Okanagan's History

The Okanagan Valley is packed with history and culture. Originally home to the Okanagan First Nations, who gave the valley its name, translated roughly as "place of water."The history and culture of the region - from its Aboriginal peoples to European fur traders to winemakers and food producers - is strongly tied to the land. The first European to see the valley in 1811 was credited to the Pacific Fur Company in search expanding a string of fur posts in search of North American beaver, the main source of animal pelts. Missionaries built the first settlement at the head of Okanagan Lake in about 1840 and near Kelowna in 1859. Some miners stayed on after a small gold rush at Cherry Creek. The first apple trees were planted by Hiram "Okanagan" Smith near Osoyoos in 1857 and Oblate missionaries near Kelowna in 1862. It was not until the 1930s that a good irrigation system turned the semi-desert of sagebrush into a premier fruit-growing area. Learn more about the rich history and geography that make Okanagan the Napa of the North and a true mecca for outdoor recreation.


Its landscape of low hills and oblong lakes was formed by glacial activity during the Pleistocene epoch, the final retreat of the ice between 11,000 and 9,000 years ago. Cities in the region now include Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton. The area is one of the largest producers of fruit and wine in Canada. Between 2011 and 2013, the province produced over 80 percent of Canada’s apricots and sweet cherries, over 40 percent of pears and plums, and over 20 percent of apples, nectarines, and peaches. The region also yields large amounts of raspberries and grapes.