily temperatures in July and August average above 30°C (86°F), with overnight lows of around 16°C (60°F). September and October are usually warm and pleasant. Winters are short but can be somewhat cold with average lows about -5°C (24°F) in January. Spring arrives early.

In fact, Osoyoos is located on Canada's only desert - the northern most tip of the Sonora Desert.

Top - North view of Osoyoos Lake
Bottom left- Quail
Bottom right - Carp

Osoyoos Lake is a good place to fish large bass and is reported to hold the provincial record. Fishing is best in the spring but can be productive throughout the year for largemouth, smallmouth, black crappie and perch. The north end of the lake where the river runs in can also be very productive for large bass.

From Osoyoos you drive south towards Oroville (WA). Follow the directions to drive on State Route 20 West. An interesting place to stop is Winthrop, a popular tourist destination known for the American Old West design of all the buildings.

Winthrop and Mazama recorded the coldest temperature ever measured in Washington state at −48 °F (-44.4 °C) on December 30, 1968.

Winthrop (WA)

State Route 20, also known as SR 20 or North Cascades Highway opened in September 1972 and has been called "The Most Beautiful Mountain Highway in the State of Washington."

Washington Pass

SR 20 is one of only three State Routes in Washington that have portions closed in the winter (the others being State Route 410 and State Route 123). Washington Pass annually receives several feet of snow throughout the winter, and is prone to avalanches leaving over 20 feet (6.1 m) of snow on the road.

Washington Pass

After the pass there are some viewpoints where you can have views of Ross and Diablo Lake.

Diablo Lake was formed after Diablo Dam was built. The Diablo Dam, named from a Chinook word influenced by early Spanish explorers meaning "devil," was once the world's tallest dam, standing 389 feet (118 m) tall. Today, the uniquely colored waters of the lake are home to brown and rainbow trout. The surrounding glaciers grind rocks into a fine powder that stays suspended in the lake reflecting an intense turquoise color.

This dam is part of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project, the other two major dams are Gorge Dam and Ross Dam.

Diablo Lake

Once you reach Interstate 5, you can head back to Vancouver, but if you have couple of hours to spare I recommend to follow SR 20 and do a final stop on Deception Pass.

Deception Pass is a strait separating Whidbey Island from Fidalgo Island, in the northwest part of the U.S. state of Washington. It connects Skagit Bay, part of Puget Sound, with the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The first Europeans to see Deception Pass were members of the 1790 expedition of Manuel Quimper on the Princesa Real. The Spanish gave it the name Boca de Flon. A group of sailors led by Joseph Whidbey, part of the Vancouver Expedition, found and mapped Deception Pass on June 1, 1792. George Vancouver gave it the name "Deception" because it had appeared to be a narrow bay instead of a strait, which would have made Whidbey Island a peninsula.

Top: View from bridge looking east
Bottom: View from bridge looking west

Deception Pass is today surrounded by Deception Pass State Park, the most-visited park in Washington with over 2 million visitors each year. The park was established in the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built roads, trails, and buildings in order to develop the park.

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Driving distance from Vancouver: 1046 kilometers (650 miles)
About 14 hours

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