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Boat Impacts on Kalamalka and Wood Lake

One of the defining features of the Okanagan is our access to beautiful lakes. The lakes are a wonderful natural asset to swimmers, paddlers and boaters, and they also are the source of water for tens of thousands and the home to sensitive species.

To protect our drinking water, fish and wildlife habitat, the shoreline, and swimmers and paddlers, Power boaters on Kalamalka and Wood Lakes are encouraged to Head to the Playzone - Keep Wakes Low and Boats Slow in Shallow Water.

The concept is simple – after you launch your boat, head to water that’s deeper than 8 metres or approximately 25 feet before making large wakes and reaching high speeds.

It’s a win-win for us all. Not only will you help keep drinking water clean, protect habitat and avoid unnecessary erosion of the rail trail, deeper is better for making great waves for sports like wakeboarding or wake surfing.

Here’s the recommended active boating zone. You’ll see that the majority of the lake is great for making large wakes!

The four main impacts of creating large wakes while boating in shallow water are: 

Water Quality

A study was completed in 2019 that identified that wakes and prop wash from powerboats could disturb the lake bottom up to a depth of 8 metres. This creates a problem for drinking water quality since the lake bottom sediment is contaminated with bacteria, heavy metals, pesticide residues and hydrocarbons. When this sediment is kicked up by boat wakes and prop wash, there is a risk of these contaminants entering public and private drinking water intakes.

Contaminants can enter lakes through stormwater run-off. They settle on the lake bottom and are naturally covered and neutralized by new, non-harmful sediment like sand. However, when the sediment is disturbed and kicked up by boats, those harmful substances are back in transit in the water and can be drawn into water intakes.

Shoreline Erosion

The Okanagan Rail Trail, public parks and private houses border the two lakes. Wakes can cause erosion of the shoreline and damage these public assets and private homes.

There are natural factors that cause erosion to the shorelines on the lakes. Storms can generate large waves, but the storms usually travel in a north-south direction and over time, storm waves have created rock and pebble beaches. The frequency that waves hit when they are created by boats is much higher, which can create more damage.

Habitat and Environmental Impacts

  • Large waves can overturn bird nests on shore
  • Boat activity and waves degrade habitats for shore-spawning kokanee
  • Loud boat engine noise also disturbs nesting birds and fish
  • Amphibians and their eggs are disturbed by wakes

Interactions with Boats and Swimmers and Paddlers

Keeping boats slow in shallow water reduces the likelihood of interactions between boater and swimmers and paddlers. Slow speeds allow boaters to have a better view of non-motorized lake users as they make their way to the Playzone.