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Home / Thompson Okanagan / South Okanagan / Osoyoos


A Step Back in Time

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 Osoyoos 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.


Osoyoos is located 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 Highway 97 and Highway 3 and only five minutes from the Canada/U.S. Border. 

Things to See and Do
  • Lake Osoyoos and Beaches

Canada's warmest freshwater lake is surrounded by many beautiful beaches and picnic grounds, such as Gyro Beach, Lions Centennial Park, Kinsmen Park, Legion Beach, and the Haynes' Point picnic grounds. A popular destination for water and beach activities for both children and adults alike.

  • Osoyoos Desert Centre

The Osoyoos Desert Centre is an ecological interpretive centre on a protected portion of this habitat and has a carefully placed boardwalk around the area where visitors can learn about desert ecology, ecological restoration, and conservation of endangered ecosystems in the South Okanagan. In Osoyoos, at the toe of a rocky, crumbling valley slope, the Desert Centre lies on a sandy bench between the Kilpoola highlands and Lake Osoyoos. Perched above the orchards, this area has remained desert, isolated from the historic irrigation canals lower in the valley. Bunch grasses, Antelope-brush, Sage and Prickly-pear cacti define this unique area. During the hot summer days, all appears quiet in the desert habitat, but signs of the abundant wildlife become evident when one kneels down for a closer look. Pocket Gopher burrows and mouse trails, a quail's nest secretly hidden in the shadows of a bunchgrass, and coyote tracks dappling the soft sand are clues that paint a picture of the busy nightlife emerging in the evening when temperatures drop.

  • The Nk' Mip Desert Cultral Centre

The spectacular Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre (pronounced in-ka-meep) is a state-of-the-art interpretive centre that is an architectural marvel sensitively constructed into a hillsOsoyoos - NkMip Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos - Allen Joneside. Extensive indoor and outdoor exhibit galleries create a fun, interactive learning environment with hands-on displays, education stations and two multi-media theatre experiences. Discover the fascinating stories of Canada's only desert and share in the rich living culture of the Okanagan people. 

  • Golfing

Osoyoos golf courses have adopted a green approach that includes 100% chemical free fairways, water conservation, protection of habitat for endangered plants and animal species. Three golf courses in, or near, Osoyoos offer a variety of terrain and challenging fairways. The championship Osoyoos Golf and Country Club features 36-holes suitable for both the recreational player and serious competitor. Sonora Dunes Golf Course is a 9-hole challenging desert style executive course overlooking scenic Osoyoos Lake. Nk'Mip Canyon Desert Golf Course is located near Oliver set against the stunning backdrop of the desert landscape.

  • Fishing

Lake Osoyoos has an abundance of fish for both the novice angler and experienced fisherman. Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, Bluegill, Kokanee and Perch are just some of the varieties found here.

  • Hiking & Biking

There are several hiking and biking trails in the Osoyoos area and designed for every enthusiast and ability. The Pioneer Walkway and Cottonwood Park are two lakeshore walkways just right for an easy stroll with picnic tables and benches along the way. The Irrigation Canal Walkway is a 12 km (7 mi) round trip which meanders along an abandoned section of the irrigation canal that was once the lifeline to Osoyoos. Haynes Point Wetland Trail is located within Haynes Point Provincial Park and is a 1.5 km (1 mi) trail designed for birdwatchers and other nature lovers. For the more ambitious there is the International Hike & Bike Trail that stretches 18.4 km (11 mi) and runs parallel to the Okanagan River Channel at the north end of Lake Osoyoos. This trail is perfect for visiting wineries and fruit stands in the area.

  • Visit Local Wineries

The Golden Mile Bench and the Black Sage Bench in the area south of Oliver to Osoyoos are home to over 20 award-winning wineries. The semi-arid desert, rolling terrain and sunlit terraces help produce some of the region's most sought-after wines. Let one of the local guides take you on a tour of the vineyards or pick up a local wine route map and drive at your leisure. Alternatively plan to attend either the Summer or Fall Okanagan Wine Festival that offers food and wine pairings, dinners and entertainment in various locations throughout the valley.

Nearby Communities
Contact Information

Destination Osoyoos
Web: www.destinationosoyoos.com


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Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia

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