A Passion for the Shuswap

March, 2005

Every two months a magazine entitled Okanagan Life arrives in Salmon Arm mailboxes for free.  I have long been concerned about the effort this magazine makes to include the Shuswap as part of the North Okanagan.  For example, in a recent edition, readers are asked to vote on their favourite restaurant and include Salmon Arm as part of the North Okanagan region.  On Daybreak CBC, I have heard the Shuswap mislabelled as part of the Okanagan.  Meanwhile in Kamloops, Shuswap Lake often gets referred to as part of the Thompson Region. Even our regional district’s name begins with Columbia, although this region makes up a very small percentage of the regional district area. Yet when does anyone comment on other regions’ attempts to incorporate the Shuswap?  Could it be that Shuswapians have somewhat of a geographical identity crisis?

Personally, I have long had a passion for the Shuswap region.  Since moving here 36 years ago when I left the U.S. as a war resister, I have considered the Shuswap to likely be one of the best places in the entire world to live.

The Shuswap has all the right attributes to attract someone who enjoys four seasons, nature, water, a rich culture and good access to cities when desired.  There is an amazing diversity of plant and animal life here and thankfully due to the small population there is minimal pavement, crowds and pollution.

My goal for this column is to provide stories and observations about Shuswap geography; in a style one might find in the Canadian or National Geographic magazine.  Wildlife, recreation, history, geographic features, and culture are all possible topics.  I feel compelled to write about the wonders of the Shuswap Region to help Shuswapians to gain more knowledge and appreciation of their region.

To start, the Shuswap is a large (approximately 1.5 million hectares) watershed that lies between the dry Thompson Plateau on the west and the Monashee Mountains on the east.  It encompasses five large lakes (Adams, Little Shuswap, Shuswap, Mara and Mable), one reservoir (Sugar) and many small lakes. Shuswap water flows in all directions through six rivers (Seymour, Anstey, Eagle, Shuswap, Salmon and Adams) and many creeks of all sizes and ends up heading west in the South Thompson River.

The Shuswap watershed is one of the home regions for the Shuswap indigenous people, for whom archaeological records go back over 9,000 years ago.  While there are only five incorporated communities (Lumby, Enderby, Sicamous, Chase and Salmon Arm), there are countless smaller communities each with their own histories, halls, and spirit. I look forward to hearing from you, the reader, about information you wish to see shared regarding the Shuswap.


Number of rivers – 8

Number of mayors – 5

Number of Indian chiefs – 4

Number of Prince Edward Islands that could fit inside the Shuswap – 2.5

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by Erskine Burnett

Treasures come in assorted shapes and sizes. They might be a grandmother’s beaded purse, or an old apple basket like one resting atop my bookshelf that transports me to the family farm, with voices shouting from treetops as we pluck Macs and Golden Delicious. A personal scrapbook can also be an unexpected treasure, and The Shuswap Country by Erskine Burnett is just that.

Everything Shuswap

by Jim Cooperman

Everything Shuswap explores the region’s rich eco-types and its interwoven historical record. It’s a textbook for understanding one of the most beautiful and least understood landscapes and it should be mandatory reading for anyone who lives in or visits the Shuswap.” – Mark Hume, author of Adam’s River and other books