The history of Salmon Arm as a municipality only dates to the period of railway construction in the 1880s.
However, the Shuswap People (Secwepemc) occupied the region for thousands of years before European fur traders first turned up in the late 1700s.
Today, member bands of the Shuswap First Nation occupy several reserves in the area and are an integral part of local society. Learn more about Shuswap culture at Talking Rock Resort and Qaaout Lodge interpretive sites, 47km/29mi west of Salmon Arm. View ancient pictographs in Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park and on rock walls bordering Shuswap Lake or attend an Aboriginal celebration such as the annual Squilax (Black Bear) Pow Wow.
Railways & Paddlewheelers
During the Columbia and Cariboo gold rushes of the mid-1860s, a few prospectors tried panning the gravel of the Salmon River, which empties into Shuswap Lake at present day Salmon Arm. But the area was generally bypassed by paddlewheelers that plied the waterways serving miners at the north end of the Seymour Arm of Shuswap Lake. Although a handful of local residents put Salmon Arm on the map with a post office in 1890, it wasn't until the last spike was driven in Canada's first trans-continental railway at Craigellachie (53km/33mi east) in 1885 that homesteaders started to seriously eye the area.
Bottomland in the valleys was gradually turned to dairy and general farming, while fruit trees and berries thrived on the well-drained benches above. Salmon Arm was incorporated in 1905 and remained a predominantly agricultural centre even after tourism began to take root in the 1950s.
History buffs get a feel for the early days at the RJ Haney Heritage Village & Museum. Explore the exhibits and expanding collection of historic buildings that have been moved to the site including the log cabin of one of the first homesteaders, a Chinese cookhouse, one-room school, church, blacksmith shop, filling station and fire hall. Learn about the lives of early settlers through the interpretive dinner theatre performances staged three times weekly during July and August.
Salmon Arm Culture
Salmon Arm residents get involved. The Salmar Classic Theatre is owned and operated by a citizens' organization. Take in a live performance there or a screening sponsored by the Shuswap Film Society. The area also strongly supports artists and artisans. View their work at the SAGA Public Art Gallery, located in Salmon Arm's first post office building, and in private galleries downtown and around the city. And join fans from around the world to catch jazz, blues, folk and ethnic music performances at the annual Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival.
Information on what's happening around town is easy to come by. Details are available at the Salmon Arm Visitor Centre, or check bulletin boards at coffee shops and public venues.