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CANADA'S DESERT


Oroville, WASH.—Your new cottage is a mere 60 seconds into the United States, but there'll be no long lineups at the border each time you visit.

You simply phone American customs and tell them you're off to the cottage. Then you climb into your boat and cruise down Osoyoos Lake for a minute to Veranda Beach Resort.

Osoyoos (pronounced ``oh-soy-yuss'') is a shimmering 23-kilometre-long lake in the heart of Canada's only desert. It sits at the south end of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia and extends into the state of Washington.

This steep-sided valley east of the Cascade Mountains would look right at home in Arizona. Tumbleweeds go rolling by in the dry, steady wind. Its cactus-studded slopes are home to other desert plants and animals; some found nowhere else in Canada.

Osoyoos is the warmest lake in Canada. Its sandy beaches enjoy 30C days all summer. Water skiing and golf are well underway by April and the valley has one of the lowest annual precipitation rates in the country. Yet that doesn't stop local wineries from producing some of the world's finest wines.

Yes, there are rattlesnakes. Hey, it's a desert. But many of the area's rattlers can be located by computer. To help preserve this snake as development moves into the valley, many of the rattlers have been captured, tagged, inserted with a tiny locator chip and released back into the desert.

It's in the midst of this desert paradise that Kelowna-based developer Legend Resorts is creating the cottage community of Veranda Beach. Jim Hammond, president of Legend Resorts, envisions a community that will be a throwback to the 1950s, with a village hall and an old-fashioned diner.

"With its amazing beaches and with world-class wineries and golf right next door, Veranda Beach will be the destination resort to visit in the Okanagan, bar none," boasts Hammond.

The signature feature of the Veranda Beach cottages are big, wraparound verandas.

The 113-hectare property has more than 1.5 kilometres of sandy waterfront. There'll be a marina where you can buy a slip and keep your boat there year-round. There'll be an aquatic centre and fitness complex with heated pools and hot tubs, a kids' playground and a community fire pit — just like in the '50s.

The village starts at the water's edge and climbs up the sloping desert. The topography allows for a hillside amphitheatre overlooking the lake.

Legend Resorts, which started out as a home builder in the Kelowna area, has previously created two popular recreation resorts. Sundance and Trappers' Crossing are two recreational villages at Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna. Prices on cabins there ranged up to $1.5 million.

Phase 1 at Veranda Beach sold out quickly last year and the second phase went on the market in June with prices ranging from $350,000 to $1 million.

The seven styles of cottages are all single-family homes and range in size from two-bedroom bungalows with 847 square feet enclosed and a 399-square-foot veranda to a four-bedroom cottage with two levels and 1,672 square feet enclosed and a veranda of 497 square feet.

Vancouver architect Ray Letkeman is the principal designer at Veranda Beach. The cottages are fully furnished by a professional designer with features such as built-in window seats that lift up for storage, ceiling fans, electric fireplace with stone mantels and vaulted ceilings in the living areas.

The picturesque town of Osoyoos is a few hundred metres into Canada and is a popular summer resort community. Mount Baldy and its renowned ski runs are a short drive away.

The site is a four- to five-hour drive from Vancouver