The rocky, forested headlands and sheltered, sandy bays of small Ellison Provincial Park await you on the east side of Okanagan Lake, just a few miles south of Vernon.
Walking trails provide access to the headlands that separate two beautiful bays, offering boulder-climbing excitement and wildflower photo opportunities. The bays are good fishing spots, attracting carp, burbot, kokanee, and trout. (A car-top boat launch is located just north of the park, and a full boat-launch facility is about 5 miles (8 km) north of the park.)
This is an area of undulating benchland dominated by stands of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir, set between the rolling hills of the Thompson Plateau to the west and the peaks of the Monashee Mountains to the east. The climate is dry and warm, and this is one of the prime fruit-growing and agricultural areas of the province. There are six archaeological sites within the park.
Otter Bay in Ellison Provincial Park in Vernon is the site of western Canada’s first freshwater scuba-diving and snorkelling park. A number of objects have been sunk here to attract a variety of fish and other lake-dwelling creatures.
The park, however, has more to offer than just scuba diving. Situated on the northeastern shores of Okanagan Lake, the park’s natural scenery combined with the Okanagan’s favourable climate provide many recreational activities from spring to fall making it a very popular place for families to vacation. Activities include hiking, camping, swimming, fishing and canoeing and kayaking.
Six kilometres of hiking trails provide an excellent opportunity to ramble around and see unique plants and animal life, watch out for porcupines, which are commonly seen on the Ellison Trail! During the summer months, BC Parks offers educational interpretive programs in an outdoor amphitheatre. The small granite cliffs by South Bay are used for climbing, mainly by locals and beginners due to their small size and moderate degree of difficulty. There is scrambling, bouldering and top-rope climbing in short pitches. Local recreation groups offer guided rock climbing and outdoor recreation day camps in the park.
This park does not have a boat launch. There are several boat launches nearby. Houseboats can pull ashore at Sandy Beach, the standard park camping fee is charged for overnight use. Mooring buoys offshore in South Bay and Otter Bay are part of a marine park system sponsored by the Okanagan’s yacht clubs. Water-skiing and cruising are also popular.
There are 71 spacious campsites, reservations are accepted and the park is wheelchair accessible. Amenities include picnic tables, flush and pit toilets, fire pits, water and wood. The beach areas also include changing facilities and outdoor showers. There are two yurts located near the playground (sites 51/53) available and can be reserved by phone only through Discover Camping. Fees are collected from April 1 – October 31 and from November 1 – March 31, the park is gated.
Take Hwy 97 for 10 miles (16 km) south from Vernon; there is paved access from Vernon only.
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