Flowers in the Thompson Okanagan, Photo Allen Jones
Tulameen is a small recreational community northwest of Princeton in the Similkameen Valley area of BC’s Thompson Okanagan region. Situated on Otter Lake it is a popular destination for visitors and offers an abundance of outdoor activities, such as hiking, mountain biking, fishing, kayaking, and more. You can access the Trans Canada Trail from here as well as several other trails with various levels of difficulty and terrain. 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!
Tulameen is 26 km (16 mi) northwest of Princeton on Coalmont Road off the Crowsnest Highway (Hwy 3).
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.