Vaseux-Bighorn National Wildlife Area


Welcome to Vaseux-Bighorn National Wildlife Area.

Vaseux-Bighorn National Wildlife Area is open to the public for day-use only. Trails that are currently open to the public include the boardwalk and associated wildlife viewing tower within the Northern Wetlands Unit.  Please note that while Environment and Climate Change Canada establishes trails and infrastructure to support visitor access and use of selected National Wildlife Areas, staff are not always on-site for management of public safety.

Please respect the environment and leave no trace.

Vaseux-Bighorn National Wildlife Area (NWA) is in the south Okanagan-Similkameen region of British Columbia. It provides habitat to many different species of wildlife, including some at-risk species.


Vaseux-Bighorn NWA was established in British Columbia in 1979 to protect habitat for species deemed to be special and of high importance. It provides significant habitat for many bird species and other wildlife, including some at-risk species. Vaseux-Bighorn NWA has six separate units: Northwest marsh, Westside, Northern wetlands, Northeast uplands, Irrigation creek, and Southeast uplands.

The Vaseux-Bighorn NWA took its name from Vaseux Lake and the California bighorn sheep, which was a species listed as endangered in 1979. Many consider the California bighorn sheep one of the area's most charismatic wildlife species.

California bighorn sheep in Vaseux-Bighorn NWA. Photo: Neil Dawe

The NWA includes many types of habitat such as:

  • wetlands and riparian thickets around Vaseux Lake
    • extensive wetlands surround the Okanagan River channel and dyke system at the north end of Vaseux Lake
    • these wetlands provide excellent migratory bird habitat
  • arid terraces of grassland
    • local grasslands contain antelope-brush, sagebrush and blue bunch wheatgrass
    • grasslands provide good habitat for species like the Behr's hairstreak and the long-billed curlew
  • rugged hillsides with exposed rock
    • these hills contain old ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir parklands
    • hillsides provide habitat for cavity nesting birds, such as Lewis's and white-headed woodpeckers

The NWA is a natural system, which is influenced by factors such as:

  • erosion
  • flooding
  • fire
  • grazing
  • other natural processes

These natural disturbances are crucial for supporting native biodiversity in the area, and maintaining critical habitat for birds, wildlife, and plants that reside here.

The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) manages several separate units of land that make up the Vaseux-Bighorn NWA. The NWA is next to Vaseux Lake, a federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary. It is also next to other conservation land holdings protected by:

  • the province of British Columbia
  • the Nature Trust of British Columbia
  • the Land Conservancy of British Columbia
  • the Nature Conservancy of Canada

More information on Vaseux-Bighorn NWA can be found in the summary table below.


Under the Canada Wildlife Act, NWAs are protected and managed in accordance with the Wildlife Area Regulations. The primary purpose of NWAs is to protect and conserve wildlife and wildlife habitat. For this purpose and according to the legislation, all activities in a NWA that could interfere with the conservation of wildlife can be prohibited. Consequently, most NWAs are not accessible to the public and all activities in these NWAs are prohibited. However, some activities may be authorized through Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations or the issuance of permits as long as they are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWA Management and Activities section.

Planning your visit

The Vaseux-Bighorn NWA is one of 10 NWA’s across Canada part of the Connecting Canadians to Nature program. Vaseux-Bighorn NWA is a perfect spot for trail walking, wildlife viewing and nature photography. The recommended time spent at Vaseux-Bighorn NWA is 2-4 hours, however visitors are welcome for longer or shorter visits.

Landscape in Vaseux-Bighorn NWA. Photo: Dave Smith

Follow a short boardwalk through Vaseux-Bighorn NWA. You will see magnificent views from the wildlife viewing tower. The boardwalk and an information kiosk are both accessible from a small parking lot located in the Northern Wetlands Unit. The Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance offers some local public events.

Any authorized activities are listed in Schedule I.1 of the Wildlife Area Regulations; signage is also posted at access points.

Authorized activities in the Schedule I.1 of  the Wildlife Area Regulations for Vaseux-Bighorn NWA:

  1. wildlife viewing
  2. hiking on designated trails
  3. operating a vehicle, other than a snowmobile or an all-terrain vehicle, on designated roads and trails and in designated parking areas
  4. non-motorized boating
  5. sport fishing from a non-motorized boat in accordance with any applicable federal permit and any authorization required by the laws of British Columbia for sport fishing in that province


You can access the NWA from Highway 97. It is 5km south of Okanagan Falls and nearly 15km north of Oliver.

GPS49.303300, -119.535472

More information on access and permitting for Vaseux-Bighorn NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.

Map of the Area

Map of Vaseaux-Bighorn NWA
Long description

Map showing the south of Okanagan Falls in British Columbia. The boundaries of Vaseux-Bighorn NWAs six units and Vaseux-Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) are indicated. The NWAs units surround Vaseux Lake and overlap the northern portion of the MBS. The MBS overlaps Vaseux Lake. The scale on the map is in kilometers. Permanent water, roads and highways are all indicated on the map. An inset shows the NWA’s location in Canada.

This map is for illustrative purposes only. It should not be used to define legal boundaries.

Summary table

Summary table de Vaseux-Bighorn National Wildlife Area
Category Information
Protected area designation National Wildlife Area (NWA)
Province/territory British Columbia
Latitude/longitude 49°17' North / 119°33' West
Size 804 ha, made up of several discontinuous parcels
Reason for creation of protected area
  • Historic: to protect critical winter range for California bighorn sheep
  • Current: the area supports a rare, vulnerable, threatened, or endangered species
Date created (Gazetted) 1979 - Legal description
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category IV - Habitat/Species Management Area
Additional designations
Keystone or flagship species California Bighorn Sheep.
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Thirty species included on Schedule 1 of SARA are currently known to occur in the NWA. An additional 19 species tracked by the B.C. Conservation Data Centre as either red- or blue-listed.



Amphibians and Reptiles:



Main habitat type
  • ponderosa pine
  • bunchgrass zones
Faunistic and floristic importance Rare plant communities (identified by the B.C. Conservation Data Centre as red or blue-listed):

  • antelope brush
  • needle-and-thread grass
  • water birch
  • red osier dogwood
  • bluebunch wheatgrass
  • arrow-leaved balsamroot
  • ponderosa pine-bluebunch wheatgrass
Invasive species
  • aquatic, e.g. eurasian milfoil
  • sulphur cinquefoil
  • reed canary grass
  • cheat grass
  • purple loosestrife
  • smooth brome
  • bull thistle
  • diffuse knapweed
  • hound's tongue
  • St. John's wort
Additional links California bighorn sheep
Main threats and challenges Expected to be under a high level of threat in the future due to:

Management agency Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Public access and usage Authorized activities in the Schedule I.1 of  the Wildlife Area Regulations for Vaseux-Bighorn NWA:

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hiking on designated trails
  • Operating a vehicle, other than a snowmobile or an all-terrain vehicle, on designated roads and trails and in designated parking areas
  • Non-motorized boating
  • Sport fishing from a non-motorized boat in accordance with any applicable federal permit and any authorization required by the laws of British Columbia for sport fishing in that province

Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page, any notice posted at the NWA site and the law, the law prevails.

Contact us

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Pacific
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas Program
5421 Robertson Road
Delta BC
V4K 3N2

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

Related links

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: