Roadside Nature Tours Through the Okanagan: A Guide to British Columbia's Wine Country.


192 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Index
ISBN 978-1-55365-288-5
DDC 917.11'5045





Reviewed by John R. Abbott

John Abbott is a professor of history at Laurentian University’s Algoma University College. He is the co-author of The Border at Sault Ste Marie and The History of Fort St. Joseph.


After twenty years in Vancouver, Penticton-born Richard Cannings returned to the Okanagan, a region with botanical and biological assets that range from special to unique in Canada, but with demographic and agricultural attributes that have been transformed by in-migration and the substitution of vines for tree and soft fruits. During the thirteen years following his return to the Valley, Cannings discovered that the number of visitors who came for the sun and the beaches had been greatly augmented by those who were drawn by the prospect of wine tasting, fine dining, and nature study. That realization prompted him to prepare this guide. Cannings is a consulting biologist in Naramata, and professor of field ecology at the University of British Columbia, as well as the author of books on birding and natural history.

He is succinct in summing up his case for the Valley’s attraction. “Few places in … North America … can boast its combinations of desert sands and deep lakes, towering rock cliffs and rich benchlands, and cold mountain forests and hot grasslands. Freezing winds carve back the needles on stunted firs at tree line, while only a few kilometers away a rattlesnake slides around yellow cactus flowers, hunting for pocket mice. Cattail marshes line river oxbows only a few metres from sagebrush that sends roots deep into dry soils in a constant quest for water.”

Travellers should equip themselves with good maps, then refer to the precise instructions printed at the beginning of each chapter describing the beginning and end of each route. Descriptions of phenomena along the way are fairly detailed but not tedious. The author has an ability to convey significance in a few well chosen words (particular species receive special treatment in sidebars). His description of See Ya Later Ranch and its approach road, familiar to the reviewer from a recent trip, illustrates the close association drawn between winery visits and nature study. “The road climbs very steeply around a couple of switchback corners … [to] the site of some of the earliest commercial grape plantings in the Okanagan. Watch for the western bluebirds around the vineyard, particularly in winter, when the indigo-coloured birds rely on the sweet leftover grapes for survival.”


Cannings, Richard., “Roadside Nature Tours Through the Okanagan: A Guide to British Columbia's Wine Country.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 14, 2024,