Tulameen was originally known in fur trade times as Campement des Femmes (Woman's Camp). In the decades following the creation of the Colony of British Columbia in 1858 and the flurry of exploration of backcountry engendered by the nearby Fraser Canyon Gold Rush, prospecting activity led to the discovery of gold in 1885 near the confluence of Granite Creek with the Tulameen River, near present-day Coalmont (about 10 miles south of Tulameen and the same distance northeast of Princeton). Around the site of the find, the boomtown of Granite Creek (also known as Granite City) sprang from nowhere to celebrated status overnight, and was touted (as with so many other BC boomtowns) to become the next great city of the new province.
Some miners from this rush congregated by the amenable shores of Otter Lake, with the town that sprang up having the name Otter Flats, or Otter Lake. It had a number of stores, 2 hotels, a saloon, and a post office.
The name Otter Flats endured until 1901, when the name Tulameen was officially adopted. The town had acquired some stability due to its being on the routing of the southern mainline of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The southern mainline is commonly known today as the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR), and at the time, connected the original mainline at Hope with the Okanagan and Kootenay cities and boomtowns farther east. Today, much of its route has been converted from railbed to public hiking and biking paths as part of the Trans-Canada Trail. During the earlier period, a proper townsite with a street grid was laid out and the lure of the lake, mountain scenery, and dry climate of the area encouraged the first recreational residents; Tulameen enjoyed something of an advantage of being the first drybelt town after the rail journey had overcome the steep grades and tunnels of the Coquihalla Canyon and Coquihalla Pass. Coal seams in the area also were useful to rail company operations and the town was a regular stopping-place for taking on coal and water during the Age of Steam. Although early tourism never really transformed Tulameen into the fashionable watering-hole it might have been, the town enjoyed another small boom with the discovery of a major coal deposit in the area, with a mine nearby Blakeburn opening in the 1920s, but lasting only until 1940.
Tulameen today has a population of about 500.
Tulameen is a small recreational community 26 km (16 mi) northwest of Princeton on Coalmont Road off the Crowsnest Highway (Hwy 3).
This very popular 6-kilometre long lake covers about 290 hectares (716 acres) at an elevation of 823 metres (2700 feet). It is a great recreational lake for swimming, water-skiing, and fishing for laketrout, rainbow, brook trout, and kokanee. Tulameen is located at the south end of the lake and the Provincial campsite borders the north-west side. A scenic bike ride will take you along the Trans-Canada Trail.
The Coalmont Hotel is a heritage hotel with furnishings from its era.
You can see the history of Princeton at the newly renovated and expanded museum, or you can witness its vestiges all around and at nearby ghost towns. The old west is revived at many of the community events. Princeton's arts and cultural scene is alive and well with music, as well as performances at the state of the art performing arts centre where you can see everything from locally produced plays to professional ballet to blockbuster movies. While in Princeton enjoy some great retail shopping and the old-fashioned hospitality of a town where the charms of yesteryear are still alive.
Tulameen has many trails that can be accessed from the Tulameen River Forest Service Road. Tulameen Falls is a moderate 1 km trail that leads to a spectacular waterfall where you can also swim in the crystal clear river pools. Vuich Historic Trail is an easy 1 km return trip from Jacobson Lake Recreation Site. Rice Historic Trail is a moderate 4 km return trip. Follow the old trail used by prospectors and trappers into lush grassy meadows dotted with tiny ponds. Hudson Bay Company Heritage Trail "West" has a moderate grade. Discover the route used by the fur brigades from 1849-1860. From the Vuich Trail junction is a 7.5 km return trip. Grant Pond Trail has a moderate grade. Explore the hunting grounds of legendary native hunter "Blackeyes". 4 km return trip hike through sub alpine meadows along the base of Mt. Davis. Hudson Bay Company Heritage Trail "East" is for advanced hikers. Challenge yourself to a backcountry camping experience. From the Vuich Trail junction, follow this heritage route over the Tulameen River, crossing at Horseguard Camp. Pass through the majestic mountain defiles and up onto the Tulameen Plateau where you join the Whatcom Trail heading to Lodestone Lake. Be prepared for over 20 km (one way) of remote backcountry.
Bring your rod to Tulameen, as there are more than forty good trout fishing lakes in the area, as well as the Similkameen and Tulameen rivers.
Rated beginner to expert, the Tulameen and Similkameen Rivers offer more than 75 kilometres of excellent canoeing and kayaking on 2 to 6 hour runs. Or try tubing the rivers on a hot summer day - there's nothing like it!
Cross-country skiers of all levels should head for China Ridge Trails, covering open forests and fields, broad ridges and logging roads on maintained and marked trails. The Princeton area also offers lots of rolling hills for tobogganing fun.
Background Photo Credit: Tourism British Columbia