Our Story: About the Shuswap
The Shuswap boasts a small town feel and big country activities; and this may be the finest place to get back to getting down-to-earth.
The Shuswap is a region comprised of communities centered around Shuswap Lake, just north of the Thompson-Okanagan region, near the centre of BC’s interior.
Our region is the home of the world-renowned Shuswap Lake and is one of Canada’s premier warm water destinations. But the Shuswap is also the centre for a pretty grand selection of activities, things to do and friendly folks who are proud to share this incredible area. Our mild weather, varied geography (alpine meadows, warm lakes, desert-like rolling, arid hills, enchanting forests) and four-seasons ensure that there are a variety of new adventures and experiences to be found.
This isn’t the place for a big city shakedown or a luxury extravaganza. But it is a perfect destination for beautiful, natural and down-to earth vacation experiences.
There’s always something afoot here. Visitors can kick up their heels on a houseboat, or put their feet up at a resort, or start a small revolution and place their best foot forward on a mountain bike. Don’t forget boating, golfing, nordic skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, skiing, hiking, walking, swimming or cycling. Those just discovering the Shuswap might also be interested in savouring pie and sipping espresso; exploring museums, art galleries and amazing events and festivals; dining on incredible local produce, visiting farms, tasting local wines and chatting with the friendly folks who call this home. Or they might simply deliciously stumble on the best activity: putting their feet up and doing nothing at all.
In addition to great tasting and good feeling experiences, the Shuswap is also home to the Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival, an event that draws over 30,000 visitors to the region once a year for a weekend filled with some of the world’s best blues, world, folk, zydeco, alternative, funk and reggae music.
However, there’s one spectacle that stands out above all else in the Shuswap: the Sockeye Salmon run. Every year Sockeye Salmon journey upstream from the Pacific Ocean to the Shuswap’s Adams River, an incredible display of nature. During September and October, the quiet banks of the Adams River —405 km (251 miles) inland from the Pacific Ocean— becomes the scene of a natural miracle. The river’s normally peaceful waters turn turbulent and crimson as over two million sockeye salmon return to their home waters to spawn and to die. And every four years, their arrival is welcomed, a pageant which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world.
Our History: The Shuswap of yesterday
The Shuswap has a storied history. Shuswap Lake is named after the Shuswap First Nations — the Secwepemc — an important Salish nation of tribal bands whose ancestors have always lived in the BC interior. Once numbering over 5,000, the Secwepemc fished salmon, hunted and gathered food throughout the region. The Adams River has long been known as the largest spawning grounds for the Sockeye Salmon, and the natural cycle was an integral component of First Nation’s culture and lifestyle. It was just a couple of centuries ago that the Shuswap saw traders and explorers passing through the area, and in time began to see settlements spring up throughout the region. Some of the area’s first settlers were from Finland, and they set up farms and grazed sheep in high alpine meadows. In 1864 gold was discovered on the Columbia and the Shuswap’s Seymour Arm became a supply centre for the Big Bend gold rush. The Hudson’s Bay Company built the first steamer to ply the Shuswap region’s water, and soon other companies followed suit. However, the advent of the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which linked Canada’s coast, soon led to
the decline of steamer traffic, as trains were faster and more efficient modes of transportation. The Last Spike — the area where the railway’s east and west portions were finally linked together— is located at Craigellachie, in the eastern most area of the Shuswap. Upon completion of the railway, the area saw rapid settlement and development: farms and stores were established, and brisk trade evolved as businesses served the needs of resource industries such as logging and mining. The spirit of exploration and discovery remains alive today throughout the Shuswap: its vast areas of untrammeled wilderness still beckon to adventurers and to those who seek to be a part of some of British Columbia’s most enchanting and captivating landscapes and stories.
The Shuswap: Our essence and attitude
At the core of life in the Shuswap there are three dominant elements: our lake, country and culture. There’s no escaping it. The Shuswap owes much of its persona and character to the lake. It is an integral part of our lives, our livelihoods, and a major compelling reason for visitation. Shuswap Lake is host to a wide variety of activities, a distinct visual viewscape that dominates our region, and serves to provide the reason for existence for several of our communities and industries. In addition to the lake, incredible nature surrounds our region. There’s wilderness just steps away from the back door, and recreational activities that include mountain biking, trail walking, golfing, hiking, quadding and sledding, camping, fishing and more. There’s incredible forests, spectacular alpine meadows and an exceptional history and continuing tradition of relating to the land in our region. Our natural surroundings are the envy of many and the lifestyle we are afforded by the country in our region is highly desired. We’d like to keep it that way. And we’re proud to share it with others who respect it as we do. And speaking of others... our region’s existence, its
communities and interactive fabrics are built on relationships. How we interact with each other; our values; and how we desire to share our area with others are integral parts of our story. Our story is not an urban centre story. We often function at a more controlled and reasonable pace. We place great value on freedoms and relationships and community spirit. We celebrate together, look after our region together, and continue to grow and develop stories together that shape our present and our future. We are renowned for some of our events and cultural happenings, and we have a burgeoning cultural and artistic component of our region that is continuing to emerge as a strong presence in our collective story.
The Shuswap: Where we are and how to get here
Some folks like to think we’re in the middle of nowhere. We like to think we’re just at the centre of all that’s good. We’re
happily situated in the central lower third of British Columbia, and pretty conveniently located mid-way between Vancouver, BC and Calgary, AB. Canada’s central roadway, Trans-Canada Highway #1 runs right through the Shuswap region, and Highway 97 joins us from the Southern Okanagan. In addition to a number of routes accessing our region via wheels, the Shuswap is easily accessed by flying to the Kamloops or Kelowna International Airports. Drive here, fly here, or put on your best gumboots and jolly well sashay on over. We’re ready for you!