British Columbia is Canada's westernmost province.
It is bounded by the Alaskan Panhandle and the Yukon and Northwest Territories to the north; Washington, Idaho and Montana to the south; Alberta to the east; and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
British Columbia is made up of four physical regions: a mountain system along its west coast that includes the Coast Mountain Range and the Insular Mountains that form Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands); a mountain system to the east that includes the Rocky and Columbia Mountain Ranges; the rolling grasslands and forests of the Interior and Stikine Plateaux; and a segment of the continent's Great Interior Plains referred to as Peace River country, which lies in its north-eastern corner.
BC is laced through with lakes, marshes, rivers and streams that support wildlife in abundance. It has a highly celebrated system of parks, created to protect its diverse ecosystems for conservation, outdoor recreation, education and scientific study. 14% of BC's land base is protected.
While natural resources (such as fish, minerals, hydroelectricity and timber) have always been the backbone of BC's economy, newer industries such as eco-tourism, agri-tourism, film and high tech have become important economic drivers over the last decade.
The population of BC is concentrated around the cities of Vancouver (pop. 2.3 million) and Victoria (pop. 368,000). Other major population centres include: Kelowna (pop. 120,812), Kamloops (pop. 87,017), Nanaimo (pop. 84,228), Prince George (pop. 74,547), Vernon (pop. 38,968), Penticton (pop. 33,250), Campbell River (pop. 31,328) and Cranbrook (pop. 19,161).