Richter Pass highway opened 46 years ago

Similkameen history

  • Jul. 19, 2011 5:00 p.m.

This account is from the Okanagan Historical Society Annual, 1965

The Richter Pass Highway officially opened on July7, 1965, with an afternoon ceremony taking place on the highway about ten kilometres west of Osoyoos.

The Osoyoos high school band played between rain and thundershowers that provided some relief from a day where temperatures were in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Mounties provided colour to the proceedings, with government officials including Francis Xavier Richter, Minister of Agriculture and a native of Keremeos, and Highways Minister Phil Gagliardi. A lightning caused brush fire began in the hills above the ceremony as  dignitaries described the importance of the road, which shortened the Southern Provincial Route through the province. Plans for the area at the time included the building of an observatory on Mount Kobau, and it was noted that adjoining highways in the U.S. were being improved, with a new customs house being constructed on the U.S. side. In addition, a new airfield in Cawston would soon be handling cross border air traffic, it was anticipated.

Later in the day, a chicken barbeque party was held at Pine Park in Keremeos, hosted by the Keremeos Board of Trade.

Once an Indian trail, the highway followed the original Dewdney trail of 1865. As settlers moved into the Similkameen, the trail developed into a wagon road, but with the construction of a road through the Similkameen and Marron valleys to Kaleden, the Richter Pass route fell into disuse. The creation of the Southern Interior Route, and the desire to shorten its length, revived the Richter Pass as a viable alternative to both provincial and local traffic.