The Kamloops area has been inhabited by the Secwépemc and Nlaka’pamux peoples, who have lived here for close to 10,000 years. The fur trade arrived in Kamloops in 1811 when three traders came to the area and established trade with the local Indigenous population. They installed a post for the Astoria Company in 1812, which later became a Hudson’s Bay Company fort. The next big influx of people came with the gold rush. While the gold rush did not pan out, provincial incentives for land ownership brought others and turned former gold rushers into homesteaders, kick-starting ranching in the region. With the promise of a railway, British Columbia joined Canada in 1871. Construction came to Kamloops in 1883, bringing railway workers and establishing Kamloops as a transportation hub with the railway’s completion in 1886 and a second railway in 1912.
At the turn of the century, Kamloops grew exponentially, bringing people, businesses, the expansion of the Courthouse, and establishment of Royal Inland Hospital. Growth in agricultural brought the beginnings of orchards and the expansion of agricultural production, especially tomato canneries. World War I, World War II, and the Great Depression hit Kamloops hard, and many lives and livelihoods were lost. The post-war economic boom ushered heavy industry into Kamloops with the establishment of an oil refinery, a natural gas pipeline, and, by the 1960s, a pulp and paper mill.
Following the amalgamation of Kamloops and the Town of North Kamloops in 1967, the 1970s saw an expanded city that included a number of adjacent communities, including Dallas, Valleyview, Brocklehurst, Westsyde, Heffley Creek, Rayleigh, Knutsford, and Dufferin. The decade also saw the opening of the first higher education institution, which grew to become Thompson Rivers University, and the completion of the Yellowhead Highway in 1970 and the Trans Canada Highway in 1971.
The 1980s brought major economic challenges to Canada, and Kamloops faced significant headwinds, bringing one of the first declines in the city’s population since World War II. An economic resurgence came in the late 1980s, with the successful referendum in 1988, which led to the opening of Riverside Coliseum in 1992, and the beginning of Kamloops’ journey to becoming Canada’s Tournament Capital.
The 1993 Canada Summer Games brought Canada to Kamloops and helped build its reputation as a centre for tournaments and sporting and cultural events, a reputation that was strengthened by the completion of the Tournament Capital Centre in 2006.