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Kelly Lake has secrets. But the biggest secret is a secret no more - and has put small Kelly Lake on the international radar. Both NASA and the Canadian Space Agency are hanging out at Kelly Lake these days, in preparation for exploring Mars in the future. So, what does this remote 115-acre lake have that other lakes don't? It has microbialites that have created rare freshwater carbonate rock formations on the bottom of the lake. Microbialites are found in a handful of places around the globe, yet these lakes are the only environment where they are found at such a variety of depths and thus varying access to light. Found first in nearby Pavilion Lake, a few miles due south, scientists are using both diving and one-person submarines to study and sample these fascinating structures which they hope will help them identify and learn about possible life-forms in space. It is hoped that the research of the microbialites will help them in future study of near-Earth asteroids, Mars, and other extreme environments.
The research project has done more than put little Kelly Lake on the map, however: currently the project group includes a member from Google, who will help the team evolve its use of mapping activities and develop cutting-edge data integration platforms based on Google Earth. Also intended are activities to allow local teachers to participate in hands-on field activity workshops so they can share what they learned with their students and inspire the next generation of space enthusiasts. Because the research team has invited the cooperation of the local citizens, they've been welcomed whole-heartedly by the small population of nearby Clinton, whose residents appear regularly to watch the activity and admire the amazing deep-water exploration vehicles. It may seem odd to see kayaks and one-man submersibles sharing the same small water body, but it's become a common sight on Kelly Lake.
Surrounded by Downing Provincial Park, Kelly Lake is fed by springs, with very little outside water intruding. The space exploration researchers suspect this may be the reason the two lakes still have active colonies of the microbialites which were one of the first forms of life on a developing earth. Because the lake is entirely within the park, there are almost no private homes along the lakeshore. However, the small rustic campground is popular with those who wish to enjoy the swimming beach, the many hiking and cycling trails and paddle sports on the water. The lake is also very popular for fishing, with rainbow trout, cut-throat trout and bull trout the most commonly sought-after species. Personal boats may be launched from the single gravel boat launch site. A popular spot to canoe or kayak, Kelly Lake can be treacherous, with high winds arising quite suddenly.
Many different types of wildlife found around the Kelly Lake area include deer, moose, cougar, bear and upland game. Photography is a popular activity among visitors. A guest ranch, one of several in the area, provides lodging opportunities very near the lake where guests can reach the lake by walking or horseback riding the short distance. Downing Provincial Park hugs the eastern boundary of much larger Edge Hills Provincial Park. Edge Hills is a 29,000-acre undeveloped wilderness park with no facilities except a network of unmaintained and unmarked trails. The park stretches to the eastern slope of the Frazier River and offers true wilderness experiences to the experienced hiker. Only a few miles east of the lake, 44,000-acre Marble Range Provincial Park offers a completely different type of geology, with limestone caves, sinkholes and disappearing streams, as well as cliffs, chasms, and crenellated ridges.
The closest town to Kelly Lake is the Village of Clinton. Clinton is a small friendly community with much to offer visitors to the area. Well over 100 years old, Clinton was founded as a direct result of the "boom" of the Cariboo Gold Rush. After the discovery of gold in the Cariboo, Royal Engineers were commissioned to build a road through Fraser Canyon to the Cariboo to join the already existing wagon road from Lillooet to 47 Mile. The junction was 47 miles from Lillooet and thus 47 Mile was the name used until 1863, when 47 Mile officially became Clinton.
Well-supplied with local craft shops and historical buildings, the Clinton area offers rodeo grounds, a baseball diamond, community park for picnicking, recreation center, curling rink, hiking and cross-country ski trails, and fishing and recreational lakes. A number of guest ranches in the area provide lodging and the high-country western experience to visitors with a yen to enjoy traditional ranch life. Events occurring in Clinton that attract visitors include one of British Columbia's oldest continuously running events, the Annual Ball, a May Ball Rodeo and Dance, the Clinton Outdoor Sportsmen Auction and Dinner in April, Canada Day Celebrations on July 1st, Clinton Country Jamboree and Family Fun Fest Day in August, and an art show in the fall.
Those looking for lodgings in the Kelly Lake area can find modern hotels and motels at Clinton, with bed-and-breakfasts and guest ranches near the lake itself. Some real estate is available, both in the small towns nearby and as small ranches. But first, prospective buyers will want to make a visit to the area the people of Clinton call the 'Gateway to the Cariboo'. Come stalk the wily trout, swim in the beautiful lake and see for yourself some of the unusual microbialite structures. You'll quickly see why Kelly Lake is the best of all worlds.
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