Discover Oliver, British Columbia: The Wine Capital of Canada

Oliver, British Columbia, is a charming town nestled near the southern end of the Okanagan Valley in the Southern Interior of Canada. With a population of nearly 5,000 people, Oliver is situated along the Okanagan River by Tuc-el-nuit Lake, between Osoyoos and Okanagan Falls. The town is proudly known as the Wine Capital of Canada, a title bestowed by Tourism British Columbia.

The Community of Oliver, British Columbia

The community of Oliver is governed by three different bodies: the Town of Oliver, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, and the Osoyoos Indian Band. The local industries are diverse, including grape and fruit production, agri-tourism, wine production, ranching, golfing and recreation, retail, and service trades. Some of the largest employers include the Osoyoos Indian Band, School District #53, Interior Health, and Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative.

The Origin of Oliver, British Columbia's Name

The town was named after John Oliver (1856–1927), a Premier of British Columbia. Known as "Honest John," Oliver and his government brought irrigation water and settlement lots to the area with the South Okanagan Lands Project. The native Okanagan language refers to this locality as N̓k̓mip.

The Rich History of Oliver, British Columbia

The Syilx Okanagan Nation people have lived in the South Okanagan for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. They traditionally moved throughout their large territory to follow seasonal food resources, with many of their camps and village sites located on the shores of the lakes and glacial benches throughout the area.

European immigrants first encroached on the area around 1811, when fur traders established Fort Okanagan (now in the US) and began exploring the area for trade. In the 1880s, free gold-bearing quartz was found at Camp McKinney (east of Oliver), leading to a gold rush and the growth of a boomtown, Fairview (just west of Oliver). However, Fairview's prosperity was short-lived, and today, only a heritage marker remains of the town.

Oliver was established in 1921 as a settlement for unemployed veterans of the First World War, as part of the Soldier Settlement Act of 1917. A gravity-fed canal was constructed to provide irrigation to the semi-arid area. The South Okanagan Lands Project (SOLP) began work on the Intake Dam at the base of McIntyre Bluff on January 30, 1919. Over the next eight years, the 23 concrete-lined miles of the main canal were dug southward to the boundary. The canal, designed to enable farmers to put nearly a foot of water per month on every acre of bottom land in the southern Valley, runs directly beneath the centre of Oliver.

Administration of Water in Oliver, British Columbia

The South Okanagan Lands Project (SOLP) was established by the Province of BC in 1921 and run by provincial government employees for over forty years. In 1964, the Oliver/Osoyoos Fruit Growers' Association took over the operation of the system, forming the South Okanagan Lands Irrigation District (SOLID). Since 1989, the Town of Oliver has been responsible for delivering water to the Valley's parched soils annually.

Oliver, British Columbia's Airport

Oliver is home to a paved hard surface airport, CAU3, with a lighted strip for VFR. The airport is owned by the Town of Oliver and is home to the Oliver Flying Club, Okanagan Kootenay Air Cadet Gliding Program, VMR Aviation, Transwest Helicopters, Oliver Fire Department, Oliver-Osoyoos Search and Rescue, and Big Horn Squadron Royal Canadian Air Cadets.

Demographics of Oliver, British Columbia

According to the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Oliver had a population of 5,094 living in 2,312 of its 2,445 total private dwellings, a change of 3.4% from its 2016 population of 4,928. With a land area of 5.49 km2 (2.12 sq mi), it had a population density of 927.9/km2 (2,403.2/sq mi) in 2021.

Ethnicity in Oliver, British Columbia

Oliver has seen waves of immigration from the British Isles, Central Europe, Southern Europe, and Southern Asia since non-Indigenous settlement began approximately 100 years ago. Today, Oliver's major communities – Indigenous, Portuguese, Caucasian, and Sikhs live in cultural and social silos, with little or no informal social interaction other than in schools, shopping centres and workplaces.

Language in Oliver, British Columbia

According to the 2011 Census, 79.57% of Oliver's population have English as their mother tongue. Punjabi is the mother tongue of 5.21% of the population, followed by German (2.87%), Portuguese (2.55%), French (2.45%), Spanish (0.96%), Dutch (0.74%), Hungarian (0.74%), Russian (0.53%), and Ukrainian (0.53%).

Climate of Oliver, British Columbia

Oliver has a semi-arid climate (BSk) with hot, dry summers and cool winters. Annual snowfall is light, averaging just 18 inches (46 cm). Oliver is amongst the warmest communities in Canada with an average daily mean of 50.5 °F (10.3 °C).