Columbia Lake Ecological Reserve Overview, Biological and Physical

Posted July 15, 2000 | Categories : 20,Reports,Species List |


Protection of calcicolous vegetation, hydrology and geology as well as ecosystems representative of the Interior Douglas-fir zone

Physical: The reserve lies mostly on the west-facing slope of a north-south trending ridge, about 300 m east of Columbia Lake and 150 m higher in elevation. Slope exposure is mostly to the west and southwest which, together with the rain shadow effect of the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains, results in a locally dry climate. Exposed bedrock, including low cliffs and small talus slopes, is frequent. The bedrock is limestone and this is reflected in the soils derived from it. A small spring-fed stream in the southern end of the reserve has a bed crusted with calcium carbonate.

Biological: Of major significance here are limestone loving (calcicolous) plants growing in wet sites along the stream and on limestone cliffs. In the restricted area of riparian habitat, common shrubs are water birch, red-osier dogwood and shrubby cinquefoil; frequent herbs are Kalm’s lobelia, grass-of-Parnassus, common harebell, fringed aster, white prairie aster, prickly lettuce, yellowish paintbrush and green-flowered bog-orchid. Rare plants in these habitats include annual Indian paintbrush, sulphur Indian paintbrush, and marsh muhlenbergia. Two rare ferns have been recorded on limestone cliffs here— slender lip fern and purple cliff-brake. One limber pine tree (rare in the province) grows in the reserve, well below its usual alpine habitat.

Well-spaced Douglas-fir trees cover most of the reserve and junipers of three species are also common. The Douglas-fir –pinegrass type is extensive, while the fir-snowberry association occurs in moister sites and the fir-bluebunch wheatgrass-rabbitbush community in the driest situations. Ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine and trembling aspen are also present. Rare upland plants


recorded in the reserve include sparrow’s egg, lady’s slipper, tufted fleabane wood lily, yellow gromwell, and an as yet unidentified species of Townsendia. The reserve is part of an important winter range for mule deer, elk and bighorn sheep. Grazing and browsing is evident; trails and droppings frequent.

The entire east side of Columbia Lake was used extensively by First Nations groups in the pre-colonial period, evidenced by remaining lithics and ceremonial relics. The Spirit Trail (an 8,000 year old First Nations’ trade and travel route) passes within one kilometre of the ecological reserve.


Hooker’s townsendia— Red listed
Badger— Red listed—-
saltwater cress — Red listed
annual paintbrush— Red listed
Gastony’s cliff-brake—Blue listed
Flammulated Owl–Blue listed
Bighorn Sheep–Blue listed
giant helleborine–Blue listed
marsh muhly–Blue listed



aspen, trembling (Populus tremuloides)
aster, Lindley’s (aka fringed aster) (Symphyotrichum ciliolatum)
aster, white prairie (Aster pansus)
birch, water (Betula occidentalis)
bog-orchid, northern green-flowered (Platanthera aquilonis)
cinquefoil, shrubby (Pentaphylloides floribunda)
cliff-brake, Gastony’s (Pellaea gastonyi)
cliff-brake, purple, (Pellaea atropurpurea)
cress, saltwater (Arabidopsis salsuginea)
dogwood, red-osier (Cornus stolonifera)
Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
fern, slender lip (Cheilanthes feei)
fleabane, tufted (Erigeron caespitosus)
grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia spp)
gromwell, yellow (Lithospermum incisum)
harebell, common (Campanula rotundjfolia)
helleborine, giant (Epipactis gigantean)
juniper (Juniperus spp.)
lady’s slipper, sparrow’s egg (Cypripedium passerinum)
lettuce, prickly (Lactuca serriola)
lily, wood (Lilium philadelphicum)
lobelia, Kalm’s (Lobelia kalmii)
muhly, marsh (Muhlenbergia glomerata)
paintbrush, annual (Castilleja minor ssp. minor)
paintbrush, sulphur (Castilleja. sulphurea)
paintbrush, yellowish (Castilleja lutescens)
pine, limber (Pinus flexilis)
pine, lodgepole (Pinus contorta var. latifolia)
pine, ponderosa (Pinus ponderosa)
pinegrass (Calamagrostis rubescens)
rabbit-bush, common (Ericameria nauseosa var. speciosa)
snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp.)
townsendia, Hooker’s (Townsendia hookeri)
wheatgrass, bluebunch (Pseudoroegneria spicata)


Badger (Taxidea taxus)
Deer, Mule (Odocoileus hemionus)
Elk (Cervus Canadensis)

Owl, Flammulated (Otus flammeolus)
Sheep, Bighorn (Ovis canadensis)



Ecological reserves are not created for outdoor recreation. Most ecological reserves, however, are open to the public for non-destructive pursuits like hiking, nature observation and photography. Consumptive activities like hunting, freshwater fishing, camping, livestock grazing, removal of materials, plants or animals are prohibited by regulation in ecological reserves. Motorized vehicles are not allowed. Research and educational activities may be carried out but only under permit.

Special Restrictions:

Access to Columbia Lake Ecological Reserve is restricted to protect the sensitive ecosystem. Permission is required.