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While searching for an accessible route to transport furs to the Pacific Europeans began exploring the BC Interior In 1811 Scottish trader and explorer David Stuart of the Pacific Fur Company sailed to the junction of the Columbia and Okanagan rivers and built Fort Okanagan He then travelled north to Thompson River and in so doing established the Okanagan Valley trail that united the Upper Fraser and Lower Columbia sections By 1824 the trail was dominated by the activities of the Hudsons Bay Company which provided fur caravans along the lake hills until 1847 Between orchards and vineyards remnants of the trail remain for historical hikes The first permanent valley settlements were established in 1840 by Father Charles Pandosy of the Oblates of Mary Missionary camps were located at the head of Okanagan Lake and near what is now Kelowna The valley population grew with the discovery of gold on the Fraser River in 1858 and in the Cariboo region in 1861 Both the Cariboo Road now Hwy 97 and the Dewdney Trail now Hwy 3 were built as a result This opening up of the BC Interior attracted 150 Overlanders from Ontario in 1862 and continued growth came with the establishment of Canadian Pacific Railway services by the 1890s The Okanagan boasts an extremely diverse terrain You can scan a panorama that melts from dry desert to lush basins or graduates from low grasslands to upper forest hills to less majestic mountains that accentuate their ice-capped elders far in the distance Although in a dry belt the Okanagans natural vegetation is divided into two general categories North Okanagan is dominated by a dryrainshadow forest characterized by sage bush antelope bush also called greasewood bunchgrass and scattered ponderosa pines It is a green and fertile region with a much wetter climate than the rest of the valley Southern Okanagan has near desert-like conditions which produce a more arid but unique
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