Savona, British Columbia Canada

Discover Savona, British Columbia: A Blend of History and Natural Beauty

Savona is an unincorporated community nestled in the Thompson Country region of south central British Columbia. Located on the western end and south shore of Kamloops Lake, Savona is adjacent to the outlet into the Thompson River. The community is approximately 38 kilometres east of Cache Creek and 45 kilometres west of Kamloops on BC Highway 1. The surrounding semi-arid grasslands and hills support cattle ranching, adding to the rustic charm of the area.

The First Nations of Savona, British Columbia

For thousands of years, First Nations used trails and waterways in the Savona area for hunting, fishing, and trading. Prior to the 1860s, French was probably more common in parts of the interior than English. Consequently, the indigenous group in this area was initially known as the Boute du Lac (meaning foot of the lake) Indians.

The Hudson's Bay Brigade Trail crossed the Thompson at Kamloops, exposing these people to the French-speaking fur trade era. During the 1860s, the group became known as the Savona Ferry Indians and established a small church and a few houses in the Deadman Valley. The establishment of the reserve in the late 1860s led to a name change to the Deadman Creek Band. In 1985, the traditional name of Skeetchestn Band was reinstated.

Archaeological sites are scattered throughout the area, and the main reserve is northwest of Savona on the Deadman River.

Ferries and Bridges in Savona, British Columbia

During the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush around 1858, François Saveneux established a ferry across the fast current of the Thompson. The small ferry could likely carry two packhorses accompanied by riders, while herded cattle would swim across. The place names quickly anglicized, resulting in the Savona spelling.

The ferry underwent several changes in ownership and operation, and faced numerous challenges including high water and cable breaks. In 1884, a 192-metre long bridge with a 43-metre Howe truss main span was opened. This swing bridge experienced severe flood damage in 1888 and complete destruction in 1894.

In the late 1890s, the Klondike Gold Rush created a busy period for the ferry. In 1929, a two-lane 213-metre steel bridge replaced the wooden bridge. The bridge was widened to 7 metres in 1957 and completed the following year. In 1991, a two-lane concrete bridge replaced the one-lane Bailey bridge over the railway track at the Savona East access.

Roads and Steamers in Savona, British Columbia

The Big Bend Gold Rush of 1865 prompted the construction of the wagon road from Cache Creek to Savona. Gustavus Blin Wright built the 37-kilometre, 5-metre wide road, which opened in April 1866. A stage coach service began immediately.

In 1869, the wagon road from Savona to Kamloops was completed. In 1872, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) built the small steamer SS Kamloops to carry supplies for surveyors from Savona.

By 1915, a good road existed south to Lower Nicola. In 1931, a new piece of road known as the eight-mile hill, about half way between Cherry Creek and Savona, opened to traffic. In 1953, the 11-kilometre realignment from the highway bridge to the viewpoint, which included the Savona bypass, opened.

The North Shore Community of Savona, British Columbia

The settlement grew adjacent to the Hudson's Bay Company post. In 1867, the post office opened. Named Savona's Ferry, the place was a postage zone boundary. When the Colony of British Columbia changed from sterling to decimal currency in 1867, the postage rate to this boundary was 12.5 cents and beyond was 25 cents.

The post office was closed 1870–1881. In 1870, James Uren purchased the W.H. Kay stopping house, which he refurbished and later extended. In the early 1870s, James Sabiston operated a store. Uren managed the Hudson's Bay Company warehouse 1873–1878, which held freight awaiting lake transport to Kamloops.

The South Shore Community of Savona, British Columbia

No buildings existed in 1882 at what became the CP townsite in 1884. H.F. Keefer's general store, a little log structure at a site which for several years was known as Keefers Point, was the first business. Many more followed but soon disappeared once the railway construction moved on.

In 1886, Mat Finlay took over management of the Van-Horne Hotel from Mr. Crotty. In 1891, Ferguson acquired the Finlay hotel, which he renamed Lakeview House, and John Jane opened his large new store. Successive storekeepers ensured the ongoing presence of a general store in the community.

In 1911, Savona became a Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) construction base, which temporarily boosted the population. That year, the new 21-by-9-metre community hall opened.

Railways in Savona, British Columbia

Canadian Pacific

CP chose the name Port Van Horne (after William Cornelius Van Horne, CP general manager) for the proposed railway siding, steamboat landing, warehouses, and community. In December 1884, the eastward advance of the CP rail head from Port Moody halted about one mile east.

Canadian National

During the early 1910s, a CNoR hospital existed at Savona. In April 1914, about 150 members of the IWW marched to confront construction strike-breakers on the north shore at Savona, where a large contingent of armed provincial police and special constables was stationed.

Forestry in Savona, British Columbia

Established in 1906, the Savona Land and Lumber Company opened the Monarch Lumber Co mill in 1907, which had an electric generation plant. The average daily cut was 10,668 metres in 1908, increasing to 21,336 metres in 1909.

Natural Gas Transmission in Savona, British Columbia

During 1957, Westcoast Transmission installed a 183-metre natural gas pipeline across the Thompson, immediately southwest of the current highway bridge. Savona is Compressor station No. 7.

The Later Community of Savona, British Columbia

Seasonal or permanent residences have replaced the old lakeshore motels, campgrounds and auto courts that dotted the waterfront. Several commercial enterprises provide employment opportunities.

Leisure in Savona, British Columbia

The Savona Balancing Rock rests upon a clay hoodoo. The Kamloops Lake Viewpoint has picnic tables and pit toilets. The Savona Caves are found on Savona Mountain. The Savona Lakeshore Park lies within the hamlet.

Savona, British Columbia as a Filming Location

Scenes from the following were shot in the Savona area:

  • An Unfinished Life (2005)
  • The Andromeda Strain (miniseries) (2008)
  • 2012 (2009)
  • Hard Ride to Hell (Video 2010)
  • Juggernaut (2017)