Students from Summerland’s Okanagan College often posed for photographs on the Big Rock. The rock was on the northern slope of Giant’s Head Mountain. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)

Students from Summerland’s Okanagan College often posed for photographs on the Big Rock. The rock was on the northern slope of Giant’s Head Mountain. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)

Summerland’s Big Rock had been deposited during last ice age

Rock was once a prominent feature on Giant’s Head Mountain

By David Gregory

Halfway up the northern slope of Giant’s Head Mountain in Summerland there once was a large glacial erratic, known as the Big Rock.

Glacial erratics were formed during the ice age. Geologists have estimated that during the last ice age, ice in the Okanagan Valley was three kilometres thick. As the glacial ice travelled, it would scrape up boulders and sometimes move them a considerable distance. As the ice melted the erratic would be deposited in its new location.

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In the Okanagan First Nation language, Giant’s Head Mountain was named kɬtu̓ pus. Another, perhaps more ancient name, was ackɬtp̓ us. The translation of this name is controversial.

The name most likely was based on the profile of the face of the mountain, but the name may have come from this glacial erratic. This unusual rock could be seen from a considerable distance.

The Okanagan Nation has a legend, The Legend of the Boulder. This story describes various animals attempting to push a boulder up the mountain. The smallest animal, an ant, eventually won the competition.

From 1906 to 1915, Summerland’s Okanagan College was located on the slopes of Giant’s Head Mountain. The college in Summerland and the Vancouver College were the first post-secondary institutions west of Brandon, Manitoba. The Big Rock was located close to the student residences. College student photographs were often featured with the Big Rock.

In the mid-1970s, there were concerns that the Big Rock may actually roll into town and it was decided to bury the rock. The location of the ‘burial’ is close to the heritage sign at the top of Milne Road.

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Glacial erratics were formed during the last ice age. As the glacial ice travelled, it would scrape up boulders and move them. As the ice melted the erratic would be deposited in its new location. (Image contributed)

Glacial erratics were formed during the last ice age. As the glacial ice travelled, it would scrape up boulders and move them. As the ice melted the erratic would be deposited in its new location. (Image contributed)