The valley lies in the rain shadow of the COAST and Cascade mountains, creating a hot, sunny, dry climate. Most of the valley receives about 2000 hours of sunlight per year and 250-400 mm of precipitation. The southern valley, which gets about 300 mm of precipitation, is desertlike, with cacti, rattlesnakes and MANTIDS.
Today, the valley contains the largest concentration of population in interior BC (about 7% of the provincial total). The 3 largest centres are Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon. ENDERBY and ARMSTRONG lie in the dairy and vegetable-growing region of the northern valley, and Okanagan Falls, OLIVER and OSOYOOS lie in the dry fruit-growing area south of Penticton.
It was not until the 1930s that a good irrigation system turned the semidesert of sagebrush into a premier fruit-growing area. Today the valley produces around 20% of Canada's apples, pears, peaches, plums and prunes; 75% of its apricots; and 40% of its cherries. The first commercial plantings of grapes were made around Kelowna (1926) and today local and coastal wineries are supported by grapes grown in the valley (see WINE INDUSTRY).
Growing numbers of tourists are attracted by the valley's scenic splendour, warm summers, freshwater beaches and numerous festivities. There are 2 large (Silver Star and Okanagan Mountain) and several smaller provincial parks in the valley. The abandoned railbeds, tunnels and trestles of the Kettle Valley Railway are a popular cycling and hiking trail system. Unfortunately, many of the trestles were destroyed during the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire of 2003.
Author JAMES MARSH
Paul M. Koroscil, The British Garden of Eden: Settlement History of the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (2003); Tanya Lloyd, Okanagan (1999); Jean Webber, A Rich and Fruitful Land: The History of the Valleys of the Okanagan, Similkameen and Shuswap (1999).
Links to Other Sites
Endangered Species in Endangered Spaces
An informative website about rare and endangered plants and animals in the Thompson-Okanagan region of British Columbia. Click on the menu at the left side of the page for information about specific species. From the Royal British Columbia Musuem.
The official website for the Village of Lumby, located in the BC Okanagan Valley.
This tasty website offers a basketful of online resources about commercial tree fruit production. Also features information about tree fruit pests and fact sheets for backyard gardeners about varieties of tree fruit that can be grown in BC.
The Colonial Despatches
View digitized copies of correspondence (dated 1846 - 1859) between the British Colonial Office and the "colonies" of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Search or browse this site for references to specific individuals, communities, companies, or industries in the province. Also includes digitized images of maps of various locations. From the website for the University of Victoria.
Regional District of North Okanagan
Offers links to local municipalities located within the Regional District of North Okanagan.
An extensive information source about the geological history, human settlement patterns, earth and water resources, and natural hazards found in locations across the country. Click on the red symbols on the interactive map of Canada to explore aerial landscapes, maps, photos, colourful online posters, and more. A Geoscape Canada website from Natural Resources Canada.
The Okanagan Historical Society
The Okanagan Historical Society provides a tour of intersting historical landmarks found in BC's Okanagan Valley.
The website for the Okanagan Symphony, the third largest professional symphony orchestra in British Columbia. Provides a schedule of upcoming concerts and special events.
Experimental Studies on Ecological Restoration
A brief scientific article about the restoration of the antelope-brush ecosystem of the South Okanagan. From the British Columbia Ministry of Environment.
Information page about Ellison Park in British Columbia. A Government of British Columbia website.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...