By Jack Christie
Snap quiz: which is the warmest lake in B.C., Osoyoos or Christina? In truth, this is a trick question. The right answer depends on whether you live in the Okanagan Valley, home to border-straddling Osoyoos, or in the Boundary region, site of Christina. Both lakeside towns claim bragging rights as the province’s aquatic hot spot. Until someone offers definitive proof one way or the other, this dispute remains a split decision.
For what it’s worth, Wikipedia credits Osoyoos Lake with an average summer temperature of 24 Celsius while the on-line encyclopedia’s entry for Christina Lake reads “in the 23 Celsius range.” The Canadian Encyclopedia weighs in on the side of Osoyoos, but gives short shrift to Christina Lake, which doesn’t even rate a mention. In the “splitting hairs” category, Christina comes out on top as the warmest tree-lined lake in Canada, a fine point no doubt intended by the local tourism office to trump its desert competition.
When you’re traversing the province in summer along Highway 3 — the Route of the Crow — and in need of a dip to cool off, all such comparisons are purely academic. You just want to get into either lake as quickly as possible. Fortunately, there’s a provincial park located on the shores of each for quick beach access. When it comes to overnighting, Haynes Point Park in Osoyoos features 41 vehicle campsites, whereas Christina Lake Park is day-use only. One difference abundantly clear on arrival at each is that Osoyoos is by far the more popular — and more populous — of the two communities.
By the very nature of its location, the Boundary region is much quieter than the Okanagan. Situated midway between Vancouver and the B.C.-Alberta border, Boundary features a serene, rolling beauty of open fields burnt golden by the sun with the town of Grand Forks at its hub. Christina Lake lies 14 kilometres further east where the Monashee Mountains begin to bunch up at the entrance to the Kootenays. Over a century ago, mining brought workers to settlements such as Phoenix, almost all of which played out their lodes long ago. When families needed a place to relax, they headed to one of five resorts which dotted Christina Lake. In the late 1800s, a steamboat made two trips a day along the shoreline.
An outfall from Christina Lake flows into the nearby Kettle River and from there south into Washington State. Mention of the Kettle River brings to mind the former CPR rail route that now draws cyclists to explore its main and spur lines, particularly between Hope and the Okanagan. Just as welcoming is the section that links Grand Forks with Christina Lake, featuring two trestle bridges that span the Kettle. In 2003, a group of British Royal Engineers, assisted by the 44th Field Engineer Squadron stationed in Trail, restored the bridges for recreational use by resurfacing them with planks and installing protective railings. This was part of a three-year program to assist communities along the Trans Canada Trail, of which the KVR is a major component.