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Merritt, BC


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...The Nicola Valley ...

History.....Recreational Activities

Imagine a magical place where the sun shines on most days of the year on grasslands, rolling hills, historic ranches and shimmering lakes. Such a place exists in the southern interior of BC, where the sun heaps over 2,000 hours of annual sunshine upon Merritt and the Nicola Valley.

The charming Nicola Valley is steeped in history; mining and railways, western lifestyle, and First Nations culture. Agritourism is popular in the Nicola Valley, incorporating both agriculture and the ranching lifestyle that makes the Nicola Valley so unique!

Merritt is the service centre for the ranch country of the Nicola Valley, and provides an excellent base for exploring the many outdoor recreational opportunities in the area. The area is home to open grassy fields and rich marshland, as well as Canada’s largest working cattle ranch, the Douglas Lake Ranch. The Douglas Lake Ranch, established in 1884, with over half a million acres and running 12,000 head of cattle.

The Nicola Valley is located in the heart of the Coquihalla, with the economic centre of the valley in Merritt. The main access to the Nicola Valley is via the Coquihalla Highway from Hope and Kamloops. The Coquihalla Highway climbs through the Great Bear Snow Shed, crests the summit of Coquihalla Pass (elevation 4,068 feet/1240 m), then crosses the top of the Thompson Plateau, with side roads leading off into rolling countryside speckled with fishing lakes. Other access routes include Highway 8 from Spences Bridge, Highway 97C from Ashcroft, Logan Lake and Kelowna, and Highway 5A from Princeton. Driving time is 3 hours from Vancouver, 90 minutes from Kelowna, and less than an hour from Kamloops.

Highway 5 follows the Coquihalla River to Merritt and is particularly scenic in the early fall, when rolling fields and forest foliage take on a golden glow. The surrounding Merritt Forest District supports stands of Engelmann spruce, lodgepole pine, and subalpine fir at higher elevations; Douglas fir and ponderosa pine are found on the lower benchlands. Extensive grasslands also occur at low-elevation areas, particularly toward Merritt. Moose, mule deer, bears, and grouse are the main wildlife species here, while small numbers of elk and mountain goats find refuge in the south.

Because the range of wildlife and vegetation in the valley varies so dramatically with terrain and elevation, the entire Nicola Valley is filled with amazing natural attractions. Wind erosion has created unique formations in the walls of Windy Canyon near Merritt, and ancient Glacial Shore Lines of 10,000-year-old glacial lakes are visible in the grasslands, particularly along Highway 5A north of Merritt. Ancient volcanic Lava Cliffs can be viewed along the hiking trail at Monck Provincial Park, and amazing Hoodoos can be found along Highway 8, west of Merritt towards Spences Bridge.

Quilchena is located on the east shore of Nicola Lake, east of Merritt. A stop at the old hotel provides visitors with a whiff of life as it once was in the Nicola Valley. It attracts a motley assortment, from moneyed urbanites to cattle barons. Guests share bathrooms and dine together. Ride horses, golf on the adjacent course, or search the nearby fossil beds.

This grand hotel was built by rancher Joseph Guichon in the hope that the Spences Bridge-Princeton CPR rail line would be built along Quilchena Creek. This did not happen, but the hotel opened anyway, hosting polo matches, fishing derbies, dinners and dances, until forced to close during Prohibition. In 1958, Guichon's grandson re-opened the hotel and it is still family-owned and operated to this day. Savor international cuisine prepared by European chefs in the air-conditioned Victorian Dining Room of the Quilchena Hotel.

Merritt is located at the hub of the Coquihalla Highway system, in easy reach of Vancouver, Kamloops and the Okanagan. Merritt is the service centre for the ranch country of the Nicola Valley, and provides an excellent base for exploring the many outdoor recreational opportunities in the area.

The combination of Merritt's strategic location, its natural advantages, and its quality of life ensures that the community will continue to flourish into the future. While Merritt retains its strong ties to the resource economy, this is balanced with growth in knowledge and lifestyle based industries, small business, and recreation and tourism.

The original stock farm at Nicola Ranch still exists today as a working ranch and tourist attraction, and heritage buildings such as the courthouse have been restored to their original grandeur.

Murray Church, one of the most photographed structures in British Columbia, was the first church in the Nicola Valley, built of lumber from nearby Mill Creek in 1876. Named in honour of its founder, Reverend George Murray, the church can be viewed along Highway 5A north of Merritt, at Nicola Ranch.

Kamloops, the third largest city in the Interior of BC with a population of 82,000, offers visitors all the amenities of a big city - first class accommodation and dining, a lively arts scene, modern shops, a full range of businesses, a modern hospital and wonderful parks and recreation facilities.

Kamloops is a vital transportation hub easily reached from every part of the province. BC's four major highways, the Trans Canada, Yellowhead, Coquihalla, and Highway 97 meet in Kamloops. Full service air and rail connections in Kamloops catering to travelers from every corner of the globe make the city truly international.

In 2000 Kamloops was a winner of the Sustainable Community Award given by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Brookmere. The community of Brookmere served as a regular stop along the Kettle Valley Railway until 1966, and is still home to the last standing Kettle Valley Railway caboose and water tank (Brookmere Water Tank). Brookmere is located south of Merritt on Brookmere Road, east of Highway 5.

Information Centres:

Merritt Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 1649, Merritt, BC V1K 1B8
Local Ph: (250) 378-5634 | Fax: (250) 378-6561

City of Merritt
2185 Voght Street PO Box 189 Merritt, BC V1K 1B8
Tel: (250) 378-4224 | Fax: (250) 378-2600

Tourism Merritt
2185 Voght Street PO Box 189 Merritt, BC V1K 1B8
Tel: (250) 378-8619

Gold Country Comminities Society
1095 Todd Rd., Cache Creek, BC V0K 1H0
Tel: 250-457-6606

British Columbia Visitors Centre at Merritt
Junction of Hwys 5 & 97C (ext 286) Merritt, BC V1K 1B8
Tel: (250) 315-1352

Kamloops Visitor Info Centre
1290 East Trans Canada Highway, Kamloops, BC, V2C 6R3
Tel: (250) 374-3377 | Fax: (250) 828-9500
Toll Free: 1-800-662-1994

Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association
2280-D Leckie Road, Kelowna, BC, V1X 6G6
Tel: (250) 860-5999 | Fax: (250) 860-9993

Tourism Sun Peaks
50-3150 Creekside Way, Sun Peaks, BC, V0E 1Z1
Tel: 1-800-807-3257 | Fax: (250) 578-7843

Thompson Nicola Regional District
#300 - 465 Victoria Street, Kamloops, BC V2C 2A9
Phone: (250) 377-8673 | Fax: (250) 372-5048
Toll Free in B.C.: 1-877-377-8673

History of the Nicola Valley ../.. Recreational Activities
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