Rattlesnake Island is a small island on Okanagan Lake, located across from Peachland. The land on the shore surrounding the island is part of Okanagan Mountain Park. Many believe Rattlesnake Island is the home of the legendary Ogopogo. In the 1990s, the island was going to be developed as a tourist attraction, and a minigolf course was going to be built on it, but that plan was later abandoned. In 2003, a lightning strike near the island started the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire and several snakes from the mainland escaped the fire by swimming to the island
As early as the 1700s, the Okanagan Indians knew of a water beast living in the lake. They called the creature N’ha-a-itk, meaning “snake of the water,” and their Native superstitions demanded certain traditions before entering N’ha-a-ith’s domain. One of the traditions was the ritual sacrifice of a small animal as a peace offering before crossing the lake. Tying their horses behind their canoes, they would paddle out to where they believed the serpent lived in a cave beneath the water—known as Squally Point—and make their offering, thus insuring that their horses would not be dragged under and drowned by the monster.
In 1890, Captain Thomas Shorts was steaming on the lake when he saw a finned creature about sixteen feet long with a head like that of a ram. The creature promptly disappeared when he turned his ship in its direction, and virtually no one believed him when he reported it. But other reports soon followed at two or three a year, and people began to examine the lake in more careful detail. The local population fervently believed in the creature’s existence. They called it Ogopogo and named the island, Ogopogo Island.
In the early part of the 1900s it was also called “The Island”. In the 1950s it was purchased by Peter Spackman who tried to have the name Sunset Island adopted but it had, at that time, been given the name “Rattlesnake Island” because of the grass (Glyceria canadensis) that covers it. Many locals still called it Ogopogo Island but at the request of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce in the 1950s the name of Rattlesnake Island was confirmed.
The island changed hands several times until Mohammed Eddy Haymour bought it in the early 1970s and then got into a conflict with W A C Bennett and the BC Provincial Government that ended as a hostage situation in the Canadian Embassy in Lebanon. It is story that is fascinating to read and it is now a part of the history of Peachland. “From Nut House to Castle” is the title of the book.
As a result of the settlement of the Haymour case the island known as “Ogopogo Island”, “The Island”, “Sunset Island” and of late “Rattlesnake Island” was returned to the BC Provincial Government.
Rattlesnake Island – Okanagan Lake