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Irrigation and the Beginning of Agriculture

Settlers began planting fruit trees in the Okanagan in the 1860s. Thought at this time planting fruit was considered a risk because the fruit was perishable and the only means of transportation could take up to two weeks to get the fruit to a major center. Most farmers preferred the certainty of raising cattle or wheat. Some of the first settlers to risk it in the fruit industry were Lord and Lady Aberdeen. The couple paid $241,000 for a 13,000-acre ranch in Coldstream. On the ranch they planted thousands of apple trees plus some prunes, plums, and cherries. To make the property more suitable for fruit the Aberdeens built several ditches, wooden pipes and flumes to divert water to their property from Coldstream Creek.

Figure 1 Men working on irrigation lines








During the 1900s the demand for beef was dwindling in the Okanagan and ranchers began to sell their land to land companies. The land companies subdivided the acreages into 10-40 acre parcels and listed them for sale.

To market the parcels of previously unfarmable land the land companies advertised they would provide irrigation for cheap. The main target of the advertising where Britons. People seeking a comfortable, rural lifestyle growing delicious fruit according to scientific principals in an excellent climate. The idea was to sell a dream, an ideal lifestyle in a new world, and it was a popular vision. By 1911 tens of thousands of acres of land in the Okanagan Valley had been converted into orchard.

Figure 2 Man standing in an orchard beside irrigation channel









Irrigating the land proved to be one of the major challenges of fruit farming in the Okanagan. Pumping water up from the lake against gravity was impractical and costly. The solution was to divert water from highland lakes and streams using ditches, pipes and flumes.

Figure 3 The “Reservoir”. Located NW of Seaton Park. It was a holding ground for domestic and irrigation water.













Adapted by Tiana Langedyk from Apple Valley 









  • Just out of interest, I wonder where Seaton Park is located?

    • It is in the Okanagan Centre area

  • First paragraph should say planting..not plating.

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