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Across the Canadian Prairies
The Okanagon Valley

We again broke our trans-continental journey at Sicamous— or “stopped-over,” as they say there—with the view of spending a short time in the Okanagon country. The morning after our arrival we took tho train to Vernon, a journey of two or three hours, passing through a beautiful valley, full of comfortable, well-cultivated, and apparently well-stocked farms. Vernon is a pretty little place, in a very nice situation, and supplies the mining regions to the south. It seemed to be very quiet at the time of our visit, and there was little or nothing doing; but, if the minerals prove to be as rich as many people anticipate, it will make a wonderful difference to this district. A short distance from Vernon is the property purchased by Lord Aberdeen, and known as the Coldstream ranche. It consists of about 10,000 or 11,000 acres, and is managed by a Mr. Kelly, who seems to be a capable and energetic man. Neither the house nor the buildings are very pretentious, but they are comfortable and suitable for the purpose for which they are intended. Comparatively little of the ranch is under cultivation, but experiments are being made with all kinds of fruits .and vegetables, and there is no question whatever as to the suitability of the soil, of the climate, and of the location for producing all the small fruits of temperate climates at their best, both as regards taste  and quality.

Apples, pears, and plums were shown to us of marvellous size considering the short time in which the trees had been planted. We were,  of course, too late for the strawberries, raspberries and currants, but were told that they yielded abundantly, and that a ready market was found for them, at good paying prices, as far east as Calgary and as far west as Vancouver. It is unlikely that much fruit will be grown for some time on the prairies—at any rate, until varieties are discovered which will stand the rigour of the climate. So far, although experiments have boon made with that object, they can hardly be considered as satisfactory. This leads up to the conclusion that there will always be a splendid market for British Columbian fruits of all kinds, not only in the Province itself, but on the prairies between Winnipeg and the Rockies, a stretch of country over 800 miles long and about 200 miles deep. Lord Aberdeen has spent a good deal of money on the estate, with a view to encourage his neighbours, and to show them what may be done, and he has also erected a jam factory at Vernon, but this has not been utilised to any extent up to the present time, all the fruit that is grown being sold in its fresh condition at much higher prices than could be paid if jam manufacture is to be made remunerative. In addition to fruit-raising, considerable attention is being devoted to cattle-breeding and fattening, and also to sheep. Horse-breeding has also been taken up, and all these branches of agriculture ought to be profitable if fair prices can be obtained. The Coldstream ranche might almost be called an experimental farm, from the variety of work that is carried on there, for, besides what has already been stated, there are at present about five acres under hops, and the area's to be considerably increased if the venture turns out profitably. Prices a year ago yielded a handsome profit, but this year, from one cause or another, hops are being sold on the London market, and even locally, at prices little, if anything, in excess of the expense of cultivation. Hop-growing promises to become a very important industry in British Columbia. Both the climate and soil are held by experts to be suitable for it, and experiments are being made, not only in the Vernop district, but in the neighbourhood of Agassiz, in the Nicola valley, and in many other places between there and the coast, and also in Vancouver Island. Some samples which came over in 1893 attracted very much attention on the London market, both from their colour and the way in which they were cured, and it was stated on the best authority that large quantities of hops equal to these samples could readily have been disposed of at the top market prices. But, as already mentioned, this year, while the crop was good and the samples equal to those of previous years, prices have fallen away considerably, and the hop-growers are not so cheerful as they wore. Still, however, prices vary very much, and it is calculated that one really good year in two or three would yield handsome returns for the capital invested.

After spending a very pleasant time in this charming district we returned to Sicamous, and again took the train for the Wost. In a short time Kamloops was reached—the principal town in the Thompson River Valley, along which the railway passes for a considerable distance; in fact, until Lytton is approached. The country is fairly well settled in the neighbourhood of the river, and in tho broad valleys that are frequently crossed. The principal industry in the Kamloops district will always be ranching, owing to the excellence of the pasture land, but an endeavour is being made to provide for irrigation in places where water is not at present abundant; and if this can be accomplished the possibilities in the way of fruit-growing and general farming will be greatly increased. The scenery along many parts of the Thompson is particularly grand, and the “Thompson River canons” comprise some of the most picturesque scenery along the railway. As the train passes along the cliffs above the river the old wagon road is seen at intervals, first on one side of the river and then on the other, apparently supported in many places, many hundreds of feet above the river, on what seem to be slender sticks pinned to the face of gigantic precipices. The road crosses the river at Spence’s Bridge, and is the only route to the Cariboo country; but the point of departure is now Ashcroft. At Spence’s Bridge the scenery is striking and peculiar, and the Canadian Pacific Railway book, to which reference has before been made, thus describes the coup:—“The train runs upon a sinuous ledge cut out of the bare hills on the irregular south side of the stream, where the headlands are penetrated by tunnels, and the ravines spanned by lofty bridges; and the Thompson, in the purity of a trout brook, whirls down its winding torrent path as green as an emerald. Sometimes the banks are rounded cream-white slopes; next, cliffs of richest yellow, streaked and dashed with maroon, jut out; then masses of solid rust-red earth, suddenly followed by an olive-green grass slope or some white exposure. With this fantastic colouring, to which the brilliant emerald river opposes a striking contrast, and over which bends a sky of deepest violet, there is the additional interest of great height and breadth of prospect, and a constantly changing grotesqueness of form, caused by the wearing down of rocks of unequal hardness, by water and wind, into towers and monuments, goblins and griffins. The strange forms and gaudy hues of the rocks and scantily-herbaged terraces, impress themselves most strongly on the memory.”

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