“The Nicola River, originally Fr. Rivire de Nicholas or Rivire de Nicolas’, adapted to Nicolas River”, Nicola’s River in English, is one of the major tributaries of the Thompson River in the Canadian province of British Columbia, entering the latter at the town of Spences Bridge. It is named for Nicola (“Histesmexteqen”) the most famous chief of the joint community of Nlaka’pamux and Okanagan bands, founded by his father and today known as the Nicolas, (originally Nicola’s people), as well is its basin, which is known as the Nicola Country.
It drains most of the northern Thompson Plateau, beginning near the very eastern edge of the plateau only 30 kilometers northwest of Kelowna, and flows from there more or less westward to feed Douglas and Nicola Lakes, with about 15 kilometers of the river’s length between tose two lakes. Nicola Lake at 20 kilometers in length is the largest in the basin; the Nicola River enters at 3/4 way of its length up from its outlet, 10 kilometers downstream from which is Nicola Valley centre and Coquihalla Highway town of Merritt. From there the river flows 60 kilometers northwest to the Thompson, and is followed on that route by British Columbia Highway 8 and a spur line of the Canadian Pacific Railway.” The terrain of the river’s basin northeast and in the area of Merritt is broad rangeland valleys, with high semi-forested plateau uplands reached by relatively gentle slopes, up to and over 2400 m. The upper basin has a number of large lakes, the largest being Douglas Lake and Nicola Lake, Below Merritt, the valley-bottom of the Lower Nicola is much narrower, but has room enough for a constant meander for most of its length, with lush farmland and deciduous forest, flanked by steep hills rising through sage and dryland forest hills to the broad plateau uplands above. The Nicola, as the Nicola Country is known for short, is known for broad rangeland views and a hot, sunny summer climate, as well as frigid winters due to its overall altitude.