Pavilion Lake

For the last seven years or so, I’ve had a bucket list dive location sitting a few hours drive away from me. Unfortunately, organizing a trip up with my casual diving buddies was impossible given our often conflicting schedules and commitments. This bucket list dive site was Pavilion Lake, tucked away about a half hour’s drive from Cache Creek, so about 3 hours drive from where I live. Pavilion Lake is one of BC’s semi-secret diving gems, and this summer, I finally had a chance to hit that site with The Okanagan Dive Club. The trip was spearheaded by Kelowna Divers, and absolutely worth it!

Since it was a bit of a drive, and campsites were available, the missus accompanied me on this trip, to enjoy an overnight camping trip. The dive was staged from the same location we were camping at, the Sky Blue Water Resort, operated by the local Ts’kw’aylaxw First Nation. The lake itself is quite impressive. At 820m above sea level, it’s an altitude dive, and the maximum depth of the lake is 65m. The vis in the lake is the best I’ve ever seen on a freshwater dive, and is easily comparable to saltwater conditions. The lake is also home to a unique site, freshwater microbialites. These amazing growths look like coral, but represent the persistence of some of the earliest forms of life on earth!

The dives were off of a boat provided by a member of the Okanagan Dive Club, but shore dives are a possibility. I have to say though, shore dives probably won’t get you to the best parts of the lake to dive. My maximum depth was 25m, but you could go deeper quite easily. There was a bit of current on the surface from the wind, but once you get below surface, there’s nothing. As we descended, there was a thick mat of weeds that lay close to the bottom, but only in the shallower areas, to about 10m or so. After that, it’s just the bottom and microbialites. The bottom is a bit of a trick though, since it appears to be either whitish silt or greenish gravel. The bottom is actually soft, and easily disturbed by divers. Even what appears to be gravel isn’t! Both dives were fantastic, unfortunately, I wasn’t up to the night dive. As I discovered, I’d accidentally, ever so slightly, opened the valve on my third tank, which had bled my air out all day! So, in retrospect, it all worked out!


The evening was filled with camaraderie, diving stories, showing off photos, and a few lucky divers got to go say hello to the NASA team up lake. That’s right, NASA. NASA has been doing work and training in Pavilion Lake for several years now. Hopefully next time we’re there, I’ll be able to go see what’s going on, and maybe check out some of the sweet dive gear they have! The next morning was pretty normal. A few people were staying behind for a second day of diving, but rest of us had breakfast before breaking camp and heading home.

Diving at Pavilion Lake has been on my bucket list for some time, and I finally managed to hit it. While not the easiest dive site to reach in British Columbia, it by far one of the big “must-do” dives of BC, right up there with sites around Vancouver Island. As an added bonus, if you like fresh fish, I saw some of the nicest trout I’ve ever seen. And people were literally catching them from the dock or the shoreline along the lake. So, the big take always here? It’s a great dive, but an altitude dive, so some extra planning and adjustments will be needed to keep it all safe. Time to break out those tables! It’s also a unique dive, since microbialites are rare at best, and a freshwater lake filled with them is highly unusual. So if you have a chance, dive this site!

About the author

Graeme is a professional diver, qualified as a PADI and SDI Divemaster, DCBC 40m Unrestricted Commercial Scuba Diver, 30m Restricted Surface Supply diver, and CAUS Scientific Diver Lv.2. Graeme has an Associate Degree of Arts in Environmental Studies, where he focused on archaeology and physical geography, and an Advanced GIS certificate.