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Cathedral Provincial Park and Protected Area

Cathedral Provincial Park and Protected Area
Quiniscoe Lake of the Cathedral Lakes
Map showing the location of Cathedral Provincial Park and Protected Area
Map showing the location of Cathedral Provincial Park and Protected Area
Location of Cathedral Provincial Park and Protected Area in British Columbia
LocationOkanagan-Similkameen, British Columbia, Canada
Nearest townPrinceton, British Columbia
Area33,272 hectares (Park)
82,217 acres (Park)
353 hectares (Protected Area)
872 acres (Protected Area)
Governing bodyBC Parks Edit this at Wikidata

Cathedral Provincial Park and Protected Area, usually known as Cathedral Provincial Park and also as Cathedral Park, is a provincial park in British Columbia, Canada. It is located east of E.C. Manning Provincial Park, south of BC Highway 3, and southeast of the town of Princeton, and southwest of Keremeos. Its southern boundary is the border with the United States. Much of the park is the basin of the Ashnola River. Cathedral Park is home to teal sub-alpine lakes, vast ridges and jarred peaks, old-growth forests, and rock formations of siltstone, granodiorite, and basalt.[2] Hikers can scramble along various peaks such as the 8000-foot Grimface Mountain and Lakeview Mountain. Tourists flock to Smokey the Bear and Stone City because of their unique formations with incredible views formed by millennia of erosion, volcanic and tectonic activity, and glacial recession.[3]

The park has a mixed history of use from Indigenous Peoples and a variety of endemic species, as well as resource extraction, including forestry and recreational use such as hiking, camping, and fishing. Today the park primarily serves the purpose of facilitating recreation as a "Class A" provincial park. Climate change poses a threat to the park due to recent wildfires. The future of the park depends on the management of these issues and more.


The park gets its name from Cathedral Mountain, near the international border.[4] The peak was named in 1901 by Carl and George Smith on a United States Geological Survey expedition, who are believed to be the first to have ascended the summit.[5] The original area of Cathedral Provincial Park was established on May 2, 1968, with an area of 7,372 hectares (18,216 acres).[6] This park ran in a narrow north–south corridor along Lakeview Creek from the Ashnola River in the North to the international boundary. The park included the Cathedral Lakes area. After a lengthy consultation process with local interest groups, industry, and researchers, the park was expanded to have boundaries that roughly matched natural boundaries.[6][7] This expanded the park to an area of roughly 33,000 hectares (82,000 acres), with the Ashnola River forming the Western and Northern boundaries of the park and Ewart Creek forming the Eastern boundary, with certain exceptions for existing mineral claims.[8] On April 18, 2001, the contiguous conservation area protected was expanded with the establishment of the 25,889 hectares (63,970 acres) Snowy Protected Area.[9]

Cultural history

Cathedral Provincial Park is rich with culture and heritage from both European and Indigenous peoples. The park lies on the traditional homeland of the Nlaka'pamux and Syilx, now colonially known as the Okanagan.[10] Prior to settlement, the Syilx peoples moved nomadically, following the natural migrations and different land uses of the earth throughout seasons. This brought Indigenous peoples through the lands of Cathedral Park for the rich hunting and foraging of the area, a transient lifestyle shared by all First Nations in the area.[11] The park was established by Europeans in the late 1960s, but evidence from the Ministry of Forests reveals horseback trails dating back to the 1930s.[10] The Ministry of Forests also discusses early settlement and tourism, and the development of cabins and 4x4 roads throughout the park. These were followed by the first lodge in 1970.[10]

Resource extractions

Before its designation as a protected area, Cathedral Provincial Park and its surroundings were exposed to resource extraction activities. As in many other regions, timber harvesting, in particular, played a significant role in the local economy. Several logging companies operated within the area, impacting the forest ecosystems.[12] This caused habitat disruption, fragmentation, soil erosion, and changes in hydrology. The historic resource extraction and its ecological consequences presumably influenced the decision to protect Cathedral Provincial Park, aiming to preserve its natural beauty from further degradation.[13]

Since the park's establishment in 1968, recreation use and development have evolved in line with the original intent to maintain the Park’s natural qualities for public enjoyment and recreation.[7] In 1975, an Interim Policy Statement was prepared to provide guidelines for the development and management of the Park. Several management concerns or issues were identified in this Policy Statement, remaining and revolving around fundamental problems of balancing park development and use while maintaining the Parks resource values and wilderness atmosphere and minimizing friction between potentially conflicting recreation interests.[7]


The park is home to front-country vehicle-accessible camping as well as back-country camping. There are multiple day-use areas in the park. Accommodation is provided within the park at the Cathedral Lakes Lodge. There are no public roads within the park itself. The park is connected to E. C. Manning Provincial Park by the Centennial Trail from Osoyoos to Simon Fraser University.[14] Though it has not been maintained recently and no longer appears on maps of Manning Park.[citation needed]

Endemic species

Sonora skipper

The Sonora skipper is a butterfly with a tiny wingspan of 25–30 mm.[15] It is light brown in color and has spots on its tail. The Sonora Skipper typically resides in moist, mesic grassy meadows as its preferred habitat.[15] However, the area in which they live can also include, forest openings, clear-cuts and logged areas, and roadside areas[15] These habitats are located in a small section of the Okanogan area in British Columbia, which is only about 2092 km², but still includes Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park.[15] The population that was recorded in this area was tiny. In the Ashnola River area which includes Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park only 51 individuals were observed during the time of 1906 to 2012.[15] There were just 2 Sonora Skippers counted in the entire 2012 year in the Ashnola River area.[15] The Sonora Skipper has many threats in the wild. The threats can be natural such as fire and flooding and unnatural causes such as destruction of habitat or invasive species introduction.[15] All of these things contribute to the low population in the Cathedral Provincial Park area. Sonora skippers are not classified as endangered or threatened globally. Sonora skippers don't have any major human threats, just removal from habitat caused by logging.[citation needed]

Mountain goats

A local Mountain Goat at Cathedral Park

Mountain goats are a species that like to live in high alpine areas, capable of climbing vertical rocks.[16] Which is ideal because Cathedral Park is very mountainous. Mountain Goats can be found all across the world in strong, healthy populations, however, they have a strong chance of expiration in British Columbia.[16] In Southern British Columbia near where Cathedral Provincial Park is located, the population is the most at risk because, they have a tiny population size.[16] In 2006 a study was done where Mountain Goat populations were estimated at, 200 - 300 individuals in the whole Okanagan area.[16] Not just in Cathedral Provincial Park. Mountain goats have numerous threats which include, historical over harvest, climate change causing reduced habitat, and negative impacts from recreation.[16] In Cathedral Provincial Park they are of special concern because of the large amounts of people in the area, leading to human-goat conflict.[16] The population around the Cathedral Provincial Park area is not well understood because, for a couple of decades, data collection has not happened.[16] However, the population is estimated to be around, 24 - 28 goats.[16] There are a few reasons for the low populations however, human interactions and helicopters are a couple of the main ones. The reason for all the human and goat interactions is that goats can become aggressive and charge people at the park over salt resources.[17] Salt is vital to, goat ecology, and goats will usually ingest sodium from mineral lick sites.[17] In Cathedral Provincial Park, goats have been spotted looking for salt near the campgrounds, which is often where humans are present.[17] In the Park, goats force visitors to move around them by standing their ground.[17] The conflicts that come with these interactions have caused, death or injury to humans and or wildlife.[17] Helicopters also bring many issues to the goat population. Helicopters regularly fly over Cathedral Provincial Park mainly in the months for helicopter training which is the spring and winter time.[17] Whenever helicopters fly over the park goats do not behave well to the flying which causes a loud disturbance.[17] The behavior that occurs when a helicopter is nearby may include, increased movements or a shift from the habitat in which they prefer to live in.[17] In other words with the consistent flying of helicopters above the park, many mountain goats may have been displaced from their habitat which is why the population is so low in the area. Mountain Goats are also not classified as endangered or threatened globally. Mountain goats have a small effect on the mountainous landscape where they live. Mountain goats can destroy small plants such as flowers and shrubs as they walk and when they eat. Mountain goats eat mountain mahogany, shrubs, conifers, sedges, rushes, mosses, lichens, and grasses.[18]


A Mule Deer

Other animals that can be found in the park that are not at risk include California Bighorn sheep, mule deer, porcupines, and Columbia ground squirrels.[4] California Bighorn sheep have a compact body that is muscular, with brown fur with white on the muzzle and belly.[19] The average weight of these animals is about 160 to 250 pounds.[19] In order to stay alive from predators, bighorn sheep have abilities to climb the vertical rocks akin to mountain goats.[19] Bighorn sheep live in the western mountainous regions of North America.[19] However, bighorn sheep no longer live in many areas of the Okanagan because their habitat has been lost over time.[20]


Some plants that are commonly found in Cathedral Provincial Park include Douglas firs and Black Cottonwood trees.[21] Douglas firs are evergreen trees. There are two varieties of this species, coast Douglas fir and Rocky Mountain Douglas fir, which are differentiated by their habitats and physical characteristics. Rocky Mountain Douglas firs are the inland trees that live in Cathedral Provincial Park. They are much more tolerant of cold than the coastal Douglas fir, which is suited to moist, mild climates on the west coast. The population of these trees is in good numbers.[22]

Black cottonwood is a medium- to large-sized broad-leaved tree. Many kinds of wildlife use the foliage, twigs, and buds for food. The wood is light and soft and it can be used for lumber and pulp. Cottonwoods live in cool and wet climates such as Cathedral Provincial Park.[23]

Climate change and ecological impacts

Cathedral Park landscape

Cathedral Park is a unique environment in British Columbia as it is a part of the Okanagan Range, in a distinct section of the Cascade Mountains. The Okanagan Range consists of a uniquely dry climate and a particular geological makeup.[24] The park contains four bio-geoclimatic zones: interior mountain-heather alpine, Engelmann, Interior Douglas-fir, and Spruce-Subalpine Fir.[6][25]

Cathedral Provincial Park, like many natural areas worldwide, faces the challenges of climate change. While specific predictions for this park may vary, some general trends associated with climate change include temperature increase, altered precipitation patterns, heightened wildfire risks, changes in snowpack and glacier melt, and shifts in the timing of biological events for plants and wildfire.[3] Park management authorities and conservation organizations are likely actively monitoring and responding to these changes to ensure the long-term health of the park's ecosystem.[3] Forest fires have played a key role in creating a diverse mosaic of vegetation over the park's landscape. In contrast, forest health issues have also affected ecosystem dynamics with significant tree die-offs in specific proportions of the park.[13]

Park goals

The primary goal driving the creation of Cathedral Provincial Park was that of the preservation of the natural environment for the public’s use for recreation of the Cathedral Lakes and the Ashnola River drainage.[6] The original park boundaries were focused on the lakes and nearby mountain peaks.[6] Maintaining the park’s focus on being a pristine, natural, and accessible recreational area has been the driving force in managing the park’s uses since its inception.[24] The three aspects of the park that managers sought to enhance were the natural environment, like maintaining access to the whole public rather than just outdoor specialists; intensive use, including making it accessible to activities like fishing and camping; and wilderness for more involved outdoor activities like backpacking that are completely isolated.[24]                                                  

Today Cathedral Provincial Park exists as a "Class A" provincial park that garners the highest protection available to a provincial park under Bill 174, the same as when it was officially declared a provincial park in 1968.[24][26] These protections include only allowing new resource extraction in the park without approval by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change that would ultimately leave the recreational use of the park unchanged.[26]


This section is written like a personal reflection, personal essay, or argumentative essay that states a Wikipedia editor's personal feelings or presents an original argument about a topic. Please help improve it by rewriting it in an encyclopedic style. (October 2023) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Cathedral Provincial Park has not had a new master plan since 1989, although a new master plan is being worked on that aims to be completed and approved by the end of 2023.[27] Issues that are present include, modifying recreational facilities to have less of an impact on the surrounding environment, increasing capacity, reduction in wildfire risk, First Nations collaboration, and human impact on the local wildlife.[27] While resource development has been allowed in the past and the use of the area has an impact on the local ecology, the natural beauty of the overall park persists.[24][25]

A view from Quiniscoe Peak in Cathedral Provincial Park


  1. ^ "Cathedral Park". Protected Planet. Retrieved 2020-09-16.
  2. ^ Evans, Martin; Slaymaker, Olav (July 2004). "Spatial and temporal variability of sediment delivery from alpine lake basins, Cathedral Provincial Park, southern British Columbia". Geomorphology. 61 (1–2): 209–224. Bibcode:2004Geomo..61..209E. doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2003.12.007.
  3. ^ a b c "Cathedral Park". BC Parks. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  4. ^ a b "Cathedral Provincial Park". Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  5. ^ Akrigg, George Philip Vernon; Akrigg, Helen B. (1997). British Columbia place names (3rd ed.). Vancouver: University of British Columbia press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-7748-0637-4.
  6. ^ a b c d e Province of British Columbia (7 January 1988). "Cathedral Parks Master Plan Background Report" (PDF).
  7. ^ a b c The Ministry of Environment and Parks, Cathedral Provincial Park: Master plan (1989). Victoria.
  8. ^ Travers, Oliver Raymond (1975). Cathedral Provincial Park expansion proposal. Victoria, BC: Resource Planning Unit, E.L.U.C. Secretariat.
  9. ^ "Snowy Protected Area". BC Parks. British Columbia Ministry of the Environment. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  10. ^ a b c "Steps in the Management Planning Process" (PDF). British Columbia Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. 2023-10-04.
  11. ^ "Syilx Okanagan Nation – Okanagan Nation Alliance". Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  12. ^ Cartwright, D. (1970). Cathedral Provincial Park enlargement-socio-economic and administrative problems (thesis). University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.
  13. ^ a b "Cathedral Park and Protected Area Management Planning Process | Help Shape BC". Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  14. ^ Paquet, Maggie (1986). The B.C. Parks Explorer (First ed.). Vancouver: Whitecap Books. pp. 128-129. ISBN 0-920620-63-9.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Canada, Environment and Climate Change (2014-04-15). "Management Plan for the Sonora Skipper (Polites sonora) in Canada [proposed] – 2014". Retrieved 2023-10-08.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h Fennell, Mitchell J. E. (2022). Multispecies mammal monitoring in Cathedral Provincial Park (Thesis). University of British Columbia.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h Balyx, Laura (2022). Human conflict and coexistence with mountain goats in a protected alpine landscape (Thesis). University of British Columbia.
  18. ^ "Mountain Goat". Nez Perce National Historic Trail - Nature & Science. 2021.
  19. ^ a b c d "Bighorn Sheep". National Wildlife Federation. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  20. ^ "Ministry of Environment - Okanagan Region - California Bighorn Sheep". Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  21. ^ "Cathedral Provincial Park". Retrieved 2023-10-19.
  22. ^ "Douglas Fir". National Wildlife Federation. Retrieved 2023-10-19.
  23. ^ Forests, Ministry of. "Black cottonwood - Province of British Columbia". Retrieved 2023-10-19.
  24. ^ a b c d e Huberts, Terry (6 June 1989). "Master Plan for Cathedral Provincial Park" (PDF).
  25. ^ a b Heinrichs, Markus; Evans, Martin; Hebda, Richard; Walker, Ian; Palmer, Samantha; Rosenberg, Sandra (2004). "Holocene Climatic Change and Landscape Response at Cathedral Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada". Géographie physique et Quaternaire. 58 (1): 123–139. doi:10.7202/013113ar. ISSN 0705-7199.
  26. ^ a b "Types of parks and protected areas - Province of British Columbia". BC Parks. Retrieved 2023-10-08.
  27. ^ a b BC Parks (1 October 2023). "Steps in the Management Planning Process" (PDF).

49°04′00″N 120°11′00″W / 49.06667°N 120.18333°W / 49.06667; -120.18333

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Cathedral Provincial Park and Protected Area
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