The Nicola Valley has long been home to a number of First Nations who continue to call the area home. European pioneers searching for a trading route between the Coast and the Interior reached the area in the mid-1800s.
Right from the beginning, early settlers were attracted to the area because of its rich grasslands ideally suited for livestock (ranching remains an important part of Merritt's economy!).
In 1865, William Henry Voght, the father of Merritt, entered the valley and returned in 1872 to take up land at the forks, where the Nicola and Coldwater Rivers meet. This was the start of the development of Merritt. In 1906, the town was renamed Merritt, in honour of William Hamilton Merritt, a mining engineer and railway promoter.
Merritt was incorporated as a City in 1911, and by this time the community's economy had diversified to include coal mining, which would continue to be a major industry up until the 1930s. In the 1930s the failure of a local mill precipitated the receivership of the City.
Following the end of WWII, several mills opened in the city and forestry became the new backbone of the economy. In 1961 the nearby Craigmont copper mine opened, followed by several others in the Highland Valley. Copper mining would continue to be a major player to the present day, although its importance declined following the closure of Craigmont in the 1980s.
In 1986, following years of lobbying, the Coquihalla Highway was completed, providing a freeway link between Merritt and the Lower Mainland, and subsequently, Kamloops and Kelowna. The completion of this interior highway network placed Merritt at the hub of transportation and communications in the southern interior and precipitated economic changes that continue to the present.
Merritt is located 271 km (168 mi) northeast of Vancouver via Hwys 1 and 5, 126 km (78 mi) west of Kelowna on Hwy 97C and 87 km (54 mi) south of Kamloops on Hwy 5.
Established in 1908, the Quilchena Hotel is one of the Valley's most historic buildings. Overlooking Nicola Lake, the resort offers visitors a multitude of outdoor experiences: guided trail rides, tennis, swimming, fishing, hiking and a scenic 9-hole golf course.
Nicola Valley Museum Archives
The present quarters of the Nicola Valley Museum Archives Association became their permanent home in 1981. The Nicola Valley Museum publishes a quarterly newspaper, which serves as an outlet for historical research on the Nicola Valley and its people. The museum has numerous exhibits detailing the town's history, an archives section, and a book and gift collection.
Explore 28 historic buildings on the walking tour.
Hundreds of international country music artists have performed at the annual Merritt Mountain Music Festival over the last 12 years. Those stars have left their mark permanently by placing handprints (or, in one case, footprints) and signatures in concrete stars. In 2003, those stars became the basis for the Merritt Walk of Stars. The stars are constructed of lasting bronze, and are placed on display in downtown Merritt to create an attraction similiar to the famous Walk of Stars in Hollywood.
The historic Baillie Property, operated by the Nicola Valley Heritage Society, consists of a house, barn, store, storage garage, and heritage-style garden. The importance of the property is the extent to which the buildings have remained so unchanged since the early 1900s. The society has established a number of annual events, including fundraisers that help in the continuing operations and maintenance of the site.
The former store on the property also enjoys its new purpose as Merritt's Tourism Information Booth. It is conveniently located in the heart of the community and across from City Hall.
The Nicola Valley is hiking country, with its rolling hills, mountain meadows, endless trails, and breathtaking beauty. Walk the Harmon Lake Interpretive Trail and spot many bird varieties.
The Nicola Valley boasts over 200 fishable lakes and streams. Drop a line in nearby Nicola Valley, Paradise and Chatawy lakes.
The Merritt Mountain Bike Association has mapped numerous trails in the Nicola Valley. Try Sugarloaf, Swakum, Godney Creek, Coutlee Plateau or Kane Valley.
Snowmobile pristine powder trails at Helmer Lake or Thynne Mountain. Cross-country ski more than 50 km of trails at Kane Valley.
Mountainfest, the largest outdoor country music festival in Canada, takes place in Merritt for 6 days every July - a spectacular event where people listen to the best of the best in country music & enjoy a multitude of fun, family activities.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia