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, and the Okanagan River trail within the Northwest Marsh Unit.

Please note that for health and safety measures, social distancing is encouraged

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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 created in British Columbia in 1979 to protect habitat for species deemed to be special and important. It provides significant habitat to many bird species and other wildlife, including some at-risk species.

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

California bighorn sheep. 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

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 their 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 are prohibited. However, some activities may be authorized through public notice or the issuance of permits as long as they are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWAs Management and Activities section.

Planning your visit


For the time being, the boardwalk, associated trails and parking lot at the Vaseux-Bighorn NWA are closed due to construction of the Boardwalk replacement project.

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. The Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance offers some local public events.


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

GPS: 49.303300, -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.

Landscape in Vaseux-Bighorn NWA. Photo: Dave Smith

Map of the Area

Map of Vaseaux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Long description

Map showing the south of Okanagan Falls in British Columbia. The boundaries of Vaseaux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) are indicated. The MBS overlaps Vaseux Lake. The boundaries of the NWA’s six units are indicated. The NWA units surround Vaseux Lake and overlap the northern portion of the MBS. 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 information for Vaseux-Bighorn NWA
Category Information
Protected area designation NWA
Province/territory British Columbia
Latitude/longitude 49°17' North / 119°33' West
Size 753 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 Overlaps Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS)
Part of Vaseux Lake Area Important Bird Area (IBA)
Keystone or flagship species California Bighorn Sheep.
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Houses 30 species listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). It houses 28 listed on Schedule I of the Species at Risk Act. This includes threatened species:

It also includes species of special concern:

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
  • riparian, for example:
  • upland, for example:
    • 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 Public access is allowed on the designated trail. There is a wildlife
viewing tower (Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory) and a boardwalk.

Note: If there is a difference between the information presented on this web page and any notice posted at the NWA site, the notice 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)

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