Travel | One comment
By: Zdenko Kahlina
Exploring B.C.’s coolest small town
Last year, when our daughter moved with her family to Kamloops (British Columbia), she gave us the reasons to visit this small town for the first time and explore the grasslands area around the town.
We drove from Edmonton in March and thanks to strong El Nino weather pattern this year, the roads were mostly dry except throughout the Rockies and Jasper National Park where wicked weather created slushy mess. The drive took less than 9 hours for the distance of 813 kilometers. Thanks to our late departure from Edmonton, we arrived in Kamloops at dusk, with just enough daylight left to easily find our daughter’s house.
For those who don’t know, Kamloops is located in British Columbia, on Highway 1 and sits on the confluence of the South and North branches of the Thompson River at Kamloops Lake, in a semi-arid grassland. The area around the city is rolling hills with forests, grasslands, and hoodoos. This city of close to 100,000 was founded in 1812 by the North West Company, later taken over by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Here the Trans-Canada Highway (#1) meets the Coquihala Highway (#5). The name comes from Shuswap phrase ‘T’kumlups’ for ‘the meeting of the waters.’
Kamloops began as a fur trading post in 1812, and boomed during the 1860s Cariboo Gold Rush as ‘overlanders’ came down the North Thompson. Once the gold ran out, the area matured into cattle and sheep ranches. The coming of the transcontinental railroad in 1886 started Kamloops lobbying to be the provincial capital. In 1893, the community incorporated when it had a population of 1,000.
Today lumber is also an important resource, with many people employed in logging and processing (the local lumber mill offers summer tours). There are several large copper mines in the Highland Valley to the south. Ranching in the area is big, with over a thousand ranches, and several famous ones: Harpers, Douglas Lake, and Quilchena.
The city bills itself as the ‘tournament capital of Canada’ and hosted the Canada Summer Games in 1993. The town has an impressive 84 baseball fields, 73 soccer fields, five ice arenas, 10 gymnasiums, 53 tennis courts, eleven golf courses, and a 5000 seat stadium.
Our daughter lives on the hill above Kamloops city Centre in a community called ‘South Kamloops’. Located south of downtown, you get there by climbing a gentle slope along Columbia hill, almost reaching the Trans-Canada Highway #1. This is a character area with mostly well-established single-family homes, many with heritage designations. There are mature trees and beautiful gardens. Traffic corridors include 6th Avenue, Fraser Street and 11th Avenue. This is an area with older population and most houses were built in the 1970s or 1980s. Most bungalow style homes have a million dollar view over the downtown, North Thompson River and surrounding mountains on both sides of the river. The view is especially astounding at night, with thousands of flickering lights displaying the town.
The downtown of Kamloops has a variety of shops, services and restaurants, as well as grocery and chain stores in the area. They have easy access to a number of key recreational and cultural facilities. This area also provides access to the Thompson River, with its parklands, pathways, boat ramps and beaches. Downtown also hosts the annual Christmas parade, Victoria Street block parties, Canada Day celebrations, and the Rivers Family Festival.
Victoria Street is the heart of Downtown Kamloops and the city’s top shopping destination. The street is lined with locally-owned restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, and boutiques. Lansdowne Village is a shopping Centre located just off Lansdowne Street. Some of its retailers include London Drugs, Cooper’s Foods, BC Liquor Store, and Booster Juice. It is also the hub of the Kamloops transit system, housing the central bus loop.
The Red Bridge
Kamloops is a city of bridges. Crossing the South Thompson River, the Red Bridge was originally built in 1887, then rebuilt in 1912 and again in 1936. This old wood timber truss bridge has been known as the Red Bridge for some time, much of it has been painted red since anyone can remember. The bridge itself is older than anyone can remember. During the early 1880s the growing community of Kamloops needed a bridge to connect with its most important partner, the Kamloops Indian Band. Tenders’ for Kamloops first bridge were called in 1887. The wooden truss structure measured 300 meters and included a swing span to accommodate paddle wheelers. The official name for the bridge was the Government Bridge, but it was always known as the Red Bridge.
Under the bridge is a beautiful ‘Pioneer Park’ where we took our grand-daughter for a walk. Also located here is ‘Heritage Railway Museum’ with their steam train exposed for everyone to see part of Kamloops history. Our grand-daughter fell in love with the train and now her parents have to visit this place on a weekly basis…
Royal Inland Hospital (RIH) is located at 311 Columbia Street, at the base of the Columbia Hill is the place where our daughter works. This is one of two Interior Health tertiary referral hospitals in Kamloops which caters to much of the surrounding region. RIH offers high-level specialty medical care including core physician specialties, 24 hour emergency and trauma services, ambulatory and outpatient clinics, and diagnostic services.
The hospital is currently undergoing a redevelopment with the introduction of a Clinical Services Building. The new expansion will provide space for several outpatient services including cardiopulmonary diagnostics and neurodiagnostics, community respiratory therapy, IV therapy, vascular improvement and medical outpatient services. It will also provide outpatient lab and electrocardiogram services, pre-surgical screening and operating room booking, teaching space for the UBC medical school program, a new lecture theatre as well as up to 350 spaces for onsite parking and improved vehicle and pedestrian access to the hospital. The expansion is scheduled to open to the public sometime in 2016. How do I know all this? Well, our daughter works there…
Lifestyle in Kamloops
The city of Kamloops is surrounded by stunning natural settings which are the perfect source and location for a wide variety of outdoor activities. Golfing, white-water rafting, hiking, skiing, kayaking and horseback riding are just some of your options. This is the third largest city in British Colombia. The city itself has a very relaxed lifestyle. It is a popular stop to make on a trip to the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park. If you have some spare time, try to check out nearby amazing natural parks. Located between mountains, river valleys, deserts and grasslands, this city allows you to experience it all.
Spring starts early and the temperature stays nice until late fall, so perfect for all your upcoming outdoor adventures. The city itself is modern with a small-town vibe over it. The residents of the city make a warm and welcoming community. Another positive aspect of living in Kamloops is that the cost of living is around 10-20% lower than if you lived in a bigger city such as Vancouver or Toronto.
This town also hosts the main campus of Thompson Rivers University. The first new law school in Canada in 30 years has its new home at Thompson Rivers University. The design by Diamond Schmitt Architects revitalizes an existing campus building known as the Old Main with an iconic two-storey addition that provides 45,000-square-feet of state-of-the-art learning space.
Here students can experience life in the most amazing settings they can imagine. In this modern city students experience the vibe of a small-town community with a multicultural environment. They can discover the amazing range of outdoor adventures the city has got to offer. The great outdoors are giving them unforgettable experiences. Our son-in-love works there on the Tourism Management program.
Kamloops has the great outdoors.
Kamloops is a four-season destination with limitless outdoor recreation opportunities, including hiking, mountain biking, golfing, fishing, and downhill skiing and snowboarding. The city itself has a lot to offer with its diverse cultural scene, more than 200 restaurants and its lively nightlife. Try passing by at The Art We Are, a local artisan joint. It’s the perfect place to spend some hours and try some delicious organic food. On Saturdays this place turns into a live music venue with bands playing from all over the country. The Canadians say their live music is phenomenal so go and try it out for yourself. In case you’re up for some more beers, head down to Commodore, where you will find a mix of all kind of music, or go to Kelly O’Bryan’s. You guessed it already… it is a classic Irish bar with employees dressed in kilts. Irish, Scottish, Canadian, who keeps track of these things anyway?!
If you want to relax and enjoy the views instead, head down to Chapter’s Viewpoint restaurant. Here you can overlook the whole city of Kamloops on a relaxing summer evening.
The mild climate and beautiful natural setting make it ideal for outdoor recreation enthusiasts as opportunities abound for world-class hiking, mountain biking and skiing. The award-winning Sun Peaks Resort is within a short drive, and there are over 200 lakes within a 40-mile radius of the downtown core. The city itself boasts 82 municipal parks, modern fitness facilities, skating arenas, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields and swimming pools. There is also a thriving arts community with live theatre, galleries, museums, and a symphony orchestra, plus wine touring at the four newest wineries.
Kamloops Lake is a beautiful lake that is just waiting to be discovered. The North Thompson and South Thompson Rivers flow into Kamloops Lake which is 1.6 km wide and 29 km long. In spots the lake is as deep as 152 meters (500 ft.). Because Kamloops Lake is river fed, the water level goes up and down with the snow melt in the mountains. Early June is high water and by early fall there is a lot of rocky shore.
During the hot summer months the water temperature over the shelf warms up enough for swimming. Go boating and explore the shoreline. Discover interesting driftwood, colored rock formations, abandoned shacks, and mine workings and keekwillie holes. From the lake you can easily view the ‘Balanced Rock’, the stone masonry railway bridges and railway tunnels. You might even spot some Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep roaming the northern hillside.
First, as already alluded to the weather is pretty easy to deal with. It was 35 degrees today on May 12th so you can imagine what the summer is like. We moved here in July last year and got the best of summer. Winter is grey and overcast, like most of BC, but coming from Calgary it was nice to not have to contend with -35 every other day. Winter is definitely milder in Kamloops. Even though it gets to minus 30 here, it doesn’t last long. I think it mostly hovers around -5 throughout the winter. May want to consult Wiki on this one, rather than rely on my amateur meteorology.
I expected Kamloops life to be otherwise pretty boring. Probably this was mine fairly natural big city perspective. Those coming from Vancouver had much the same expectation I think. But, we quickly found that Kamloops had everything to offer that a big city does just in smaller doses. It didn’t take long for us to find the farmers’ market (which is awesome!), the fine dining (which you can honestly count on both hands) and the night clubs (I think there’s three.) In short, all the things that I was finally starting to find cool about Edmonton and Calgary were also happening here. All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I think Kamloops does have a fairly strong sense of Community in and of itself.
Have a good and healthy year.
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