Rightfully called the Fruit Capital of Canada, the abundance of orchards and fruit stands is a testament to the area's sunny, dry and fertile soil that produces outstanding crops. Just down the road is Cawston, and with over 40% of the crops grown organically it is known as the Organic Capital of Canada. This is also where the now world-famous Ambrosia apple was discovered some 20 years ago. But fruit isn't the community's only claim to fame, situated on the Similkameen River it is popular for swimming, tubing, kayaking and excellent fishing. Wineries, history, hiking and biking are some other area favourites.
Keremeos is located on the Crowsnest Hwy 3, 66.5 km (41 mi) east of Princeton, 48 km (30 mi) north west of Osoyoos and 48.5 km (30 mi) southwest of Penticton via Hwy 3A and Hwy 97. The closest airport is Penticton Regional Airport.
|Keremeos Grist Mill. Photo: Province of BC|
The Grist Mill and Gardens is a BC Heritage Site with an operating waterwheel-powered flour (grist) mill dating from 1877, that originally provided food staples to the First Nations and miners passing through. Today, you can enjoy scones and other delights made on site. The garden is home to heritage varieties of fruit, flowers and herbs, many of which are used in the kitchen. There are demonstrations, exhibits, workshops and events.
| Keremeos Columns Provincial Park by Wikimapia |
Although it is a long hike through sagebrush ending with a steep climb, the view of the volcanic columns once at the top is worth the effort. These amazing formations were formed from slowly-cooled lava and appear to grow impressively out of the surrounding forest. The Keremeos Columns share the same geological phenomenon as the Giant Causeway in Northern Ireland. In the springtime, the lovely pink colour of the Lewisia blooms transform the area.
Keremeos is in the Similkameen Valley of the South Okanagan Wine Country. A dozen or so wineries dot the area around Keremeos and Cawston with many more further afield. These award-winning wineries have produced some excellent red and white varieties and deserve not only tasting but buying a few bottles to take home with you. The Similkameen Wine Association has information on some of the wineries in the region plus ongoing events.
| Mascot Mine, Hedley. Photo: D. Hayes |
Nearby Hedley is home to the Mascot Gold Mine and Snaza'ist Discovery Centre. The mine buildings were built on the side of a cliff 1 km (0.6 mi) above the ground and overlook the stunning Similkameen Valley. Visitors can take a tour and experience what life was like for the miners via an underground light and sound show, as well as visit some of the original mine buildings.
| Red Bridge |
The Keremeos' Red Bridge is a much photographed heritage landmark which straddles the Similkameen River on the west side of town. It creates the gateway to Cathedral Provincial Park and the Ashnola recreation area and was built by the railroad in 1909. The bridge is the last remaining covered bridge in Western Canada and remains an important link between the mining and railroad heritage.
The name Keremeos is thought to have originated from the indigenous word "Keremeyeus" meaning "creek which cuts its way through the flats".
Modern history suggests that 1813 was the earliest date when the first white man came to the Keremeos area. His name was Alexander Ross who managed the Pacific Fur Company's Fort Okanagan trading post just over the Canada/US border. In 1821 the Hudson Bay Company (HBC) took over the Fort which was a trade route to London via Hudson Bay, however by 1860 transportation had moved on and the company headed north into Canada.
Throughout the mid-1800s gold prospectors were in the area panning for gold in the river. Francois Duchouquette who had worked for HBC at Fort Okanagan, built an HBC trading post near Cawston and planted oats, potatoes and other vegetables. By 1864 the first settlers arrived from Oregon with 42-head of cattle and began farming.
In 1872, Englishman Barrington Price, who came from a well-to-do family, moved to the Similkameen Valley to take-over HBO's ranch land and trading post. By 1877 he had opened a store and water-powered mill which turned locally grown wheat (grist) into flour. Together, the mill and store served the needs of the local settlers, First Nations, and miners travelling through. Unfortunately, it wasn't long after that the business started to decline due to the advent of the railroad. In 1885, the completion of the railroad through valleys in the north caused the horse trails through the Similkameen to become unimportant trade routes. The mill ceased to work and the property was purchased by J. H. Coulthard as a home for his family.
| Fruit Stand Keremeos |
The first European settlers arrived to farm oats and wheat and in 1887 the first Post Office was opened. By 1893 there were 16 homesteads and commerce grew. By 1904 there was a sawmill and the railroad was getting ever closer. In 1907 the first train arrived. Fruit was already being planted in abundance and local apples were winning awards. A tomato cannery was built during the First World War, plus a packing house and irrigation of the land grew. In 1956 Keremeos became a village.
In 1972 spring floods took out one of the bridges across the river causing the railroad to abandon the spur tracks into Keremeos. Fruit was then packed and moved by truck out of the valley. Fruit that didn't get packed was sold on roadside stands which continue to this day. Keremeos is now known as the Fruit Capital of Canada.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia