British Columbia Interior

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British Columbia Interior

French: Intérieur de la Colombie-Britannique
Kelowna Skyline.jpg
Canadian National, Ashcroft (Canada), 25.06.2016 - Flickr - miroslav.volek.jpg
Hudson Bay Mountain - panoramio.jpg
The Big Orange Bridge in Nelson, British Columbia.jpg
From top, left to right: Kelowna, CN train traversing Fraser Canyon near Ashcroft, Prince George, Hudson Bay Mountain, Nelson Bridge in Central Kootenay
"The Interior"
CountryFlag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada
Province Flag of British Columbia.svg  British Columbia
Principal cities
  14 Districts669,648 km2 (258,553 sq mi)
Highest elevation4,671 m (15,325 ft)
Lowest elevation127 m (417 ft)
961,155 [2]
  Density7.41/km2 (19.2/sq mi)
Time zone UTC−08:00 (PST)
  Summer (DST) UTC−07:00 (PDT)
Postal code prefixes
Area codes 236, 672, 778

The British Columbia Interior, popularly referred to as the BC Interior or simply the Interior, is a geographic region of the Canadian province of British Columbia. While the exact boundaries are variously defined, the British Columbia Interior is generally defined to include the 14 regional districts that do not have coastline along the Pacific Ocean or Salish Sea, and are not part of the Lower Mainland. Other boundaries may exclude parts of or even entire regional districts, or expand the definition to include the regional districts of Fraser Valley, Squamish-Lillooet, and Kitimat-Stikine.


Home to just under 1 million people, the British Columbia Interior's 14 regional districts contain many cities, towns, airports, and associated regional, provincial, and national parks connected by the province's highway and railway network. The region is known for the complexity of its landforms, the result of millions of years of tectonic plate movements. The ecology of the region is dominated by temperate coniferous forest with patches of alpine tundra found atop its numerous mountain ranges.


The region, which includes the Interior Plateau as well as various mountain ranges and the valleys between them, comprises everything inland from the Coast Mountains and reaching east to the Rocky Mountains and, in the northeast, British Columbia's sector of the Prairies, the Peace River Block. "Interior" is usually and properly capitalized but turns up in lower-case in various books and magazines. The non-coastal areas of the province are considered to be "in the Interior", although the sparsely populated regions of its northern half are usually referred to only as "the North".

The town of Hope, at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley and at the foot of the Fraser Canyon, is often considered the "Gateway to the Interior" and bears an entrance arch to that effect, though in practical terms the Interior does not begin until somewhere between Yale and Boston Bar, in the Fraser Canyon, or until the summits of the Coquihalla and Allison Passes. The boundary between "the Coast" and "the Interior" along the Highway 99 corridor is nominally between Whistler and Pemberton, as Pemberton is often described as being in the Interior, but from the inland perspective it is often seen as part of the Coast because of its wetter climate and close ties to the Lower Mainland.

There are many subregions within the Interior, some regions in their own right, and although there are no precise definitions, it is often broken up informally as the Northern Interior, the Central Interior, the Southern Interior, the Northeast Interior and Southeast Interior, and these names often appear in non-governmental organizations and company names as well as in government administrative districts and ministerial regions, and in weather reports.

Regional Districts

Below are the 14 regional districts of British Columbia defined as being in the Interior region:

Regional DistrictsPopulation
(2016) [3] [4]
Head office
Bulkley-Nechako 37,89673,3610.52 Burns Lake
Cariboo 61,98880,6090.77 Williams Lake
Central Kootenay 59,51722,0952.7 Nelson
Central Okanagan 194,8822,90567.1 Kelowna
Columbia-Shuswap 51,36628,9291.8 Salmon Arm
East Kootenay 60,43927,5432.2 Cranbrook
Fraser-Fort George 94,50650,6761.9 Prince George
Kootenay Boundary 31,4478,0823.9 Trail
North Okanagan 84,3547,50311.2 Coldstream
Northern Rockies 5,39385,1110.06 Fort Nelson
Okanagan-Similkameen 83,02210,4148.0 Penticton
Peace River 62,942117,3910.54 Dawson Creek
Stikine Region 740118,6630.01(n/a)*
Thompson-Nicola 132,66344,4483.0 Kamloops

Major subregions and nomenclature

Northern Interior Cordillera

The Northern Interior begins somewhere between the Cariboo and the city of Prince George, which lies just south of the big bend in the upper Fraser. The city of Quesnel may be considered to be part of the Northern Interior, but it is usually conceived of as primarily being in the Cariboo, which is normally termed the Central Interior, or North-Central Interior. The Northern Interior includes Robson Valley (the upper reaches of the Fraser basin) to the southeast of Prince George as well as the Omineca District and the Bulkley and Nechako basins. The communities of the upper Skeena are sometimes referred to as being in the Northern Interior, though in cultural terms and usual usage they are part of the North Coast, which is associated in regional terms usually with the South and Central Coast and Vancouver Island.

The northern reaches of the Northern Interior beyond the Omineca and Skeena-Bulkley regions is usually just referred to as "the North", although it also is considered part of the Northern Interior . "The North" may also refer to Prince George, one of the largest cities in the Interior and also the only major city in the Northern Interior (although that term can also apply to Prince George), which bears the sobriquet "Queen City of the North".

Northern Interior Plain

The Northern Interior Plain is a continuation of the interior plain that takes in nearly all of Alberta and southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It extends from Monkman Provincial Park and Tumbler Ridge in the south, to Hudson's Hope and the Williston Lake in the west, to Fort St. John and Charlie Lake in the north. The term is used to mean the whole of the Northeastern Interior past the Rockies, including Fort Nelson and other parts of the Liard drainage, and before W.A.C. Bennett Dam included the upper Peace River through its canyon between Finlay Forks and Hudson's Hope.

Central Interior Cordillera

The Central Interior is composed, roughly, of the Chilcotin, Cariboo, Bridge River-Lillooet, Fraser Canyon, Nicola, Thompson and Kamloops-Shuswap Countries. Some usages may refer to the Okanagan cities south of the Shuswap as being in the Central Interior, but these are usually referred to as being in the Southern Interior or South-Central Interior. The Nicola, Fraser Canyon, Thompson and Bridge River -Lillooet Country are sometimes also referred to as being in the Southern Interior, with the Bridge River-Lillooet Country sometimes referred to, along with the Chilcotin, as the West-Central Interior, and the Lillooet Country is historically considered to be part of the Cariboo, though distinct in its own right. The Bridge River Country has also been referred to as the West Cariboo, but is not considered to be in the Cariboo by its residents. Many urban residents are under the impression that the Bridge River Country is part of the Chilcotin because of the "South Chilcotin" name for the Spruce Lake Protected Area, but this is incorrect.

Southern Interior Cordillera

The Southern Interior roughly falls south of the Thompson River and Shuswap Country (corresponding mostly to the post-Oregon Treaty remainder of the old, original, Hudson's Bay Company Columbia District). When used directly, it generally means the Okanagan and adjoining areas, particularly the Similkameen, southern Monashees and Boundary Country. Due to a new federal political riding of the same name (see Southern Interior) the usage has now come to apply to the cities of the West Kootenay, along with the rest of the Kootenays, although the West Kootenay has usually been referred to in the past, and is today, as the Southeast Interior.


The Big Bend of the Columbia and the Rocky Mountain Trench are in the Interior, but are not usually included in mentions of either the Central Interior or Southern Interior.

Historical geographic regions

The Interior comprises over 70% of the province and well over 80% of its mainland. As it consists of a series of interlocking valleys and plateaus, geographic effects relating to isolation, physical remoteness, local indigenous culture, the background of various groups of settlers, and more, have contributed to an identifiable patchwork of regional identities, referred to as "districts" or "countries" (e.g., the Omineca Country, the Boundary Country). Usage such as "Lillooet District" are also common but in a few cases that is also a phrase referring to the land district of the same name, which is a system of legal survey blocks rather than descriptive of the actual geocultural landscape which evolved on top of them. In most cases, the "Country" and "District" are often dropped, and these regions are referred to as, for example, "the Kootenay" or "the Omineca". In some cases, notably the Kootenay, the Chilcotin and the Cariboo, they can be are often referred to as simply Kootenay, Chilcotin and Cariboo.. Some are referred to only without the "Country" or "District" attached, such as "the Tulameen" and "the Similkameen", and in other cases this is more common than the longer form though both occur ("the Stikine" is more common than "the Stikine Country". Combination forms are common, such as Cariboo-Chilcotin, and Thompson-Okanagan, and these often turn up in names of governmental administrative districts, electoral districts and private or public organizations. All often correspond to linguistic and cultural-political divisions of the First Nations as aboriginal history was also shaped by the landscape's isolating and defining characteristics as settler culture.

The main historical subregions, with their own subregions an irrespective of very common overlaps between some areas, and in their most common forms, are as follows:




Society and culture

The British Columbia Interior's society and culture is affected by the populations of First Nations Canadians and French-Canadians people and residents living close to the US - Canada border.


The Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) is the major roadway through the region. The TCH enters the region from the south after 186 km (116 mi) through the Fraser Canyon in the Lower Mainland toward Cache Creek. As a mostly high mobility highway with only occasional mandatory stops, it heads east for 79 km (49 mi) through to Kamloops where it becomes a short freeway. Then it continues 496 km (308 mi) east through Salmon Arm, Revelstoke, Rogers Pass, Golden, and Kicking Horse Pass (the highest point on the highway, at 1,627 metres), to Banff, Alberta.

See also

Related Research Articles

Columbia Mountains Mountain range in Canada and the United States

The Columbia Mountains are a group of mountain ranges along the upper Columbia River in southeastern British Columbia, and also in Montana, Idaho and Washington. The mountain range covers 135,952 km². The range is bounded by the Rocky Mountain Trench on the east, and the Kootenay River on the south; their western boundary is the edge of the Interior Plateau. Seventy-five percent of the range is located in Canada and the remaining twenty-five percent in the United States; American geographic classifications place the Columbia Mountains as part of the Rocky Mountains complex, but this designation does not apply in Canada. Mount Sir Sandford is the highest mountain in the range, reaching 3,519 metres (11,545 ft).

The Chilcotin region of British Columbia is usually known simply as "the Chilcotin", and also in speech commonly as "the Chilcotin Country" or simply Chilcotin. It is a plateau and mountain region in British Columbia on the inland lee of the Coast Mountains on the west side of the Fraser River. Chilcotin is also the name of the river draining that region. In the language of the Chilcotin people their name and the name of the river means "people of the red ochre river"

Geography of British Columbia

British Columbia is the westernmost province of Canada, bordered by the Pacific Ocean. With an area of 944,735 square kilometres (364,764 sq mi) it is Canada's third-largest province. The province is almost four times the size of United Kingdom and larger than every U.S. state except Alaska. It is bounded on the northwest by the U.S. state of Alaska, directly north by Yukon and the Northwest Territories, on the east by Alberta, and on the south by the U.S. states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Formerly part of the British Empire, the southern border of British Columbia was established by the 1846 Oregon Treaty. The province is dominated by mountain ranges, among them the Canadian Rockies but dominantly the Coast Mountains, Cassiar Mountains, and the Columbia Mountains. Most of the population is concentrated on the Pacific coast, notably in the area of Vancouver, located on the southwestern tip of the mainland, which is known as the Lower Mainland. It is the most mountainous province of Canada.

Interior Plateau plateau in British Columbia, Canada

The Interior Plateau comprises a large region of the Interior of British Columbia, and lies between the Cariboo and Monashee Mountains on the east, and the Hazelton Mountains, Coast Mountains and Cascade Range on the west. The continuation of the plateau into the United States is known there as the Columbia Plateau.

Cariboo Plateau Region of the Fraser Plateau in British Columbia, Canada

The Cariboo Plateau is a volcanic plateau in south-central British Columbia, Canada. It is part of the Fraser Plateau that itself is a northward extension of the North American Plateau. The southern limit of the plateau is the Bonaparte River although some definitions include the Bonaparte Plateau between that river and the Thompson, but it properly is a subdivision of the Thompson Plateau. The portion of the Fraser Plateau west of the Fraser River is properly known as the Chilcotin Plateau but is often mistakenly considered to be part of the Cariboo Plateau, which is east of the Fraser.

Cariboo was one of the twelve original electoral districts created when British Columbia became a Canadian province in 1871. Roughly corresponding to the old colonial electoral administrative district of the same name, it was a three-member riding until the 1894 election, when it was reduced through reapportionment and became a two-member riding until the 1916 election, after which it has been a single-member riding. It produced many notable Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), including George Anthony Boomer Walkem, third and fifth holder of the office of Premier of British Columbia and who was one of the first representatives elected from the riding; John Robson, ninth Premier of British Columbia; and Robert Bonner, a powerful minister in the W.A.C. Bennett cabinet, and later CEO of MacMillan Bloedel and BC Hydro.

Emergency Support Services (ESS) is a component of the Provincial Emergency Program of the Province of British Columbia. ESS are those services required to preserve the well-being of people affected by an emergency or disaster. Teams are established in local municipalities and assemble together for meetings and contingency planning.

Nicola, also Nkwala or N'kwala, was an important First Nations political figure in the fur trade era of the British Columbia Interior as well as into the colonial period (1858–1871). He was grand chief of the Okanagan people and chief of the Nicola Valley peoples, an alliance of Nlaka'pamux and Okanagans and the surviving Nicola Athapaskans, and also of the Kamloops Band of the Shuswap people.

Quesnel Highland mountain in Canada

The Quesnel Highland is a geographic area in the Central Interior of the Canadian province of British Columbia. As defined by BC government geographer in Landforms of British Columbia, an account and analysis of British Columbia geography that is often cited as authoritative, the Highland is a complex of upland hill and plateau areas forming and defined as being the buffer between the Cariboo Plateau and the Cariboo Mountains, as a sort of highland foothills along the eastern edge of the Interior Plateau running southeast from a certain point southeast of the city of Prince George to the Mahood Lake area at the southeast corner of the Cariboo. Beyond Mahood Lake lies another separately classified area dubbed by Holland the Shuswap Highland which spans similar terrain across the North Thompson and Shuswap Lake-Adams River drainage basins, forming a similar upland-area buffer between the Thompson Plateau and the Monashee Mountains. A third area, the Okanagan Highland, extends from the southern end of the Shuswap Highland in the area of Vernon and Enderby in the northern Okanagan region into Washington State, and also abuts the Monashee Mountains.

Bridge River Country

The Bridge River Country is a historic geographic region and mining district in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada, lying between the Fraser Canyon and the valley of the Lillooet River, south of the Chilcotin Plateau and north of the Lillooet Ranges. "The Bridge River" can mean the Bridge River Country as opposed to the Bridge River itself, and is considered to be part of the Lillooet Country, but has a distinct history and identity within the larger region. As Lillooet is sometimes considered to be the southwest limit of the Cariboo, some efforts were made to refer to the Bridge River as the "West Cariboo" but this never caught on.

The British Columbia electoral redistribution of 2008 was undertaken over a lengthy period that began in late 2005 and was completed with the passage of the Electoral Districts Act, 2008 on April 10, 2008. The redistribution modified most electoral boundaries in the province, and increased the number of MLAs from 79 to 85. The electoral boundaries created by the redistribution were first used in the 2009 provincial election.

Thompson Country Geographic region of British Columbia surrounding the Thompson River

The Thompson Country, also referred to as The Thompson and in some ways as the Thompson Valley and historically known as the Couteau Country or Couteau District, is a historic geographic region of the Southern Interior of British Columbia, more or less defined by the basin of the Thompson River, a tributary of the Fraser and focused on the city of Kamloops.

The British Columbia electoral redistribution of 2015 was a process undertaken by the BC Electoral Boundaries Commission starting in 2014 and formalized by the passing of Bill 42 - 2015 Electoral Districts Act during the 40th Parliament. The redistribution added two seats onto the previous total, raising the number of MLAs from 85 to 87. The electoral boundaries came into effect for the 2017 election.


  1. "2016 British Columbia Census Total Population Results". Archived from the original on 2019-07-24. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  2. Population Estimates - Province of British Columbia
  3. Population Estimates - Province of British Columbia
  4. "2016 British Columbia Census Total Population Results". Archived from the original on 2019-07-24. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  5. BC Names entry "Robson Valley"