The iconic Spotted Lake lies below Highway 3 close to the Richter Pass. Its minerals form circular pools – allegedly 365 of them for each day of the year. The lake is sacred to the Syilx Okanagan people, who own the land. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Few rural areas are so diverse over such a relatively short distance as Electoral Area “A” in the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS).

From just west of Anarchist Summit to just west of Richter Pass, travelling about 35 km west on Highway 3, you descend one range of mountains to the Okanagan Valley bottom, then climb a smaller range next to the lower slopes of Mount Kobau.

There’s barren rock, ponderosa pine forests, a portion of desert, irrigated orchards and vineyards, expansive grasslands, cattle ranches, and more forests.

From the international border in the south, to Road 22 in the north, Area “A” encompasses the rural area surrounding the Town of Osoyoos. Its developed parts are all close to either Highway 97 or Highway 3, the two major roads that form the arteries of area.

Nectarines ripen in an orchard outside Osoyoos in RDOS Area A. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Area “A” has a population of 2,139 people (2021 census). They live in estate homes in the Anarchist Mountain community in the east, high above Osoyoos, or Kilpoola Park Estates, just south and east of the iconic Spotted Lake. Many also live on farms or acreages in the valley to the north and south of Osoyoos.

Area “A” lacks the retail and industrial zones found in Osoyoos, but it is home to numerous agricultural and tourism-related businesses. Many fruit stands line the roads in the valley bottom, and several excellent wineries are located on both sides of Osoyoos Lake. About 15 percent of the land in Area “A” is in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

Osoyoos Lake Park is located south of Osoyoos on Lakeshore Drive. The park, run by the RDOS, is a swimming and picnicking spot next to Osoyoos Lake. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Osoyoos Lake Park is located on the eastern shore of the lake, to the south of the Osoyoos municipal boundary, on Lakeshore Road at 16 Avenue. The park has beach swimming areas, picnic tables, and other amenities making it an ideal place to spend a summer afternoon with the family.

A small, rustic park with benches and picnic tables honours the memory of Jamie Soule, an active member of the Anarchist Mountain Community. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Jamie Soule Memorial Park was established by Anarchist Mountain community residents with the help of a Neighbourhood Small Grant. It is located at 105 Sasquatch Trail on the mountain. The small, rustic park honours Jamie Soule, an active community member who served as deputy chief of the Anarchist Mountain Fire Department, and played bass and sang with the local band Double Stop Creek. Soule died on New Year’s Day 2019. The park is also intended to memorialize others who have contributed to the community.

Kilpoola Park Estates is a rural community built along Old Richter Pass Road and several adjoining roads. The road was once a wagon trail. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The RDOS has developed a small portion of the former Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) bed as a hiking and biking trail, in part with a provincial grant. The section between the north end of Osoyoos Lake and Road 22 is in Area “A,” and it skirts the Osoyoos Oxbows. There is a parking area about 1 km to the east on Road 22 at the International Hike and Bike Trail.

The Richter Pass area of Area “A” has long been associated with cattle ranching, and today it is also identified as one of the most endangered ecosystems in Canada. Ranching developed to feed the numerous mining camps throughout the region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The pass, and nearby Richter Mountain, were named after Francis Xavier Richter, an early rancher and orchardist, who worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Keremeos caring for packhorses. The Bohemian-born immigrant subsequently became a well-known rancher and one of the earliest orchardists in the area.

Technically, “Richter Pass” refers to the pass on the old wagon road, part of which is the present Old Richter Pass Road. But the pass on the highway, officially opened in July 1965, also often goes by that name.

Old Richter Pass Road now leads up to Kilpoola Park Estates, but dead ends on private property before the pass. A turn up Kruger Mountain Road leads into the forests and dry grasslands of the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area, as well as private and conservation lands in this unique environment. The area, classed as an important bird area, is home to rare and endangered birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. It has a number of small lakes, including the saline Kilpoola Lake.

Portions of this area have been proposed as a national park reserve, however, the proposal has been controversial. Parts of the area were badly damaged in the Eagle Bluff wildfire of August 2023.

When the Anarchist Mountain community was being developed as “Regal Ridge” in the early 2000s, many streets were marked with large metal statues depicting local wildlife – real or mythical. The sasquatch at Sasquatch Trail is probably the most popular. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The eastern portion of Electoral Area “A” is taken up by Anarchist Mountain, which refers to both the steep slopes rising from the valley bottom, and the grassy plateau at the top, which is dominated by farming. Much of Anarchist Mountain is beyond the boundary of Area “A,” but the RDOS does encompass the wooded estates developed in the early 2000s, previously known as Regal Ridge, and later Osoyoos Mountain Estates.

How Anarchist Mountain got its colourful name is a subject of historical debate. Both versions attribute it to Richard (Dick) G. Sidley, a settler who came to the area in the 1880s.

The conventional version refers to Sidley as a “wild Irishman” with “extreme political views,” suggesting he was the “anarchist” the mountain is named for. He established an international town, Sidley, that straddled the Canada-U.S. border just west of Molson, Washington, and east of Area “A.”

Porter Brothers Lumber Mill in Sidley straddled the border and avoided high U.S. tariffs on dressed lumber by doing the planing on the American side of the line. The border was quite lax until bootlegging became a problem during the First World War.

Sidley established the first post office, became the first customs officer on the mountain, and the first justice of the peace. According to the story, Sidley was subsequently removed from those offices for his “radical views.” He was also reputed to be well liked, and he settled many local disputes.

Journalist Greg Nesteroff, however, challenges the conventional view, citing accounts in newspapers of the 1890s. Instead, he argues, Sidley named the mountain after a local prospector and cattle thief named John Hayward, whom Sidley considered to be the anarchist.

Nesteroff cites a story in the Victoria Daily Times from 1894: “Anarchist Mountain acquired its unpleasing name from the fact that a rather tough character who once lived there … carried a stick of dynamite around in his top boot. When asked why he did so, he said he was an anarchist.”