Established in 1996, Tunkwa Provincial Park protects the grasslands, wetlands and forest ecosystems of the Southern Thompson Plateau.
The park also provides a home to a diverse selection of wildlife including marmots, waterfowl, snakes, squirrels, bald eagles, mule deer, moose and a variety of birds. Both Leighton and Tunkwa lakes are also stocked annually with rainbow trout. More than a million eggs are
collected every May.
A small building is located at the end of Tunkwa Lake, making this a major provincial egg-collection site. The area is also an important ranching area. In the 1860s, cowboys discovered these grasslands and drove their cattle north to feed the gold miners in the Cariboo.
From late May until mid-October, you can still see cattle grazing in the grasslands and forests of the surrounding areas. It was ranching that
created Tunkwa and Leighton lakes.
In the early 1900s, a dam was built on Tunkwa Lake. The dam turned the two shallow ponds into lakes. They were used as irrigation reservoirs for ranching purposes. Other dams have since been added and the original dams upgraded to better protect the fish, making this one of British Columbia’s most popular fishing destinations.
Since paddling both lakes will take up most of the day, you may want to spend the weekend hiking. The trail head starts at the small creek that links Tunkwa and Leighton lakes.
Cross over a small bridge and the trail forks. One fork goes to the 1,200-metre Bluff Trail to Bluff Hill and the other fork is a 4.3-kilometre lake loop circuit that circles Leighton Lake.
Both trails are a photographer’s delight, with an abundance of plants, wildlife and beautiful landscapes to capture.
Don’t be surprised if many of your pictures are photo-bombed by a yellow-bellied marmot. Tunkwa Park has a relatively high population of these critters due to favourable habitat it provides in regards to climate, food sources and burrowing spots.
How to get there
From Kamloops, drive to Savona, where you will see a sign for Tunkwa Lake. Turn left onto Tunkwa Lake Road and follow it for 25 kilometres, until you see the entrance to Tunkwa Provincial Park.
The road is paved all the way and there is plenty of free day parking.
Teresa the Traveler is a local travel blogger. For more, go online to teresathetraveler.ca.