McIntyre Bluff, Oliver Photo: Kim Walker
Dubbed the Wine Capital of Canada, Oliver, located in the Okanagan Valley of the Thompson Okanagan region of BC, with its hot sunny days and fertile soil is home to several award-winning wineries and its farm-to-table offerings. Outdoor enthusiasts will find a variety of trails in the area that appeal to hikers and mountain cyclists alike, from the leisurely hiking and biking path along the Okanagan River, to the challenging hikes of Mount Baldy and McIntyre Bluff. Fishing, golfing and other outdoor pursuits are on hand in this beautiful area of the Okanagan Valley.
The First Nations of the South Okanagan settled the area around Osoyoos and raised cattle and wild horses. The first encroachment from the outside world came in approximately 1811, when fur traders came searching for better trade routes.
In the 1880s, free gold-bearing quartz was found east of the present day Oliver, and Camp McKinney became a busy gold mine, attracting the usual restless characters: miners, con men, and outlaws.
Established between 1918 and 1921 as a settlement for unemployed veterans of the First World War, a gravity-fed canal was constructed to provide irrigation to the semi-arid area, which accounts for the lush greenery around this area and one of the most picturesque places in the Okanagan.
The founders of Oliver named the town after “Honest” John Oliver, a BC premier after the First World War, who believed that the irrigation canal would bring prosperity to this northern end of the Sonora Desert. Oliver was unincorporated for many years, and was run from Victoria, the provincial capital. The town was incorporated in 1946, and elected its own council in 1968.
Today, Oliver is a thriving community, with agriculture, tree fruits, and vineyards still prime industries. The economy is still dependent upon the irrigation ditch to keep the land arable, although the ditch has seen many changes and upgrades over the years.