Makin' Trails

This week’s Secret Okanagan Spot in the SOS series is the Okanagan River dike trail south of Okanagan Falls, above. The trail is actually a gravel vehicle access road for dike maintenance with locked gates at regular intervals but it is popular with cyclists, hikers, dog walkers and parents pushing strollers.

Our second South Okanagan camping trip of 2021 provided opportunities for more e-bike exploration as well as education about the Okanagan Nation and specifically the Osoyoos Indian Band, which maintains and operates sxwexwnitkw Provincial Park.

The park is located on Green Lake Road, 500 metres from Highway 97 in Okanagan Falls, making it an ideal base for using the vehicle-width dike maintenance trail heading south beside the Okanagan River and the South Spur of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail up the west side of Skaha Lake to Penticton.

The Sheriff cycled paved Green Lake Road from the campground all the way around on Willowbrook Road and White Lake Road to its northern junction with Highway 97, discovering an alpaca farm along the way, five timid deer who wanted to cross the road but never did, and several small lakes.

On day two, he checked out the river channel dike, then switched to the South Spur south of Okanagan Falls and found them so picturesque that he took Constant Companion Carmen and cycling buddies there for the next two days.

Of note, sxwexwnitkw is the cleanest, best-maintained provincial park the Sheriff has ever seen and comes highly recommended for camping, especially if you can get sites next to the river.

In 2015, this provincial park was renamed sxwexwnitkw to reflect the traditional Okanagan place name for the area. Sxwexwnitkw means “little falls” signifying the connection to the historic Kettle Falls in Washington state which has the name sxwnitkw or “big falls.”

These two falls were two of the most important fishing sites in the Okanagan Nation’s traditional territory. In the 1950s, the falls that gave sxwexwnitkw park its name were blasted to make way for a flood control dam.

The park offers 25 vehicle-accessible campsites nestled between the Okanagan River and the steep foothills of Mount McLellan. All sites are reservable from May 18 to Sept. 3 but it closes annually on the third weekend of September for the Okanagan Nation Alliance’s Salmon Feast. The BC seniors’ rate (day after Labour Day to June 14 only) is half-price at $12.50 per senior party/night.

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And now, more on Knox Mountain East — 65 hectares east of Clifton Road (Magic Estates) purchased by the City of Kelowna before 2010 — from Andrew Hunsberger, the city’s urban forestry supervisor:

“This year, we’re updating our Knox Mountain management plan done in 2011 and we’re going to speak to that parcel more so. Our real issue with that piece is we don’t have sufficient parking. Grainger Road is not a good area to send people — it’s a tight road with not a lot of room at the end — so we don’t advertise it for that reason.

“Cara Glen Way has unofficial parking. Ideally, when Cara Glen Way gets developed, the city has a road right-of-way right into the park and a parking lot would be developed along the roadside. We don’t want to discourage, but we’re not encouraging groups of people because then we run into problems with parking across from homes and it just becomes a bit messy. And we don’t have a lot of infrastructure there so it’s hard to trail-find.”

Some work was done in Knox Mountain East in the spring of 2020 — a wildfire fuel mitigation project, thanks to a $140,000 provincial grant, he said, noting a chunk of the piece burned three or four years ago.

“Our thoughts are not anything concrete but I would like to see that area developed more - the ability to send more people over there to recreate — so we can take some pressure off the main parcel of Knox Mountain.

“It’s getting a lot of use, which is fantastic, but at the same time, we have to be careful that we don’t wreck some of those areas that we want to protect,” he said.

“With the updated management plan, I would like to try and push some initiatives to get this site developed a little further — signage, parking, possibly upgrade some of the trails. The steeper unofficial areas would need some upgrading. That would probably be it for now.”

The city also owns two adjacent parcels to the north (south of Wilden) called the Crosby Road open space off Crosby Road in the Glenmore Valley, he noted.

As part of the management plan update, the city will seek input from the public as well as get feedback during its annual stakeholder meeting with representatives from the Friends of Knox Mountain, Central Okanagan Naturalists Club, mountain bike and hiking clubs, for example.

The results of ecological monitoring in different parts of Knox Mountain Park -—for invasive plants, mountain pine beetle, Douglas fir tussock moth, tree cover and tree removal — would be shared at that meeting.

The city also has trail and roadway monitors to count the number of hikers, cyclists and motorists, the time of day they are using the city’s largest wilderness park and how its trails work, he said.

The first step in public engagement is a city website survey on the future of Knox Mountain Drive, possibly permanently closing it to motor vehicles.

J.P. Squire, aka the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff

is a retired journalist.

Email: jp.squire@telus.net