At first glance the semi-arid landscape of the South Okanagan can appear desolate, but on closer inspection this is far from the truth. The South Okanagan is an extraordinary place. It is Canada’s only “pocket desert”, a fragile and endangered ecosystem that is home to many unique and endangered plants and animals.
When I first moved to this area I immediately feel in love with the landscape. The dry rolling hills, steep cliff faces and muted colour of yellow, brown and green, make an interesting contrast to the deep and refreshing bodies of waters that run along the valley floor. As I took note of the various features of the South Okanagan I started to noticed signs posted throughout the area. These signs blatantly stated either “yes national park!” or “no national park!”. At the time I did not understand the debate, but I am slowly beginning to realize that the rapidly increasing need for agricultural land is resulting in the destruction of delicate ecosystems. In response to this destruction, organizations and individuals are taking action and raising awareness about the need to protect unique ecosystems of the South Okanagan.
The Osoyoos Desert Society, is one of these organizations. They operate the Desert Centre, a sixty-seven acre nature interpretive facility that is dedicated to conserving native species. The Desert Centre is located at the north end of Osoyoos, British Columbia (directions here). When it is open, the public can become acquainted with the beautiful and endangered ecosystem of the South Okanagan while taking a leisurely, stroller-friendly, 1.5 km stroll over a boardwalk. Our Learning Circle recently scheduled a “school” tour, which my children really enjoyed. The children were fascinated by various animal droppings, snake skins, prickly pear and yellow blossoming antelope-brush. The Desert Centre is open to the public in late April. This year the centre opens on April 26th, and admission is free on their opening day! Their regular operating hours and admission fees are listed on their website.
Now that we’ve seen the Desert Centre in the spring I want to return in the summer and again in the fall. Returning throughout the seasons would be a wonderful way to truly experience and appreciate the plants and species that are protected there. It is a really beautiful place, and I really recommend visiting it if you ever have the opportunity.