Sunday, March 22, 2015

Turtle Mountain, Vernon,B.C.

This is my home, Vernon,B.C. in the Okanagan Valley.  

Top of Turtle Mountain, Vernon B.C. by Bari Demers

The photo you see is on top of Turtle Mountain, where my childhood dreams would come alive. 

As you can see, the rich green orchards are a striking contrast to the original native desert habitat which once covered the Okanagan.  The Vernon area became a cattlemen's paradise, because of its vast ocean of grasslands.

Prefect for raising cattle.  

Believe it or not, but Turtle Mountain played an important historical role in making Vernon the city it is today. 

Grey Canal Trail Sign by Bari Demers


In the late 1800's a Scottish King, Lord Aberdeen and his Lady came to Canada. Their first visit from Scotland was mostly spent in the eastern Maritimes, but eventually they travel west, discovering Vernon, British Columbia.  

Lord Aberdeen

It was here the distinguished aristocrats fell in love with the Okanagan Valley.  Wasn't long after, they bought the Coldstream Ranch in 1890, settling in Canada once and for all. 

Owning Coldstream Ranch, cattle became its main resource of income, until one day, the Scottish King became interested in growing fruit orchards.
Okanagan Cowboys and Ranchers of Okeefe Ranch  - Photo taken by Bari Demers at Okeefe Ranch

But he had a problem.

How were they going to bring the water to grow the orchards? 

In order to have fruit orchards, they need lots of water.  There was plenty of water around, like the vast 135 km ( 70 miles) long Okanagan Lake, including the once glacier feed turquoise Kalamaka,
 "Lake of many Colours" and Swan Lake to the North.

Northside of Turtle Mountain - Overlooking Swan Lake by Bari Demers

But, back then they didn't have electricity to operate pumps.  They had to rely on a gravity system, where water would flow downwards.  

After much thought, he convinced his fellow ranchers, like his friend Cornelius O'Keefe, to start building large wooden troughs, known as the Grey and South canals. Ironically, with all the water around them, they decided their best choice of water was from the high lakes above in  Monashee Mountains to the east. 

Northside of Canal Trail by Bari Demers

Interesting enough, it was Cornelius O'Keefe who convinced settlers to come to the Okanagan in the first place.  The tough Irishman was also responsible for the postal service, which ran a stagecoach (BC Express Stage Lines) from Cache Creek, along the dirt road from Fort Kamloops to O'Keefe Ranch.*

Historical Okeefe Ranch, Vernon B.C. - Picture by Okeefe Ranch - Photo taken by Bari Demers

This expensive project of building the Grey and South canals, started in 1905, costing a staggering $423,000.  In those early days, that kind of money would be equal to 4 million today.  

The water was carried down the Monashee Mountains, through the Coldstream Valley, circling Vernon by means of benchlands, to the top of Turtle Mountain.  It also crossed along the side hills to help feed, what is today, the Davison Orchards.

Scenic View from Turtle Mountain - overlooking the Valley below with Okanagan Lake in the far distance - Photo by Bari Demers

The ranchers of the Okanagan successful achieved sub-division of ranch lands and a rich resource of fruit orchards, which are flourishing to this very day.

Inside The Okeefe Ranch House - Photo by Bari Demers

Okeefe Ranch House Today - Photo by Bari Demers


Today, Turtle Mountain overlooks the beautiful valley, overlooking Okanagan Lake in the distance. The two Grey Canal Trails intertwines with prestigious subdivisions featuring luxury homes.  The green orchards below not only supply apples, cherries, peaches and assortment of veggies, it's also home to the Bella Vista Vineyard and Turtle Mountain Vineyards.

Luxury Homes on Turtle Mountain - Photo by Bari Demers

At 10 years old, I would climb to the top of Turtle Mountain, sometimes mistakenly sitting on a patch of Prickly Pears, the only native cactus in the Okanagan.  It was my place to explore and to admire the gorgeous view below. 

Canal Trails - Photo by Bari Demers

Canal Trails - Photo by Bari Demers

It was also where I found peace within myself, mediating, even when I didn't even know what meditation was.

View from Turtle Mountain, Vernon, B.C. - Photo by Bari Demers

By Bari Demers


Bari Demers is a freelance writer and screenwriter. His childhood was in Vernon, B.C. where  his parents owned the famous Spudnut Shop. He graduated at VSS ( Vernon Senior Secondary School), continuing his studies in Kelowna, at Okanagan College.  After Okanagan College, he went to Cariboo College in Kamloops to take a Drafting Technology Program, where is graduated as a Draftsman. His writing abilities comes from his time at Okanagan College.

You can read a collection of traveling reviews with his Facebook Blog - Vegas Reviews with over 1000 photos of Las Vegas.

Aria Resort and Casino, Las Vegas - Photo by Bari Demers


Turtle Mountain

Lord Aberdeen

Okeefe Ranch

Travel By Bari Demers

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