Nk'Mip, Osoyoos Photo: Kim Walker
Osoyoos, in the southern boundary of the Okanagan Valley, is situated on Canada’s warmest freshwater lake and surrounded by beautiful beaches and picnic grounds. This is a popular destination for water and beach activities for both children and adults alike. Nearby is the Osoyoos Desert Centre, an ecological interpretive centre with a boardwalk over the protected habitat where visitors can learn about desert ecology and more. Award-winning wineries, the spectacular Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, trails for biking and hiking, fishing and much more attract many to this destination.
Located in the Thompson Okanagan region 124 km (77 mi) west of Grand Forks, 115 km (71 mi) east of Princeton and 63 km (39 mi) south of Penticton at the junction of Hwy 97 and Hwy 3 and only five minutes from the Canada/U.S. Border.
The name Osoyoos (O-sue-use) is an Okanagan Indian word meaning “the narrows” or “the place where two lakes come together”. Nomadic tribes appear to have been the region’s first visitors, around 1066. Early records indicate that no permanent Indian residents were in the area prior to 1800. The only historical records of this early time period are pictographs on mountain walls and in caves.
David Stuart and a French companion, Montigny, are credited with being the first white men to enter the Osoyoos district in September 1811. Employed by the Pacific Fur Company, these explorers were enroute to Fort Kamloops looking for a better trade route through the interior of British Columbia. They noted that Osoyoos was an ideal campsite. After the Hudson’s Bay Company bought out the Pacific Fur Company, the Hudson’s Bay Company Brigades used the area as a trading route from 1812 – 1848.
The British Columbia gold rush in the 1860s helped to further open the Osoyoos area. A customs house was built in 1861. Customs collector John Carmichael Haynes, justice of the peace for Osoyoos and Kootenay districts, was a pioneer settler at Osoyoos and accumulated 8900 hectares of land for a cattle and horse ranch. The first commercial orchard was established nearby in 1890. The South Okanagan Irrigation Project brought an irrigation canal to the area by 1919.
Osoyoos was incorporated in 1946. Agriculture and tourism are now the community’s largest economic sectors.