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Ecological Zones

From Badlands and Ranches to the Rockies — Diverse Ecological Zones of the North Thompson Valley

Pack a sense of adventure and your camera. Come experience the natural wonders and diverse ecosystems of the North Thompson Valley. Snap a selfie among the vibrant blooms of a sub-alpine wildflower meadow. Feel small standing beneath soaring cedars in an old-growth rainforest. Hike the treeless beauty of the alpine tundra to the toe of a glacier.

The sweeping landscape of the North Thompson Valley is as varied as it is beautiful. Explore the varying ecological zones as you travel from badlands of the South Thompson River, through ranch lands to the Canadian Rockies. The North Thompson Valley embraces four distinct ecological zones stretching 330 kilometres (205 miles) from its southern to northern reaches. It’s here you’ll find sub-alpine and alpine forests, the rugged beauty of alpine tundra and the world’s only inland temperate rainforest. Hike, bike, snowshoe or ski through the North Thompson Valley. You’ll be awed by sheer wonder of Mother Nature.

Where Mountains and Rivers Meet

Arid badlands transform into rich, rolling green meadows, fed by the North Thompson, South Thompson and Clearwater Rivers. As you travel north from Kamloops, you’ll become protected by the rounded shoulders of the Monashee Mountains. Look closely and see 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

This is the world’s only inland temperate rainforest. Located some 400 to 600 kilometres (250-370 miles) from any ocean, it blankets much of the North Thompson Valley. This creates a winter and summer playground for those seeking the path less travelled.

Much of the rain forest’s life-sustaining force comes in the form of snow melt. 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 and the powder snow falls to earth. This creates perfect powder skiing conditions. Book a heli-skiing tour and imagine being dropped off at elevations up to 1,450 metres (4,757 feet) and skiing back down atop 12 to 18 m (40 to 60 ft) of pure mountain powder.

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. Come colour. This provides all sorts of eye candy on day hikes or hut to hut hiking expeditions. Snow falls for months on end and covers the once vibrant wildflower meadows. It’s a blanket of glittering snow made for sinking up to your knees on deep powder ski days.

Alpine Tundra Ecological Zone

Explore 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 Mountains in the northern-most reaches of the North Thompson Valley. 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. Take your time and explore every nook and cranny of the uneven rocky landscape.

Roam with the Wild Things

Wild regions, varied ecosystems, and sparse human population make the North Thompson Valley 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.