How Historical Irrigation made a Huge Difference in Osoyoos Valley

Irrigating the desert of Osyoos in the early 1920s made a huge difference which can be easily seen today.
That historical difference started in 1918 soon after the First World War when John Oliver, then the premier of B.C., decided to construct a canal to irrigate the land for orchards. The canal was 20 km. long, featured 27 flumes and a syphon large enough to hold a man.
It connected Osoyoos with the town of Oliver, just 20 km. north, a short 18 minute drive by today’s standards.
The canal made a huge difference with the orchards and other plants cultivated, compared to the plants that grow in the semi-arid region, such as antelope brush and sage brush.
Irrigation with the water provided by the canal made the Osoyoos/Oliver region Canada’s fruit capital.
The first orchard was established in 1907 with cherries, apricots, peaches, plums and apples. Grape growing only became established in the 1960s on a large scale with vineyards today a major feature of the landscape.
The vineyards along the stretch between Osoyoos and Oliver feature 1,510 acres planted to grow a variety of grapes.
The difference between irrigation and the semi-arid desert can be seen at the Canal Walkway, which is a 12 km. partially paved trail along the remnants of the old canal. The Canal Walkway provides the opportunity to explore the desert countryside beginning below the local highschool, ducking under Hwy. 3 and circling the airport.
It provides great views of local orchards and provides great views of the valley.
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