Spotted Lake or kłlilx’w – Okanagan

Spotted Lake or kłlilx’w – Okanagan

Spotted Lake or kłlilx’w (sometimes written Ktlil’k) is a really interesting phenomenon in a lake just outside of Osoyoos in the Okanagan region of BC, Canada. It is a lake, right next to Highway 3, that looks like it is covered in multicoloured polka dots! In springtime the water covers the entire lake, so you might not be able to see the spots clearly, however later in the year, as water evaporates they become more obvious. Expect this lake to look a bit different every time you visit!

How to reach the Spotted Lake Viewpoint

There is a pull-in right beside Highway 3, 9.5km (6 miles) outside of Osoyoos. Watch out for the large white gate (below) so you don’t miss it.  Visitors are not permitted to go down to the lake without a tour, but you can get a really great view from up here.

How to pronounce kłlilx’w (or Ktlil’k)

I could not find anything online to show the pronunciation so for now, I asked ChatGPT: “The pronunciation of this word may vary slightly depending on the specific dialect of the local Syilx people, but generally, it is pronounced as “k-thlelth-k” or “k-thlel-k“.

The “k” is pronounced as in “kite”, the “th” is pronounced as in “think”, and the “l” is pronounced with the tongue touching the roof of the mouth behind the teeth. The apostrophe (‘) represents a glottal stop, which is a brief pause or closure of the vocal cords.”

What causes the Spots?

The spots are hundreds of separate smaller pools within the lake. The lake contains very high concentrations of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt), calcium and sodium sulphates, as well as traces of other minerals, like silver and titanium. Each summer the lake water evaporates due to toasty temperatures and minimal rainfall. This increases the concentration of the minerals in the water, allowing them to crystalize and form the distinctive circular pools. The colour of each pool depends of the concentrations of the salts and minerals. When we visited, the spots were different shades of blue and green, but I have heard it can be even more rainbow-like with yellows and browns.

If you are wondering it has so many minerals; This region was once covered by an inland sea, which eventually receded, leaving behind deposits of minerals and salts. Over time, volcanic activity and other geological processes uplifted the salty layer, exposing it at the surface.

History of Spotted Lake

Kłlilx’w has been a sacred place of healing for thousands of years. People would bathe in these minerals to treat a whole range of ailments; From arthritis to skin conditions and digestive problems.

When settlers came to the region, (as is often the case around Canada) the area around the lake was stolen from the Syilx people. During the gold-rush era, prospectors and ranchers descended on the land, clashing with the original inhabitants. In 1877 the Canadian Government forced the Syilx people of Osoyoos to move onto the reserve where they reside today. During the First World War an entrepreneur mined the lake for salts to make explosives. Laborers worked by hand to remove up to a ton of salt from the lake each day. Apparently the colours of kłlilx’w were far more vivid before this mining. The land was then sold and privately owned by the Ernest Smith Family for 40 years. In 1979, the family attempted to make the lake into a spa. The Osoyoos Indian Band (of course) objected. The land was finally acquired by the Okanagan Nation Alliance (with help from the Federal Government) in 2001.

Can you get up close to Spotted Lake?

Nowadays Spotted Lake is protected as a cultural and ecological treasure. It is not open to the public for bathing. There is a fence around the lake, so it is not normally possible to get up close to the spots. Please respect this sacred site, and refrain from jumping the fence!

The only way to get closer to the lake at the moment is to book a tour via a local Syilx guide via Sẁiẁs Spirit Tours. Or to ask permission from the Okanagan Nation Alliance. The sign mentions in the future they plan to create a path and an information kiosk.

Gorgeous grasslands around the Spotted Lake

The lake is located just outside the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area. This protects bunchgrass grasslands – one of the most endangered ecosystems in Canada. These grasslands are home to many unique plant and animal species, including burrowing owls, sage thrashers, and western rattlesnakes.

If you’d like to explore the beautiful South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area, I recommend visiting Mount Kobau. You can look down and see Spotted Lake. Although from the peak, it looks more like a bright white pond!

Want to learn more?

I’ll share some links if you want to find out more about this amazing site.

Spotted Lake or kłlilx’w is an amazing place to visit. Especially when you realize it is right next to the highway, and requires virtually no extra effort if you are driving to Osoyoos. Just, please respect the sanctity of the area. Do not leave any litter or trespass beyond the gate.

27 thoughts on “Spotted Lake or kłlilx’w – Okanagan

  1. Very interesting! I’ve driven past this place hundreds of times and never knew any of this. I’ll definitely be stopping and looking at taking a tour when we RV in the area. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. The first time we drove past, I noticed it, but didn’t have time to stop – I am so glad we took a peek this time!
      If you are in the area, Mount Kobau is pretty great too (you drive up, there there are easy hikes with amazing views at the top)

  2. Wow as someone who has been diagnosed with arthritis I now need to visit and experience these healing minerals! Also tried pronouncing the name and failed! But what a cool place. Just added it to my one day list 🙂

    1. Yeah I think it could be amazing for conditions like arthritis! I am not sure if the tours allow you to bathe… but if they don’t we saw some less famous spotty lakes nearby – maybe you could try one of those!?

  3. Wow, I have never seen anything like this before! What a cool natural phenomenon. I would love to see this when I travel to BC. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Gorgeous views! I’m so excited to make it out west to Calgary this summer even just for a few days to do some hiking – the scenery is unreal! We aim to visit BC next year (with Westjet focusing more on western Canadian flights haha) so I’m defintitely saving this for our trip!!

    1. Oooh niiiice! I know you are going to love it out West! Just give me a shout when you are planning for BC!

      If you are heading to Calgary this year, look into Waterton Lakes. It’s less famous than the bigger National Parks but soooo lovely! I have a few posts to write up about it in the next few weeks.

  5. Learned something new today and it’s really cool! I love that the land is now back in proper hands and being respected. A tour would be really interesting.

  6. So cool! Really appreciate that you shared some of the history and importance of this place to the native community. Thank you!

    1. Thanks lovely! Yeah, some of the information was hinted at from the sign posts next to the lake, so it made me curious to find out more.

  7. Oh, this lake is so cool. I’ve never seen a spotted lake before. I’m so glad the first nation people have oversight of the lake. I would love to go on one of those spiritual tours.

  8. utterly struggling with the name here 😂😂but it got me googling, and now i’m so entranced by its geographic history! what a marvel!

    1. I think we had the same reaction! I was trying so hard to work out how to pronounce it that I went down a rabbit hole learning the history of the area. Now I need to go back. 🙂

  9. This is cool! Also, it’s interesting, the way the Sylix language is written reminds me of the Salish language of the American Indian tribes in the Glacier National Park (US) area. Their locations aren’t “that” far apart, I wonder if the tribes are distantly related?

    1. Oooh interesting! Near Vancouver there are Coast Salish people, but it sounds like that term covers a huge area: “The Salishan (also Salish) languages are a family of languages of the Pacific Northwest in North America (the Canadian province of British Columbia and the American states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana). They are characterised by agglutinativity and syllabic consonants.” (from wiki)

      I guess that is why there are some similarities in the way they are written. 🙂

  10. Agreed – it’s such a cool phenomenon and it’s so worth stopping to admire the lake, especially on a sunny day like this. Then you can nip down into Osoyoos for ice cream afterwards 🙂

    Haven’t made it up to Mount Kobau yet but that is a stunning view! It’s supposed to have some of the darkest/clearest skies in Canada – I believe there was a plan to build a telescope there.

    1. Oooh I will write about Mount Kobau later – the walks up there are a bit short, but it is goooorgeous.

      If you go back, there is a B&B in Keremos at the Crowsnest Vineyard with the most fantastic German breakfast (incredible bread) If you fancy a bit of European culture before your hikes!

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