For many thousands of years, parts of the Okanagan Valley were occupied by the Interior Salish people. Change came in the summer of 1811 with the arrival of the fur traders. Each spring, large brigades journeyed south with shipments of furs and returned north in the fall with winter supplies. By the 1850s, fur traders had given way to miners.
Drawn by the native presence, the first Oblate missionaries ventured into the valley. Father Durieu built a cabin near the junction of Swan Lake and Long Lake Creeks around 1863, joining Luc Girouard, a gold miner and the first white settler in the area. The gold miners' camps, in turn, drew cattlemen, anxious to market beef on the hoof. As the cattle ranches flourished, wagon roads replaced the original pack trails. A section of the road from Fort Kamloops, crossing Swan Lake Creek and continuing eastward to the gold mines on Cherry Creek, served as Vernon's first main street.
Within ten years, the fledging settlement of Priest's Valley (Vernon) boasted a post office, as well as a hotel, a general store, and a schoolhouse. In 1885 a government agent's office was opened, and Charles Brewer and E.J. Tronson laid out a townsite, christening it Centreville. The Hudson's Bay Company, recognizing the potential of the community, opened a rough wooden store in 1887, the same year the town was renamed Vernon. Transportation links to the outside world became a reality as the CPR main line was completed. By 1890, a charter was granted for the construction of a branch line from Sicamous to Okanagan Landing. In the surrounding district, wheat growing had become an important industry, second only to cattle ranching. Fruit farming was introduced by Lord Aberdeen on the Coldstream Ranch lands, attracting many British families to the area.
The first brick building appeared, wooden sidewalks were built, and the first telephone was installed. Discussions regarding the future of the rapidly growing town culminated in the incorporation of the City of Vernon on December 31st, 1892.
Outside the city limits, the large-scale cattle ranching era was drawing to a close. By the early 1900s, the large ranch owners were selling land to developers for subdivision. By 1908, a reported 1,000 fruit trees were planted in the Okanagan Valley and land prices had risen from $1 to $150 an acre. A supply of water was ensured with the construction of the Grey Canal, a 19-mile long irrigation system extending from Lavington to Okanagan Lake.
The economic activity of World War I was followed by a depression which lasted until 1923, resulting in little new construction in the Vernon area until the mid-1920's. With the stock market crash of 1929, this period of growth came to an end.
At the end of World War II, a new tide of immigration resulted in a housing shortage- solved in part by the construction of the "100 homes" on the East Hill. The real estate boom of the 1950s was tempered with nostalgia as some historic structures were swept away in the name of modernization.
City boundaries expanded to include Silver Star Foothills in 1981, Okanagan Landing in 1993, Anderson subdivision in 1994, and the Predator Ridge, O'Keefe Range, and lands north of Silver Star Foothills in 1996.
Vernon's diversified history is reflected in the richness of its built environment. As the site of the original town, downtown Vernon has retained its role as the centre of commerce and culture for the community. A mural tour, which illustrates many historical features, has become a popular asset for downtown Vernon.
Vernon is located 54 km (33.5 mi) north of Kelowna and 119 km (74 mi southeast of Kamloops on Hwy 97.
Located just 5 minutes from downtown Vernon, with its spectacular views of Greater Vernon and the 3 surrounding lakes, Allan Brooks Nature Centre is a great place to experience the diverse nature of the North Okanagan. Every year, it is a very popular attraction for bird & outdoor enthusiasts. Take a leisurely tour along the grasslands trail to learn more about the local fauna and vegetation, and explore the wonders of the Discovery room with hands-on nature exhibits, and other fun and educational activities.
The beautiful majestic mountain landscape, the Victorian Village, and outstanding customer service have made Silver Star Mountain Resort one of North America's top family resorts. In the summer, enjoy the variety of unique nature tours and mountain biking for all levels. In the winter, whether it is ski tours, snowboard lessons, snowshoe trails, or sleigh rides, Silver Star Mountain Resort is ready to accommodate you.
Explore the city's heritage further at the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives, where an impressive collection of artifacts is cleverly displayed to demonstrate a wealth of natural history, native history, and modern growth and development in the region. The museum offers a great gift shop, with an array of mementos and books for further reading.
The Vernon Public Art Gallery sponsors exhibitions featuring local, national and international artists.
Western Canada's premiere honeybee attraction and interpretive centre, where the focus is on presenting the world of the honeybee, and on providing a full range of the finest honeybee products available for your pleasure and well-being. Observe honeybees busily working behind glass in a live bee display performing their amazing bee dances, and book an educational tour of the fully and safely screened outdoor observatory.
The Okanagan Science Centre offers a unique collection of hands-on exhibits that are based on scientific principles, including sound, electricity and magnetism, light and optics, mechanics, and astronomy. In addition to the general tours, the centre offers special programs, including school break camps, birthday parties, and school field trips.
The staff are very community minded, having participated in various community events, including the annual Halloween Haunted House and the Air Quality Fair. The centre is also home to the Provincial Air Monitoring Station, which is available for public viewing. Several user groups also use the facilities, including the Vernon Lapidary Club, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and the North Okanagan Amateur Radio Club.
Greater Vernon offers endless opportunities for hiking. It provides many different terrains for all levels of hikers to admire the surrounding beauty. Because the routes are varied, it pays to dress appropriately and to wear the correct footwear. Always respect the environment; please pack out whatever you pack in, and stick to the trails.
Greater Vernon has mountain bike trails that offer both speed and plenty of variety. The south slopes of the Northern Okanagan Valley are desert-like with sparse vegetation, while the north slopes offer coolness with plenty of shade.
Greater Vernon offers world-class mountain biking on Silver Star Mountain Resort, which has truly become a Mountain Bike Mecca over the last seven years, hosting prominent events such as the World Cup Finals, Canada Cup, and 24 Hours of Adrenaline Races. Other popular trails are BX Creek, The Trinity, the Vernon Hill trails, Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park and Eagle Rock.
With all the lakes in the North Okanagan, it's no surprise that people love to come here for the fishing. Rainbow, kokanee, and lake trout are found in good numbers throughout the region, and there are lodges and tour operators waiting to make your fishing dreams come true.
There are high mountain lakes like Echo, Keefer, and Sugar Lake, and low-country lakes like Okanagan, Kalamalka and Swan Lake, where the water is warmer. In the summer there's great swimming too!
The North Okanagan is home to a number of excellent award winning wineries including Arrowleaf Cellars, Gray Monk Estate Winery, and Ex Nihilo Vineyards. All provide tastings. Information on wineries can be obtained from the local Visitor Centres.
Vernon has some of the loveliest beaches in the North Okanagan Valley. Each year tourists from all over the world visit Vernon to discover the wealth of beach recreation in the little city. Kalamalka Lake, Okanagan Lake and Woods Lake all have sandy beaches.
Go tobogganing or tubing to recapture the thrill of your youth, take a wild snowmobile ride, indulge in a few hours of ice-fishing, challenge the back-country trails on snowshoes, or take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through beautiful, unspoiled scenery!
Located in Silver Star Provincial Park, the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre includes more than 50 kilometres of manicured trails, a large full service day lodge, ski school, rentals, night skiing, biathlon range and more. The ski area is operated by the Sovereign Lake Nordic Club in cooperation with BC Parks to provide a world class skiing experience at the lowest possible price.
Combined with the adjacent Silver Star Ski Resort trail system, there are more than 100 kilometres of interconnected trails for your exploring pleasure. The terrain suits every need, from "first-timer" to "big-timer". In addition to the exceptional trails, the centre is also world-renowned for its early season skiing, plentiful snowfall, and hosting of World Class events.
First held in 1923, the annual Vernon Winter Carnival features a week full of fabulous contests and events, including ice sculpting, the Queen Silver Star competition, night skiing, a hot air balloon fiesta, a parade, winter sports tournaments, and children's games!
The flagship event of the Okanagan Summer Wine Festival is held annually in July on Silver Star Mountain. Experience new varieties of wine while live entertainment fills the fresh mountain air.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia