Okanagan Falls is a small unincorporated urban community in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. It's twenty kilometres south of Penticton, and twenty-one kilometres north of Oliver, at the southern tip of Skaha Lake. It makes up an area roughly 320 ha in size. Hwy 97 passes through the community, with Kaleden and Penticton to the north, and Oliver and Osoyoos and the US border to the south. It's known to locals as OK Falls and was originally known as Dogtown, from the Okanagan Indian word Skaha (which means dog). Okanagan Falls has a population of 2,167; 6,005 with the inclusion of Kaleden. (2016 census) The median age is 56.8.
There's a small flood control dam located just south of the bridge along Highway 97. Building the dam in 1946, unfortunately, caused the waters of Skaha Lake to rise, submerging the twin namesake Okanagan Falls at the outlet of the lake. To the east of Okanagan Falls rises the 600 metre Peach Cliff monolith, and to the southwest, the jagged cliffs of Indian Head.
Skaha Lake is one of the warmest lakes in Canada, with sandy beaches, trails and there's a strong commitment by OK Falls to encouraging active, healthy lifestyles. It's a recreational paradise, with long hot summers, mild winters and four distinct seasons. The median age is 56.8, reflecting the Okanagan's popularity with retirees. Housing is the most affordable in the valley, making the area popular with young families and startup businesses. The median price for single-detached homes in town is $524,900, and for apartments, it's $219,950. 3 bedroom properties are the most commonly available (Aug 2016).
Okanagan Falls is attracting an increasing number of innovative and profitable businesses. World-class high-speed internet connectivity, electrical, gas, and municipal services allow local companies to compete on a global scale. In addition to the wine and agricultural industries, it's an ideal environment for wood products and custom manufacturing. There are large expanses of affordable, serviced industrial land for business expansion and relocation. Businesses are close to Penticton's regional airport, served by scheduled Air Canada flights, and the Canada/USA border. For developers looking to expand their investment holdings in the very desirable Okanagan Valley, OK Falls offers surprisingly affordable industrial and commercial development opportunities.
Okanagan Falls is positioning itself for growth, with ongoing investment into its infrastructure, waterfront, parks and trail networks. The community offers many residential development opportunities. The state of the art wastewater treatment plant, completed in 2013, was built to accommodate the significant projected economic and residential growth in OK Falls. Okanagan Falls offers a wide range of housing options, from waterfront luxury homes and estate properties with spectacular lake views to hobby farms on acreage, cottage style heritage homes, town centre properties and quiet residential subdivisions with generous lot sizes.
Okanagan Falls is seeing new development projects springing up. South Skaha Place is a new affordable 26 unit housing project for independent seniors in Okanagan Falls. The development is centrally located to a physician, dentist, post office, pharmacy and other amenities. Heritage Hills and Lakeshore Highlands are traditional, semi-urban residential neighbourhoods on the hillside east of East Side Road. Located near Heritage Hills and Lakeshore Highland, Vintage Views is a newer development. Together, these neighbourhoods make up about 112 ha. Vintage Views offers panoramic unobstructed views of Skaha Lake. A new neighbourhood park is under development to support these communities.
OK Falls' first commercial orchard was planted in 1886, taking advantage of the warm days and cool nights. Water was originally sourced by damming up the high country to the east of the town. Orchards developed as more irrigation became available. To meet the growing demand, water was eventually sourced from the Okanagan River. The terroir is also ideal for the growing of grapes.
In 1984, Agriculture Canada and the Association of British Columbia Grape Growers published a book with detailed maps identifying the best places for planting vines. Okanagan Falls and the surrounding area had some of the most promising sites. This area has highly rated soils in Class one and Class two, hills made of bouldery gravel that promote ideal drainage, excellent solar radiation measurements, and a low risk of autumn frost. Today, Okanagan Falls is home to more than 30 vineyards. Local wineries range from large, luxurious facilities to small family-run vineyards.
Okanagan Falls has been recognized by The Ministry of Agriculture as the second sub-appellation in BC; the other being Golden Mile Bench near Oliver. Consumers now see a confirmation on labels of certified BC wine is from the region. Okanagan Falls produces over 1,100 tonnes of grapes per year from roughly 150 hectares of vineyards.
Some of the popular OK Falls wineries include Blue Mountain Vineyard, Kraze Legz Vineyard and Winery, Liquidity Wines, Noble Ridge, Painted Rock, See Ya Later Ranch, Stag’s Hollow Winery, Synchromesh Wines, The Meyer Family Vineyard, Top Shelf Winery and Wild Goose Vineyards.
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Okanagan Falls enjoys a dry, local steppe climate, with Köppen-Geiger climate classification BSk. The average annual temperature is 9.3 degrees Celsius. On its northern tip, Okanagan Falls residents enjoy one of the mildest climates in the country, with more than 2,000 hours of annual sunshine, and plenty of warm dry weather.
July is the warmest month of the year. The temperature in July averages 20.9 °C. January has the lowest average temperature of the year, at -2.7 °C. Precipitation averages 297 mm. The driest month is October, with 16 mm of rainfall. The most precipitation falls in December, with an average of 33 mm.
The median household total income is 61,773 (Canada Census 2011). Key business sectors are trades, transport and equip. operators & related occupations; followed by management occupations; sales and service occupations; business, finance & administration occupations; natural and applied sciences & related occupations; health occupations; occupations in manufacturing and utilities; occupations in art, culture, recreation and sport; and then natural resources, agriculture & related production occupations. (Canada Census 2011)
The community was founded on ranching, fruit production and forestry. The economy has diversified since then, to include manufacturing, management and finance, manufacturing, tourism and wind energy. Agriculture continues to make this an important fruit and wine-producing area, and OK Falls has one of the last remaining cattle auction yards in BC.
The availability of suitable and appropriately zoned land, attractive land prices and highly competitive tax rates have made Okanagan Falls an attractive option for manufacturing companies. Tourism is a very important year-round component of the Okanagan Falls economy, and Twin Lakes, Apex Mountain Ski Resort, and the Okanagan Valley as a whole. There are still many untapped tourism-related investment and business development opportunities.
A significant percentage of the economy of Okanagan Falls is made up of small and home-based businesses. The establishment and growth of this valuable sector of the local economy are actively encouraged and supported by the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS). Okanagan Falls is attracting a growing number of young families from the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, with its low housing costs, laid back lakeside lifestyle, and blazingly fast internet. Virtual workers love this community; with their laptops and tablets at their fingertips and sand between their toes.
The Okanagan Falls Elementary School, of School District 53, has been growing rapidly in recent years. It's the only elementary school in OK Falls, but there's another in Kaleden, for students located close to that community. OK Falls Elementary offers programs for kindergarten through grade 7. The school's programs include Drug Abuse, Extra-Curricular Sports, Fine Arts, Intramurals, Learning Assistance Support, One to One Reading and Resistance Education and Strong Start for 3 - 5-year-olds.
Middle school students from Okanagan Falls take the bus to Penticton Secondary School. In addition to the standard curriculum, Pen High offers programs in Applied Skills, Athletics & PE, Business, Fine Arts and Languages. The school is also involved with the Okanagan Hockey School in a private-public partnership at the Okanagan Hockey Academy (OHA). Music programs include Concert Band, Senior Band, Senior Jazz, Concert Choir, Guitar and Recording Arts.
Secondary students take the bus to Southern Okanagan Secondary School in Oliver. South Okanagan teaches roughly 485 students. September 12, 2011, most of the school was destroyed by fire, and it reopened February 6, 2014. Programs include APEX, Career and Workplace Education, EPIC, Humanities, Languages, Math, Photography, Art, Career Life Education, Foods and Nutrition, Indigenous Education, Leadership, Peer Counselling and Science. Extracurricular programs include Basketball, Field Hockey, Tennis, Leadership, Writing, Golf, Soccer, Volleyball, Musical and a Skateboard Club.
There are no colleges or universities in Okanagan Falls, but there are two in Penticton.
Okanagan College - Penticton Campus enrols more than 1,000 students. Spotlight programs include Criminal Social Justice, Human Kinetics, Sustainable Construction Management Technology and Wine and Viticulture. The college complex is one of the greenest post-secondary buildings in Canada.
Sprott Shaw College Penticton offers a Practical Nursing Program that receives distinguished interest within the local and surrounding communities. Their Health Care Assistant program offers monthly intakes so students can “get in, get out, and get working.
Market Place IGA on 9th Avenue closed in September 2019, after 21 years. Okanagan Falls residents are currently driving 20 minutes to Penticton or Oliver for groceries, and that's what most have been doing all along. Town Council is currently working on bringing in another grocery store. There's a Pharmasave drug store on 9th Avenue.
In Penticton, there's the Cherry Lane Shopping Centre, Penticton Power Centre and SmartCentres shopping centre. And in Oliver, there's the Oliver Place Mall. There are two convenience stores in Okanagan Falls: Heritage Market on Okanagan Hwy and Falls Market on Main Street. Both are BC Liquor Agency retailers.
For a small community, OK Falls has a great selection of dining options. For a quick treat, KJ Coffee Bar serves great fair trade coffee and breakfasts. And Tickleberry's is a good old fashioned ice cream parlour with over 60 flavours. They also have a fudge factory in-house, with a gift shop that sells local crafts. Tickleberry's has a mini-restaurant inside, and plenty of picnic tables outside. Matheson Creek Fruit Stand is another popular stop, for ice cream, a fresh fruit smoothie or ice-cold apple juice.
Kettle Valley Pizza & Donair offers pizza, calzones, donairs, pasta and smoothies. Bullies Pizza offers style pizza and pasta, made from fresh homemade ingredients. The Falls Restaurant serves Chinese and Canadian cuisine.
The Smoke & Oak Bistro at Wild Goose Vineyards serves up a fantastic Southern “Okanagan” BBQ. The bistro offers a beautiful vineyard view from their tasting room patio. They believe in using local products and flavours in new ways, with brilliant appetizers and salads, local meats on the smoker, flatbreads, and creatively inspired sandwiches.
Liquidity Bistro represents the local farmers and producers on a plate with simple, sustainable ingredients. Chef Matt Martin’s menus are a modern urban take on classic Canadian wine country cuisine and a reflection of the artistic style of Liquidity Winery. The menu evolves continually with the seasons. The bistro patio offers stunning vineyard and lake vistas.
See Ya Later Ranch is one of the highest elevation vineyards in the Okanagan Valley. Their restaurant offers ranch/fusion-style lunch in the cozy and historic Major Fraser Room or on our Patio Lounge. The vineyard’s slope, proximity to the lake, warm days and cool evenings all promote ripening of cool weather varietals including Pinot Noir, Riesling and the largest planting of Gewürztraminer in North America.
The only way in and out of Okanagan Falls is by Highway 97. Penticton has an airport, about 15 minutes away. Westjet now offers flights to Calgary and Air Canada flies to Vancouver. The scenic Eastside Road on the east side of Skaha Lake provides an alternate route to Penticton. With a boat, it's also possible to travel the length of Skaha Lake to Penticton. There is no rail service.
Due to the small size of the town, and pedestrian-friendly streets, many of the residents get around primarily on foot, or with a bike. OK Falls is served by BC Transit routes 20 (Okanagan Falls / Penticton) and 21 (OK Falls Local). Route 20 offers 5 round trips to Penticton daily, and route 21 provides 5 round trips a day to popular destinations within the community.
The drive from Okanagan Falls to Penticton is about 20 minutes (21.1 km). To Oliver, it's typically 17 minutes (21.1km). Kelowna is 1 hour 7 minutes (81.3 km). The trip to Osoyoos is 35 minutes (41.9 m), and to the US border crossing is 39 minutes (45.4 km). Vancouver 4 hours 25 minutes (386.5 km).
The Okanagan Falls Museum was once the little grey Bassett House. It was ordered as a prefabricated kit from the T. Eaton and Company catalogue in 1909 by the pioneer Bassett family. The Bassetts operated a freight and stagecoach company. The kit materials arrived at Okanagan Lake by rail, crossed the lake on a sternwheeler and were then divided up and carried the remainder of the journey to Okanagan Falls by horse-drawn wagons.
The Okanagan Falls Regional Library is one of the 29 Okanagan Regional Library (ORL) branches. Located on Railway Lane, the library offers a good selection of books, ebook collections, music, audiobooks, DVDs and e-Movies. The E-Library offers e-learning from Lynda.com, Rosetta Stone Language Learning, electronic magazine publications and more.
Christie Memorial Park is Okanagan Falls' largest beach park with over an acre of soft sand. The smooth sandy beach is well maintained, making it a peaceful place to relax, work on your tan, or play volleyball in one of the two full-size beach courts. The park also has lush grassy areas and large shade trees. Heritage Walkway runs along the entire waterfront, and it's lit at night, offering a romantic stroll along the beach. There are picnic tables and benches, and a dog beach. The park honours RCAF Pilot Officer, Robert G. Christie, who was killed in action on September 23, 1943. He was the only Okanagan Falls serviceman to die in WWII.
Okanagan Falls Provincial Park is located just north of Okanagan Falls, off Hwy 97. The park is popular with naturalists for its wildlife viewing, bird watching, variety of bats, nature study and photography opportunities. Vaseux Lake Provincial Park & Wildlife Centre is located along Hwy 97 between Oliver and Okanagan Falls, at the north end of Vaseux Lake. The park focuses on the preservation of riparian and wetland breeding habitat. There's a trail to the marsh and along the boardwalk to the bird blind, providing a 20 minute round trip walk. The cliffs around the lake are part of the Vaseux Bighorn National Wildlife Area. These cliffs are home to Canada’s largest herd of California Bighorn Sheep.
Kenyon Park is located on the south shore of Skaha Lake. The 2-acre family park, with its John Bell Playground, was designed by the local children and built by volunteers in 2009. There's a triple slide, zip line, spray park with water cannons, and more. The smooth sandy beach is well maintained and there are grassy areas for relaxing and playing games.
Keogan Sports Park is a flat 10-acre sporting venue. Its Weyerhaeuser and Centennial baseball diamonds are complete with dugouts and bleachers. Centennial Field was designed for both youth and adult leagues, with a shale in-field. There's also a cricket pitch and a skate park.
Two sections of the Kettle Valley Railway trail connect in OK Falls: 'Penticton to Okanagan Falls - Skaha Lake' and 'Okanagan Falls to South Vaseux'. The Kettle Valley Rail (KVR) Trail and the Columbia & Western Rail Trail make up the longest rail-trail network in BC, from Castlegar to Hope.
Okanagan Falls is a growing economic hub, with new housing development and businesses springing up. The community has been investing heavily in the infrastructure that will support its growth. It offers the best of the Okanagan lifestyle, with great employment opportunities with major manufacturing companies, in tourism, vineyards and agriculture. It's also an excellent location for business relocation or expansion, with lower operating costs, first-rate internet and easy access to the US border.
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