Boating on Osoyoos Lake

All types of water sports are evident on Osoyoos Lake. One of the best times to water ski is early morning when the water is smooth with few if any boats on the lake. Photo Credit: Peter Hovestad

Increased population and tourism in the south Okanagan has resulted in an increase in the use of all types of boats for pleasure cruising as well as fishing, water skiing and wake boarding. There are also an abundance of jetskis, canoes, paddleboards, windsurfing kites and kayaks on Osoyoos Lake.

Some of these watercraft may contribute erosion, pollution, noise and safety problems. As an example, just a few oil and gasoline leakscan contaminate several thousand litres of water.  Waves from motorboats can erode the lakeshore and stir up sediment in the lake.

Excessive speeds can be hazardous to people swimming in the lake.  The law is: speed must be under 10 km/h when closer than 30 metres from shore.

Boat propellers can also shred Eurasian Milfoil and other aquatic weeds, speading their seeds to take root elsewhere in the lake.

Please remember that even tiny amounts of pollution of any kind can upset the fragile balance of life in the lake.

Boating regulations

Federal regulations require everyone wanting to operate a boat or jetski to have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card which can be obtained online after taking a test and paying a fee.

Boating licences ($50) can be obtained locally at Starlite Marina (behind Holiday Inn) on Motel Row. You will be given a manual to study regarding basic safety and the rules of the lake, and then you must take a written test. You will then be given a temporary licence to use immediately, and you’ll receive your official Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card in the mail within six weeks.

Jet skiing is a popular activity on Osoyoos Lake during the summer. Photo Credit Neil Bousquet

Click here for more on boating safety from Transport Canada

Crossing the border in a boat

You are strongly advised not to cross the border, even if you don’t intend to go ashore.

Rental boats are not permitted to cross the border.

If you do cross (whether or not you intend to land), everyone on the boat will need to carry an I-68 permit obtained in advance from Customs, plus all the documentation you’d normally need if you were crossing in a vehicle.

Going into the U.S ….you have to get out of your boat at Oroville State Park and phone to US Customs. A Customs Officer will come down to your boat and inspect it along with all your documents before allowing you to proceed.

Coming into Canada …… You must phone and wait for Canadian Customs at the Starlite Marina dock near the bridge in Osoyoos when you return. The same Customs procedure applies.

Haynes Point

A natural sand and gravel spit stretches right across Osoyoos Lake from its western side. You cannot see all of it because it is partly underwater. Where the land tapers to a point and the trees end, please SLOW DOWN and pass carefully between the two narrowly separated buoys. These mark a deeper channel that has been specifically dredged to allow boats to safely travel through. On each side of these buoys the water is often less than knee deep during the summer.

Swimmers should beware of this deep channel. Many people mistakenly believe they can wade right across the lake from Haynes Point, and several drownings have occurred here in past years.

Passing under Osoyoos Bridge in a boat

Use caution when proceeding under the bridge.  When the lake water level is high, people standing in boats have been known to strike their head on the bridge girders.  The wakeboard/ski tower on some boats may be too high to pass under the bridge. Please slow down  to the posted limit when passing under the bridge, and give way to other boats.

Copies of the ‘Safe Boating Guide’ can be obtained from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and from local marinas.