Mahoney Lake to White Lake

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This is a half day hike I did in the hills above Okanagan Falls in May 2013. The White Lake basin has long been one of my favourite birding areas, and several years ago I went on a walk led by Terry McIntosh exploring the upland areas behind the basin. This day I decided to explore a bit further into the woods and find the route from Mahoney Lake.
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Further up the road from Okanagan Falls and past Green Lake, Mahoney Lake is what’s known as a meromictic lake, meaning that there is little or no mixture between water layers. It’s also alkaline with poorly established vegetation, and with the lake bottom sediments largely undisturbed since the last glacial period it’s frequently studied by those who are into that sort of thing.

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The lake is mostly surrounded by ponderosa pine woods with lodgepole pine and Douglas-fir higher up and further in.

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Arrow-leaved balsamroot are usually peaking in the Okanagan during the Victoria Day weekend in May, and they were great on this trip. Even better were the large patches of bitterroot (Lewisia) in the woods behind the lake.

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 There isn’t really any kind of formal trail, but it wasn’t difficult to pick out a route through the system of ranch roads and trails. You could really get lost in there if you weren’t careful, but prior research on Google Earth and a general route laid out on GPS made the directions pretty straightforward. The map of the south Okanagan shows a crazy quilt of various levels of land use protection or lack thereof, and much of this area is part of the White Lake Grasslands Protected Area, a highly discontinuous area that consists of at least five separate units. And it doesn’t include White Lake.

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Hawthorne Mountain is part of the protected area, as are Mount Keogan and part of McIntyre Bluff further south from Green Lake Road.

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I followed a trail along a ridge above a small canyon, and past a few lovely ponds and wetlands.

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Over another ridge and into the canyon of Kearns Creek, which drains the area behind White Lake (White Lake itself, like Mahoney, has no outlet). Several interesting wetlands and small creeks interspersed in the hills here.

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Eventually coming out by the southeast corner of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and its array of antennas.

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And what looks like the remains of an old homestead

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There were Lazuli Buntings, Mountain and Western Bluebirds and Western Meadowlarks along the fences. Sora, Black-chinned and Calliope Hummingbirds and Northern Waterthrush in the wetlands. And a Canyon Wren was singing somewhere from the cliffs by White Lake Road while I waited for Cheryl to come and pick me up.

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