Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary


Welcome to Vaseux-Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Vaseux-Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary is open to the public for day-use only. Please note that while Environment and Climate Change Canada establishes trails and infrastructure to support visitor access and use of selected Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, staff are not always on-site for management of public safety.

Please respect the environment and leave no trace.

The Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located south of Penticton, in British Columbia. It offers a habitat for many waterbirds, such as trumpetter swan.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary is located 5 kilometres south of Okanagan falls in the picturesque Okanagan Valley of southern British Columbia. Covering Vaseux Lake as well as some of the surrounding land, the sanctuary is adjacent, and in some areas overlapping, with the Vaseux-Bighorn National Wildlife Area. These two protected areas are unique in Canada as many of the species present within them are at the most northern extreme of their range.

While the sanctuary was initially established to protect Trumpeter Swans, it is also home to a variety of other species including ducks, coots and grebes. These species will overwinter on Vaseux Lake if the water remains unfrozen. Lewis’ woodpecker, western screech owl and yellow-breasted chat are commonly found within the sanctuary. Canada geese also use the lake and their numbers have been increasing dramatically over the past few years. Hatfield Island, a privately owned island located in the southern end of the lake, is a known nesting area for over 200 Canada geese. Majestic great blue herons and iconic common loons can also be spotted living on the lake.

Trumpeter swans
Trumpeter swans

Did you know?

Trumpeter swans are well adapted for the harsh environments due to their unusually dense layer of down which can be up to 5 cm thick, making them almost impervious to the cold even with temperatures as low as -30°C.  


The lake itself is shallow and is fed by the channelized Okanagan River, which flows into the northern end of the lake and out the southern end. The aquatic vegetation in the lake is greatly overrun with Eurasian water-milfoil, an invasive species that grows in slow moving water.

Vaseux Lake
Vaseux Lake

The shores and land surrounding the lake are owned either privately or are federally owned Crown land. The eastern shore, between the lake and Highway 97 is mostly privately owned, as are the lands on the southern shore where many cottages have been built. The remaining shoreline is federally managed.

Map of the area

Map of Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
  • Long description

    Map showing the area around Vaseux Lake in the Okanagan region, south of British Columbia. The map shows the boundaries of the Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) and the boundaries of the Vaseux-Bighorn National Wildlife Area (NWA). The MBS cover the lake and a portion of the lands located north-west of the lake. The NWA is constituted of six distinctive units. The units are named by their location in relation to the Vaseux Lake. The North-west Creek unit and the North Wetlands unit overlap the MBS. The remaining units are, namely,  north-east highland unit, west unit, south-east highland unit and Irrigation River unit, which is located a few kilometers east to the lake. Both protected areas are crossed by highway 97. The scale of the map is in kilometers. Permanent waters, roads and highways are shown on the map. An inset on the map shows the location of the shelter in Canada.

Planning your visit

A boardwalk and an information kiosk are both accessible from a small parking lot near the northern end of the lake. Some public events are offered locally by the Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance. The views in this area are beautiful; so don’t forget to bring your camera!

Public facilities: a small parking lot, a boardwalk, an information kiosk, and a wildlife viewing tower.

Access to the sanctuary is from Highway 97 (five km south of Okanagan Falls and nearly 15 km north of Oliver).

GPS: 49.303300, -119.535472

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Vaseux Lake, are established across the country to protect migratory birds during critical periods of their migration. Whether these areas are used for feeding, resting or nesting, they play an important role in the survival of many species. Parts of Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary are located on private lands. Make sure that you have the landowner’s permission before accessing private lands and please ensure that you are aware of how, as a visitor, you can help protect this sanctuary. Before accessing the site, please read the restrictions, including those on firearms and hunting that are in place to conserve the wildlife that call it home. Motorized boats are not permitted on the lake and it is also important to remember that pets are not welcome inside Migratory Bird Sanctuaries.

If you would like further information on what is permitted in Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, please visit the Management and Activities section of the website. For more information on Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory British Columbia
Latitude/longitude 49°17' N, 119°32' W
Size 282 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1923
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category Natural Monument or Feature (III)
Additional designations
Main habitat type Shallow lake
Key bird species Trumpeter swan, Canada goose, mallard, American coot, pied-billed grebe, red-necked grebe, horned grebe, great blue heron, common loon, green-winged teal, redhead, osprey, Virginia rail, sora, and belted kingfisher
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Great blue heron, Lewis's woodpecker, western screech-owl and yellow-breasted chat
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Pacific Region
Landowner Canadian Wildlife Service, Province of British Columbia and private

Related links

Contact information

Environment and Climate Change Canada – Pacific and Yukon Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Ecosystem Conservation
5421 Robertson Road
Delta, BC V4K 3N2

Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)

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