Shuswap Lake & Region Information
When people think of Canada, the mental image most conjure up could be a snapshot straight out of the Shuswap area of British Columbia – clear lakes, majestic peaks, endless forest, rushing rivers, and pristine wilderness habitat.
As the imposing western Rockies gradually diminish into a region of valleys and plateaux, with glacial rivers flowing into scenic lakes, the Shuswap (name adapted from the eponymous First Nations people who inhabited the region, the Secwepemc) opens up into a vast, breathtaking area rich in biodiversity and relatively untouched back country. For the true Canadian nature getaway, it is a consummate destination.
- See also Holiday Suggestions & Travel Ideas for the Thompson Okanagan.
Nourished as it is by the crystal water systems flowing from mountains to the East, the Shuswap has been inhabited for at least 9,000 years, providing sustenance in the form of plentiful salmon, game, and wild edible plants. The indigenous peoples are proud to have maintained their language and way of life to this day, and the interested visitor can explore the beauties of Shuswap culture at the cultural centres in Salmon Arm and throughout the area.
Throughout the 19th century, trappers, traders, loggers, and farmers have been drawn to the hospitable valleys and prosperous lakes of the Shuswap, and the agricultural heritage is both well-documented and ably represented in the museums and the current rural atmosphere which permeates its communities.
Location & Climate
Less than an hour’s drive from Kamloops (54 km/33 miles), the western Shuswap begins at the edge of a grassland and quickly opens into rolling hills and thick evergreen forests, and the winding routes make for a picturesque yet not-harrowing driving experience. From Calgary (482 km/299 miles), it is a stunningly beautiful 6-hour drive along the Trans-Canada Highway (#1) to the eastern Shuswap town of Sicamous, and the territory begins in the South less than 90-minutes drive from Kelowna International Airport.
Known for its mild climate, the Shuswap weather is pleasantly warm and dry in the summer and snowy in the winters (yet not bone-chillingly cold). The July mean daily temperature in Salmon Arm is a balmy 18°C (64.7°F); the January mean daily temperature is -3.9°C (24.9°F), and the powdery snow falls in mind-boggling volumes the higher you climb.
Activities & Attractions
Warmer than the Rocky Mountains and sunnier than the coast, the Shuswap provides ample opportunities for an active getaway regardless of the season.
Legendary snowfalls make for world-class skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, and one of the region’s favourites: snowmobiling. There is a profusion of sites for Nordic skiing and dog-sledding, and for the true winter adventurer no trip would be complete without a stay at one of the area’s many authentic ski chalets.
Summer in the Shuswap is a diverse palette with an array of choices for the active traveler. The scenic lake country draws house-boaters from around the continent, and fishing-enthusiasts from around the world in search of the indigenous steelhead and rainbow trout. There are many provincial parks, making it a prime destination for hikers, RV and campers, and wildlife-tourists. If manicured grass and sand traps are more your style, the Shuswap has excellent golf courses and less traffic than many golf hotspots.
When you’ve tuckered yourself out with all of the Shuswap’s many activities, kick back and relax with one of the many vintages produced in the area. Wine and orchard tours are accessible throughout the summer, and many of the local wines are available at fine-dining establishments in the larger centres.
Some of the many cozy communities in the Shuswap are…
The home of one of North America’s premiere roots and blues festivals, Salmon Arm is the largest and most western city in the Shuswap region. It has a warm atmosphere, and proudly displays its history at several museums and heritage centres. Read more about Salmon Arm.
Along stunning Mara Lake, find the adventurer in you in and around this striking resort town. Hiking, suspension bridges, and a family-friendly forest tour await the wide-eyed wanderer. Water-lovers can soak up the Shuswap Lake Marine Park, and kayak/canoe rentals are available at reasonable rates. Read more about Sicamous.
The South Shuswap features the Enderby Cliffs Protected Area, a perfect venue for observing deer, moose, bobcat, lynx, and a variety of birds, including golden eagles. It is also perfect for the pre-history enthusiast, as the exposed cliffs provide a snapshot of millions of years of geology. Read more about South Shuswap.
Among the best lakeside destinations in Western Canada, the North Shuswap has a bounty of small, quaint communities dotting the shores of pristine Shuswap Lake, ideal for the family escape from urban congestion into the clean, quiet air and laid-back attitude to life. Read more about North Shuswap.
Beach-goers, mountain-bikers, and water-skiers whisper the name of this little treasure between themselves, trying to keep secret the wonderful attractions available to tourists and residents alike. A gateway to activities in the greater area, Chase is an attractive spot for wildlife viewing, including the reinvigorated salmon run which brings innumerable fish (and gourmands) to B.C. every year. It is also home to a large First Nations’ pow wow. Read more about Chase.
Shuswap Lake from Silver Beach Provincial Park looking South. Large houseboat on Shuswap Lake. Fisherman with a Salmon. Photo credits for last two photos: Kids in a tobbogann near Salmon Arm in Winter courtesy Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Don Weixl; Shuswap Lake near narrows at Sunset courtesy Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Alan Fortune
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