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Similkameen River facts for kids

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Similkameen River
Similkameen River.jpg
The Similkameen River near Keremeos
Country Canada, United States
State Washington
Province British Columbia
Physical characteristics
Length 197 km (122 mi)
Basin features
Basin size 7,600 km2 (2,900 sq mi)

The Similkameen River runs through southern British Columbia, Canada, eventually discharging into the Okanagan River near Oroville, Washington, in the United States. The river is said to be named for an indigenous people called Similkameigh, meaning "treacherous waters".

The river is controversially dammed (the now-defunct Enlon Dam), blocking fish passage to the upper (Canadian) reaches of the river.


The first mention of the Similkameen by a European was by Alexander Ross. While on a trading expedition, he travelled by way of the "Similkameigh River." Sir George Simpson used the name Similkameigh for one of the groups part of the Okanagan Nation, . The transition from Similkameigh to Similkameen may have been inspired by the name of the Tulameen River, despite being etymologically incorrect. The name Similkameigh comes from a now extinct language of Nicola-Similkameen, of the Athapascan languages, believed to mean "Salmon river."



It starts at Nordheim Peak, on the east flank of Manning Park, about 10.3 km (6.4 mi) north of Allison Pass and flows past the settlements of East Gate, Princeton, Hedley, Keremeos, and Cawston, closely followed by Highway 3, the Crowsnest Highway. About 25 km (16 mi) upstream from Princeton, the river drops over Similkameen Falls. Numerous viewpoints of the river occur from the highway, the most popular being Bromley Rock, where swimming in the river from a spectacular sandy beach is possible. In a typical Okanagan, BC summer, the water is warm and fantastic for swimming. It contributes 75% of the flow of the Okanogan River and crosses the international border at Nighthawk, Washington.


The United States Geological Survey maintains a stream gauge at river mile 15.8, just upstream from the Oroville–Tonasket Irrigation District canal intake. The river's discharge (flow) at this point averages 2,283 cubic feet per second (64.6 m3/s), with a recorded maximum of 45,800 cu ft/s (1,300 m3/s) and minimum of 65 cu ft/s (1.8 m3/s).

Enloe Dam

The Enloe Dam, completed in 1920, is located just above the river's mouth. The river, after flowing over the dam, drops over what is left of Coyote Falls. Lacking fish ladders, Enloe Dam blocks fish passage and completely extirpated anadromous fish migration into the upper reaches of the Similkameen River and its tributaries in Canada.


Cliffs near Nighthawk WA
Cliffs above the Similkameen near Nighthawk, Washington

The Similkameen River subject to international water-sharing agreements governed by the International Joint Commission as part of the Columbia Basin. The authority responsible for overseeing the IJC agreements is the International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control, composed of appointees from Environment Canada, the BC Ministry of Water, Land Air Protection, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Geological Survey, and private consultants.

Major tributaries

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