Rising some 4,000 feet above the surrounding landscape, Savona Mountain affords outstanding views over the Thompson River valley. Cliffs, canyons, and dry ridges, along with lakes, marshland, and high elevation grassland, give a superb overview of the diversity of the region; while a pictograph in excellent condition, and ancient burial sites, are evidence of the presence of First Nations people for many hundreds of years.
Savona Mountain is formed by the remnants of a shield volcano. A shield volcano is formed by a highly fluid eruption of lava, which is low and spreads outwards, covering a large area. The eroded summit of Mount Savona has a large number of shallow caves, which contain interesting rock formations of agates and green opals. Contrary to what some might think, the caves themselves were not used for burial purposes by the Secwepemc (Shuswap) First Nations people of the area, who believed that the harmful spirits they called the “land mysteries” lived in places such as caves. Instead, burial was made near a village, generally on a low side-hill, edges of terraces, or on sandy knolls. Items of value to the deceased—such as knives and moccasins—were buried with the body, and a pole erected over the burial site would contain more of the deceased’s property, as well as offerings from friends. Wealthier people re-buried the bones of their relatives, and left new offerings, every few years. Remains of some of these burial sites are evident on Savona Mountain.
The Secwepemc people also believed that certain cave paintings—pictographs—had mysterious qualities, and could hide or show themselves at will. They were thought to have been made by the people of long-ago, but through the power of the dead, or the supernatural influence remaining in them, became spiritualized. Another belief was that such paintings had been made by the spirit of the place itself. The pictographs in the Savona Mountain caves are painted in the red colour common to such artwork. Red was symbolic of life, good luck, and virtue.
Another feature at Savona Mountain is the Coyote Rock. This was the name given by the Secwepemc people to a particular type of geographic feature found throughout the area, the most famous example being the Balancing Rock off Highway One west of Savona. A “coyote rock” is formed when a cap rock of hard material sits atop sedimentary rock, silt, and sand, which is gradually eroded away to form a column or pillar with the cap rock balanced on top. The Secwepemc people believed that these coyote rocks were land markers created by the Old One, or Creator, and his chief assistant Coyote, who left them behind to remind the Secwepemc of their responsibilities, and mark their territory.
In addition to such common Gold Country vegetation as Ponderosa pines and Douglas fir, Mount Savona contains the highest elevation known occurrence of the Fame flower, which occurs in Canada only in the southern interior of B.C. The Fame flower is a low, ground covering plant shaped like a mat, with waxy green, roundish leaves. It favours south- or southwest-facing expanses of flat volcanic rock, and blooms from late May through July with small flowers (usually white, but also appearing in shades of pink and yellow).