Vernon's culture and history includes the Gold Rush, the growth of industry and the railway, and a proud military history.
Thousands of years before Hudson's Bay Company fur traders first trekked the Brigade Trail through the Okanagan Valley, the Okanagan People were successful hunter/gatherers and carried on a brisk trade of their own.
Today the Okanagan Indian Band, one of seven members of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, is an integral part of the local community. About 1,700 band members live on the 11,282ha/27,800ac reserve that surrounds the North Arm of Okanagan Lake. While members operate popular lakeside campsites and RV parks, and grocery and gas facilities, there are no specific First Nations attractions in the area. Look for artifacts at Historic O'Keefe Ranch and the Vernon Museum and Archives.
Fur traders were regularly trekking through the valley in the early 1800s, but the Cariboo Gold Rush of the 1860s really launched European settlement around Vernon. At first, miners and missionaries also passed through on their way north. Then cattlemen began driving beef on the hoof from south of the border to the mining camps. Enterprising men like Cornelius O'Keefe saw potential in the region's abundant bunchgrass and accessible water and decided it would be more profitable to ranch cattle than drive them.
In the 1890s, the fruit industry began to flourish when Lord Aberdeen (later Governor-General of Canada) and his wife purchased the Coldstream Ranch and planted extensive orchards. Vernon rapidly expanded as the transfer point for produce and freight between Okanagan Lake sternwheelers and the Canadian Pacific Railway via the Shuswap and Okanagan Railway. Forestry in the surrounding mountains added another dimension to the local economy.
Learn more about Vernon's military history, including the Vernon military camp and service of its citizens in war and peace keeping, and meet some of the city's most interesting historic characters through the pictorial history of Vernon's many downtown murals.
Vernon's Arts and Culture
Vernonites are proud of their heritage and remain connected with their agricultural roots. They've also adopted a modern urban attitude toward the arts. Galleries and individual studios thrive. Get an idea of the local talent at the Vernon Public Art Gallery or the artists' cooperative, Gallery Vertigo. Join an enthusiastic local audience for an Okanagan Symphony Orchestra performance or take in a show by one of the many headline performers who appear at the acoustically acclaimed Vernon Centre for the Performing Arts.
Information on what's happening around town is easy to come by. Details are available at the Vernon Visitor Centre or on bulletin boards at coffee shops and public venues. Or ask the locals. They'll be glad to help.