Wildlife Viewing Tour Operators: Thompson Okanagan

Wildlife Viewing in the Thompson Nicola

The Yellowhead Highway
BC Wildlife Watch migratory bird, mammal, amphibian, and plant life viewing sites, complete with trails and observation towers, are located in Starratt Wildlife Sanctuary and Hicks Regional Park in Valemount.

At Jackman Flats, south of Tete Jaune Cache, visitors will find unique botanical interpretive trails. And August and September is the time to witness the always-amazing spectacle of the Fraser River salmon run in Rearguard Falls Provincial Park.

Wildlife Viewing in the Okanagan Valley

For a special wildlife-viewing experience, take a day to visit Vaseux Lake Provincial Park, south of Penticton on Hwy 97. Here, the Vaseux Lake Nature Trust operates the Vaseux Wildlife Centre in a multiagency cooperative project. In addition, there is a Canadian Wildlife Service wildlife sanctuary adjacent to the park and two Wildlife Management Units ensuring protection of critical bighorn sheep winter range. The cliffs surrounding the park include spring and winter range of California bighorn sheep, and the area is famous for bird-watching. Grasses, reeds, willows, and shrubs along the shore afford a home to many varieties of birdlife. Waterfowl, including trumpeter swans, widgeons, Canada geese, wood ducks, and blue-winged teal, are common. In spring, the beautiful lazuli bunting has been seen. Other bird species present include chukar partridge, wrens, swifts, sage thrashers, woodpeckers, curlews, and dippers. Mammal species found here include beavers, bats, cottontail rabbits, muskrats, deer, and mice. Rattlesnakes, toads, and turtles also live in this area. Considerable populations of largemouth bass, rainbow trout, and carp make their home in the water, and in winter, the frozen lake offers excellent conditions for ice fishing as well as other ice-related activities.

If you’re in the town of Kelowna itself, you can watch kokanee salmon spawning mid-September to mid-October in Lion’s Park from a BC Wildlife viewing area off Springfield Rd or during a guided tour; and you can take advantage of another BC Wildlife migratory bird-viewing site at Bertram Creek Regional Park.

The Trans-Canada Highway
The 2,440-acre (988 hectares) Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park encompasses the entire length of the Adams River, the site of the largest sockeye salmon run on the West Coast. There’s an excellent interpretive area that explains the whole phenomenal trek. A ‘dominant’ run happens every four years, followed by years of much smaller runs. The sockeye are joined by chinook, coho, and pink salmon. The exact dates of the late summer-early fall salmon run depend on temperature, rainfall, and water levels. Many wild critters live in this park, among them bears, beavers, and river otters.

In the town of Salmon Arm, the mouth of the Salmon River is alive with breeding and nesting birds, especially Clark’s grebes and western grebes, from April to June. Downtown, the Rotary Peace Park and Public wharf has a BC Wildlife Watch viewing area and picnic site, and offers good access to the river and its birds.

The Crowsnest Highway: South Okanagan Valley
If you’re travelling Hwy 3 during the early morning, watch for a mountain goat colony that inhabits the exposed, rocky north side of the highway between Hedley and Keremeos.

Manning Provincial Park provides excellent wildlife-viewing opportunities. Small mammals, including marmots, beavers, and chipmunks, share the wilderness areas with black bears, mule deer, and coyotes. Beavers, elk, and moose reside in the park but are seldom seen. Birdlife is abundant, especially in summer, with 206 species to watch for. Early morning is the best time for observing birds and mammals. As always in wilderness areas, hikers and campers should be alert for wild animals, especially bears, and take the necessary safety precautions.