British Columbia, often also referred to as B.C. or BC (French: Colombie-Britannique, C.-B.), is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is famed for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu ("Splendour without diminishment"). It was the sixth province to join Confederation (in 1871). As of 1 January 2006, its population is estimated at 4,279,462 . Residents are referred to as British Columbians or BCers.
British Columbia is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on its west, by the American state of Alaska on its Northwest, and to the north by the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories, on the east by the province of Alberta, and on the south by the states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The current southern border of British Columbia was established by the 1846 Oregon Treaty, although its history is tied up with lands as far south as the Columbia River.
British Columbia's land area is 944,735 square kilometers (364,764 square miles) which is about the size of France, Germany and the Netherlands combined. It is larger than the total area of Washington, Oregon and California. British Columbia's rugged coastline stretches for more than 27,000 kilometers (16,780 miles), including deep, mountainous fjords and about 6,000 islands, most of which are uninhabited.
British Columbia's capital is Victoria, located at the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island. BC's most populous city is Vancouver, located in southwest corner of the BC mainland called the Lower Mainland. Other major cities include Surrey, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Richmond, Delta, and New Westminster in the Lower Mainland; Abbotsford and Langley in the Fraser Valley; Nanaimo on Vancouver Island; and Kelowna and Kamloops in the Interior. Prince George is the major city nearest the centre of the province; however, a small town called Vanderhoof, 100 km to the west, is much nearer to the geographic centre.
Mount Robson, Canadian Rockies, B.C.The Coast Mountains, Canadian Rockies and the Inside Passage's many inlets provide some of British Columbia's renowned and spectacular scenery, which forms the backdrop and context for a growing outdoor adventure and ecotourism industry. 75% of the province is mountainous (more than 1,000 meters or 3,280 feet above sea level), 60% is forested, and only about 5% is arable. The Okanagan area is one of only three wine-growing regions in Canada and also produces excellent ciders, but exports little of either beverage. The small rural towns of Penticton, Oliver, and Osoyoos have some of the warmest and longest summer climates in Canada, although their temperature ranges are exceeded by the even-warmer Fraser Canyon towns such as Lillooet and Lytton, which vie for the title of "Canada's Hot Spot".
Much of Vancouver Island is covered by temperate rain forest, one of a mere handful of such ecosystems in the world (notable others being on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington and in Chile, New Zealand and Tasmania). The province's mainland outside of the Lower Mainland has snowy, cold winters, especially in the north. The Coast and Vancouver Island are temperate in most places, as the climate is moderated by the Pacific Ocean. In the Interior, summer temperatures can be quite warm, even notably hot and there are large semi-arid areas and a few localities classifiable as pocket deserts, including the towns of Osoyoos and Lillooet. There is more than one spot in British Columbia that has recorded peak summer temperatures of 43.3 °C (110 °F) and an ongoing rivalry exists between the Fraser Canyon towns of Lytton and Lillooet for the title of "Canada's Hot Spot".
British Columbia has a very diverse ethnic population, with a large number of immigrants having lived in the province for 30 years or less. Asians are by far the largest visible minority demographic, with many of the Lower Mainland's large cities having sizeable Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Korean communities. The East Indian population is also considerable, especially in Surrey and South Vancouver.
Also present in large numbers relative to other cities in Canada (except Toronto), and ever since the province was first settled (unlike Toronto), are many European ethnicities of the first and second generation, notably Germans, Scandinavians, Yugoslavs and Italians; third-generation Europeans are generally of mixed lineage, and traditionally intermarried with Asian or other non-European ethnicities more than in any other Canadian province. First-generation Britons remain a strong component of local society despite limitations on immigration from Britain since the ending of special status for British subjects in the 1960s.
The percentages add to more than 100% because of dual responses (e.g. "French-Canadian" generates an entry in both the category "French" and the category "Canadian".) Groups with greater than 40,000 responses are included.
Parks and protected areas
Yoho National ParkThere are 14 designations of parks and protected areas in the province that reflects the different administration and creation of these areas in a modern context. There are 141 ecological Reserves, 35 provincial marine parks, 7 Provincial Heritage Sites, 6 National Historic Sites, 4 National Parks and 3 National Park Reserves. 12.5% (114,000 km²) of BC is currently considered 'protected' under one of the 14 different designations that includes over 800 distinct areas.
British Columbia contains seven of Canada's national parks:
- Glacier National Park
- Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
- Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site
- Kootenay National Park
- Mount Revelstoke National Park
- Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
- Yoho National Park
BC also contains a large network of provincial parks, run by BC Parks of the Ministry of Environment. BC's provicial parks system is the second largest parks system in Canada (the largest is Canadian National Parks system).
In addition to these areas, over 4.7 million hectares of arable land are protected by the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Given its varied mountainous terrain and its coasts, lakes, rivers, and forests, British Columbia has long been enjoyed for pursuits like hiking and camping, rock climbing and mountaineering, hunting and fishing.
Much of the province is wild or semi-wild, so that populations of very many mammalian species that have become rare in much of the United States still flourish in B.C. Watching animals of various sorts, including a very wide range of birds, has also long been popular. Bears (grizzly, black), and the Kermode bear or spirit bear--only found in British Columbia, live here, as do deer, elk, moose, caribou, big-horn sheep, mountain goats, beavers, muskrat, coyotes, wolves, mustelids (such as wolverines and fishers) mountain lions, eagles, ospreys, herons, Canada geese, swans, loons, hawks, owls, ravens, and many sorts of ducks. Smaller birds (robins, jays, grosbeaks, chickadees, etc.) also abound.
Healthy populations of many sorts of fish are found in the waters (including salmonids such as several species of salmon, trout, char, etc.). Besides salmon and trout, sport-fishers in B.C. also catch halibut, steelhead, bass, and sturgeon.
Water sports, both motorized and non-motorized, are enjoyed in many places. Sea kayaking opportunities abound on the B.C. coast with its fjords. Whitewater rafting and kayaking are popular on many inland rivers. Sailing and sailboarding are widely enjoyed.
In winter, cross-country and telemark skiing are much enjoyed, and in recent decades high-quality downhill skiing has been developed in the Coast Mountain range and the Rockies, as well as in the southern areas of the Shuswap Highlands and the Columbia Mountains. Snowboarding has mushroomed in popularity since the early 1990s. The 2010 Winter Olympics downhill events will be held in Whistler-Blackcomb area of the province, while the indoor events will be in the Vancouver area.
In Vancouver and Victoria (as well as some other cities), opportunities for joggers and bicyclists have been developed. Cross-country bike touring has been popular since the ten-speed bike became available many years ago. Since the advent of more robust mountain bikes, trails in more rugged and wild places have been developed for them. Some of the province's retired rail beds have been converted and maintained for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing.
Horseback riding is enjoyed by many British Columbians. Opportunities for trail riding, often into especially scenic areas, have been established for tourists in numerous areas of the province.
British Columbia also has strong participation levels in many other sports, including golf, tennis, soccer, hockey, Canadian football, rugby, softball, basketball, curling and figure skating. B.C. has produced many outstanding athletes, especially in aquatic and winter sports. Also, today programs of training and toning systems like aerobics and hatha yoga are widespread. Most communities of several thousand people or more have developed facilities for these.
Consistent with both increased tourism and increased participation in diverse recreations by British Columbians themselves has been the proliferation of lodges, chalets, bed and breakfasts, motels, hotels, fishing camps, and park-camping facilities in recent decades.
In certain areas, there are businesses, non-profit societies, or municipal governments dedicated to promoting ecotourism in their region.
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