Aug 30, 2010
|A close-up look at one of Canada's rarest ecosystems
This was our last driving day in Canada and we spent it driving first to the Osoyoos Desert Center southwest of Oliver, and then to the town of Grand Forks, B.C. on the U.S. - Canadian International Border.
In the past two years we’ve spent over five months in Canada, and we’ve driven thousands of miles through all ten of the nation’s provinces. This country still has the ability to surprise and amaze us. Today we took a closer look at Canada’s end of the northern Sonoran Desert. It was a poignant reminder that food for the soul is as necessary to our well being as food for the body.
In the words of their written tour guide: “The Osoyoos Desert Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the endangered Antelope brush ecosystem in the South Okanagan. Through education we aim to generate public knowledge, respect and active concern for fragile and endangered habitats worldwide.”
The society’s vision may be worldwide, but their focus is on this particular ‘fragile and endangered habitat’. They operate out of a small building at the edge of the valley and they offer guided and self guided tours of a plot of desert they have fenced off and protected.
The ‘enemy’ is lined up across the valley. Vineyards, orchards and the gardens of a growing agribusiness line the river banks. One vineyard extends all the way to the Center’s fence. The geometric squares of cultivated green are in sharp contrast to the soft shapes and earthy colors of the natural flora.
Hopefully a balance will be found so the two can co-exist, but a volunteer at the center did not sound hopeful. She was a native of Spain, where she says goats and sheep have been grazed in the vineyards and orchards for centuries. Modern growers will have none of it. Nor do their counterparts in the ranching business want the National Park that’s proposed for the valley. They’re afraid if it comes they will no longer be able to graze their cattle on public land.
We studied the collection of specimens in the center’s little museum, then we went outside and took a walk through their Native Plant Meadow before taking the longer 1.5 kilometer walk on their boardwalk. The plant meadow stresses the good sense of landscaping yards with native plants. The examples they show would make a lovely yard for any home, and as easy to maintain as they are water and energy efficient.
On the longer boardwalk there were stops along the way with interpretive signs and information. The written guide was another good source of information. Our visit to the center was two hours well spent, and the pictures above document the beauty of the place.
The rest of the afternoon was spent driving east along the U.S. - Canadian border to Grand Forks. The scenery and weather were both dramatic. We will sadly miss this wonderful country. At Grand Forks we took a campsite on the river and settled in for two nights before going south. Our last day in Canada was spent relaxing and catching up on chores, so we are now ready for re-entry. Hopefully we won't burn up on re-entry!