Our Heritage

The Thompson-Nicola Region’s heritage is based on its resources – mining, forestry, and vast ranges for ranching .

The following information can be found on the Fraser Basin Council web site and in the Encyclopedia of British Columbia.

Historically, the region depended on the land, with furs, minerals, timber and ranching being the mainstays of the economy. Fur traders in the Thompson were followed by prospectors during the gold rush, then ranchers, who recognized that the rolling grasslands were ideal for grazing cattle. The area, and particularly Kamloops, boomed with the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad in the South Thompson Valley during the 1880s. Kamloops became a major rail centre and cattle town.

Ashcroft, Clearwater, Blue River, Clinton and Merritt all trace their origins to the days of the gold rush. Merritt was also a station on a fur trade route and then developed as a cattle ranching centre. Mining soon followed and several active mines supplied coal to the Kettle Valley Railroad. Logan Lake has strong ties to natural resources – in 1970, mining companies, such as the Highland Valley Copper Mine, initiated construction of housing and support facilities to develop the town for mineworkers and families.

The Thompson-Nicola Name

The Thompson region is named after the Thompson River – the longest tributary of the Fraser River.  The Thompson River itself was named by Simon Fraser for his fellow explorer David Thompson who never actually saw the river.

The Thompson River consists of two branches. The North Thompson (365 km) rises in the Cariboo Mountains east of Wells Gray Provincial Park and flows southerly through wooded country to Kamloops. For most of this distance, the Canadian National Railway and Yellowhead Highway 5 run parallel to the river.

At Kamloops, the north branch merges with the South Thompson (161 km) flowing in from Shuswap Lake to the east, and the combined river flows west from Kamloops Lake through arid grasslands for 169 km to the Fraser River.

The community of Lytton overlooks the confluence of the rivers; the ancient aboriginal village of Kumsheen once occupied the site.

Nicola in the Nicola Valley was a ranching community founded at the south end of Nicola Lake in 1871. By 1882 it was the government and commercial hub of the Nicola Valley, but by 1907 the centre of activity was shifting to Merritt. The Nicola Ranch, with headquarters at the townsite, was founded in 1919 by Major Charles S. Goldman, a wealthy South African gentleman.

The Nicola Valley also boasts the Douglas Lake Ranch, North America’s largest working cattle ranch and the historic Quilchena Hotel & Ranch, which is more than 100 years old.


Today tourism, transportation, high-technology, and financial and professional services are the emerging industries. Tourism plays a significant role throughout the region as well as education with Thompson Rivers University.

Our history sings of early pioneers and homesteaders.

Due to our dry continental climate, the Thompson-Nicola Region is renowned for its healing atmosphere. The Tranquille Property was a virtual city that supported three hospitals housing TB patients, and now sits closed.

Knutsford area, Kamloops