From Badlands and Ranches to the Rockies — Diverse Eco-Zones of the North Thompson Valley
Feel small standing beneath soaring cedars in an old-growth rainforest. Snap a selfie with the vibrant blooms of a sub-alpine wildflower meadow as your backdrop. Hike the treeless beauty of the alpine trundra to the toe of a glacier. You need only pack a sense of adventure and your camera to experience the natural wonders and diverse ecosystems of the North Thompson Valley.
From badlands of the South Thompson River, transitioning through ranches to the Canadian Rockies, the sweeping landscape of the North Thompson Valley is as varied as it is beautiful. Stretching 330 kilometres (205 miles) from its southern to northern reaches, the North Thompson Valley embraces four distinct ecological zones including sub-alpine and alpine forests, the raw, rugged beauty of alpine tundra and the world’s only inland temperate rainforest. Whether you hike, mountain bike or ski through the North Thompson Valley you’ll find yourself awed by sheer wonder of Mother Nature.
Where Mountains and Rivers Meet
Fed by the North Thompson, South Thompson and Clearwater Rivers, arid badlands transform into rich, rolling green meadows blanket the North Thompson Valley from Barriere in the Lower North Thompson north to the Clearwater Valley. Moving from a dry, desert-like region when moving out of Kamloops, the road becomes bounded by the rounded shoulders of the Monashee Mountains, narrow strips of Interior Cedar and Western Hemlock forest knit together beyond the verdant fields. Ravaged and regenerated by wildfire, burned lodge-pole pines stand sentry over ranges where cattle and sheep quietly graze. Ranched since before the west was wild, this is cowboy country, where your day’s adventures take place out on the open range.
The World’s Only Inland Temperate Rainforest
Some 400 to 600 kilometres (250-370 miles) from any ocean, the world’s only inland temperate rainforest blankets much of the North Thompson Valley creating a winter and summer playground for those seeking the path less travelled.
Much of the rainforest’s life-sustaining force comes in the form of snowmelt. The North Thompson Valley’s unique position allows moist coastal air to breeze in from the Pacific then clash with the cold arctic air from the north, resulting in oceans of snowfall every year, creating perfect powder skiing conditions on elevations reaching up to 1,450 metres (4,757 feet).
Warmed by the sun, snow-covered mountains give way to a quiet oasis come summer. A humid, woodland canopy of cedar and hemlock provide a cool respite on a hot summer day. Find yourself hiking amongst trees draped in lichen, tip-toeing across emerald, moss-covered rocks, and side-stepping berms of white Trillium pushing up from the forested floor.
The North Thompson Valley begins to morph between 1,495 and 1,985 metres (4,904 and 6,512 feet). Climbing from the cool rainforest of ancient cedars and hemlock, you’ll encounter sub-alpine spruce and balsam forests. Soft, moss-covered trails give way to rocky outcrops, and peaks become more pronounced. In summer, alpine meadows overflow with wild blooms blanketing slopes in a kaleidoscope of colour — providing all sorts of kind of eye candy on day hikes, or hut-to-hut hiking expeditions. Snowfall comes to this area with a vengeance, falling for months on end, covering the once vibrant wildflower meadows with a blanket of glittering snow — the kind you sink up to your knees in, on deep powder ski days.
Explore above the tree-line in the tundra, where extreme climate and an elevation of over 2,000 metres (6,561 feet) dwarfs all vegetation. Raw with natural beauty, the alpine tundra stretches across jagged mountain peaks of the Columbia and Rocky Mountain ranges in the northern-most reaches of the North Thompson Valley. As wide-open as the skies above, the tundra zone is patched with permafrost, studded with turquoise glacier-fed lakes, and rimmed by snow-capped glaciers. Find adventure here, heli-hiking Mount Robson’s Berg Lake Trail, or on a hut-to-hut hiking expedition near Blue River or Clearwater. While on your journey you may just find an isolated power that makes you want to explore every nook and cranny of the uneven rocky landscape.
Roam with the Wild Things
The North Thompson’s vast wild regions, varied ecosystems, and sparse human population make it a haven for some of Canada’s most rare and impressive species. The lichen-draped trees of the rainforest provide an important food source for the Mountain Caribou, deer and moose. A temperate climate and abundant sunshine contribute to the robust crop of wild berries, lush grasses and fragrant wildflowers that supply food to the valley’s hearty Grizzly and Black Bear populations. Salmon begin and end their life all along the South, North Thompson, Fraser and Adams Rivers. Watch 140 species of birds take flight at Cranberry Marsh, a fall and spring stop-over along the Great Pacific Fly Way. This gentle balance of life is unique to our region and thrives in the North Thompson Valley.