Grand Forks is located at the junction of the Granby and Kettle rivers in the transition zone between the semi-arid Okanagan Valley and the interior rainforest of the West Kootenays.
It lies in one of British Columbia's few east-west oriented valleys on a relatively narrow strip of flat agricultural land bordered by the Christina Range of the Monashee Mountains.
Topography & Terrain
The landscape around Grand Forks is clearly divided into three distinct zones: the agricultural land of the valley floor; the dry grasslands and ponderosa forest of the south-facing mountains that rise behind the city; and the heavily forested north-facing mountains that lie mostly across the international border within a stone's throw of the town centre.
The sheer-sided flanks of Observation Mountain form a rampart on the north side of town, while Galena Mountain (mostly in the US) presents the southern view. A line is visible cutting through the forest across the slopes of Galena Mountain, marking the 49th parallel – the Canada-US border. It was cut as a Depression-era work project.
Created between 1900 and 1919 during the operation of the Granby Smelter, a solid ridge of black slag – residue of the smelting process – stretches over 1.6km/1mi long and up to 152m/500ft wide on the east bank of the Granby River.
The Granby River flows in from the north. The Kettle River, which is generally east flowing, returns to Canada from a brief jog into the US, just west of Grand Forks. The Granby joins the Kettle River in the heart of downtown and the Kettle carries on to the east before taking its final turn back across the border to eventually connect with the Columbia. Rich farmland spreads out from the rivers that are lined with huge cottonwood trees.
Phoenix Mountain, located 13km/8mi northwest of Grand Forks, is the local ski hill with an elevation of 1,463m/4,800ft. On average, 900cm/29ft of snow falls annually, making for great skiing conditions from mid-December through March.
Grand Forks Climate & Weather
Grand Forks experiences four distinct seasons. Summers are dry and hot with average daily highs in July of 28°C/82.4°F. Humidity is low. Winter lasts from mid-November through February. Coldest temperatures are in December when daily highs average -4.4°C/24°F. Average snowfall for the winter is 119cm/47in. Overall annual precipitation averages just 510mm/20in.
Spring is marked by an abundance of showy wildflowers like the bright yellow arrowleaf balsamroot, while stands of aspen and cottonwood turn golden in autumn.