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.
Origin and usage
The term originated in the days of the fur trade as lying between New Caledonia to the north and the Columbia District or Oregon Country to the south. It remains in use today, though not as an official designation, but in combination forms such as the Thompson-Okanagan or Thompson-Nicola Regional District or, in weather forecasts and tourism uses, Thompson-Shuswap. Although strictly referring to the entire Thompson basin, and potentially used in that context, more commonly it refers to the immediate vicinity of the Thompson River, with subareas such as the Bonaparte Country or Nicola Country usually referred to separately, and the term "North Thompson" used to refer to the valley of the North Thompson River. The term "South Thompson" refers not only to the short valley of the South Thompson River but also to Kamloops and towns westward along the Thompson and the Trans-Canada Highway as far as Spences Bridge. The Thompson Canyon downstream from there to Lytton at the Thompson's confluence with the Fraser, is usually referred to as being part of the Fraser Canyon, as is also the usual usage to mean the highway from Hope to Spences Bridge or sometimes Cache Creek.
Climate and terrain
The Thompson Country is semi-arid and desert-like, except in the upper reaches of the North Thompson and in the higher areas of the plateaus to the north and south of the river (the Bonaparte Plateau and Thompson Plateau respectively). Because of the low elevation of the valley's floor, winter temperatures are not too severe, and with the region in the immediate rainshadow or the Coast Mountains and Cascade Range, summer temperatures are among the hottest in Canada. The main image of the region is sagebrush and rangeland, with benchlands flanking the Thompson's deepening canyon from Savona downstream, and desert and, higher up, pine-covered mountains and hillsides flanking the river and Kamloops Lake, which lies at the heart of the region. Lytton vies with nearby Lillooet for the title of "Canada's Hot Spot", with summer temperatures regularly above 40 °C (100 °F). Ranching is the historic core of the economy in the South Thompson and the adjoining Nicola and Bonaparte Countries, and also northeast of Kamloops in the Shuswap Highland country towards Adams Lake and the rest of the Shuswap Country. Logging and tourism are other traditionally-important industries, especially in the North Thompson.
The Thompson Country, the South Thompson in particular, was one of the first areas of the Colony of British Columbia which were opened up to land alienation and active settlement. Originally traversed by fur traders using what was known as the Brigade Trail, which ran from the Okanagan via Kamloops northwestward to Green Lake, by the last leg of the Okanagan Trail from Washington Territory to the Fraser Canyon, and its western extremity was the key section of the Cariboo Road connecting the Fraser Canyon to the Cariboo Plateau and its distant goldfields, it has been the scene of many important episodes in the history of British Columbia. Many of the earliest ranches in the Interior remain today, with the Douglas Lake Ranch, based in the Nicola Country but spanning the Thompson and including some of the Shuswap, one of the world's largest. Near Cache Creek, the historic Ashcroft Manor and Semlin Ranch and others were British military land-grants, the Ashcroft and Semlin Ranches home respectively to a Lieutenant-Governor and a Premier. The Thompson's settlement and history and economy have been dominated by the presence of both transcontinental rail lines flanking the Thompson, with the Canadian National Railway coming down the North Thompson, the Canadian Pacific Railway along the South Thompson.