Oliver is a 4,000 person town sits at the northern tip of the American Great Basin Desert which extends all the way to Mexico. The east side of Osoyoos Lake is home to a sand desert that extends 48 kilometres north to Skaha Lake, and forms Canada's only "pocket desert." Oliver is 19 km north of Osoyoos.
The area was established under a land grant in 1921 by the BC Premier "honest" John Oliver, to settle veterans from the First World War. They dammed the river to the north of town and built an irrigation canal (called "the Ditch" by locals). This converted the desert valley floor and hillsides into productive orchards and vineyards. The Fairview Townsite, 3 kilometres west on Fairview Rd, was an 1880s boomtown in the gold rush days but was abandoned in 1906.
Osoyoos (population 4,500) lies at the junction of highway #97 and highway #3, and is 5 minutes from the USA-Canada border, and is best known for its dry hot summers and unlimited sunshine year-round which attracts over 250,000 visitors annually. The climate and terrain here is similar to Spain's leading to the adoption of Spanish building styles. Since 1974, the town has been rebuilding on the theme "Spanish Capital of Canada." The US border crossing is just 4 km south of Osoyoos.
The town's name comes from the native word for "narrowing of the waters" because of its location at a narrowing of Osoyoos Lake. The town decided in 1964 to creatively recycle its sewage, rather than polluting the lake. The treated effluent is used to water the sparkling greens on the golf course, which doesn't allow any golfing for a few hours after the watering.
The Osoyoos Indian Band, NK'MIP (the name by which the band refers to itself) is home to a resort, golf course, winery, and a number of other economic development projects. Their reserve, running east of Highway 97 north of Highway 3, covers 32,000 acres and includes much prime agricultural land.
These communities are served by the School District No 53 (Okanagan Similkameen) which is headquartered in Osoyoos, There are two public elementary schools in Oliver & one in Osoyoos, and a secondary school in Osoyoos and Oliver, plus a private Christian school located in Osoyoos.
The shopping in Osoyoos is along Main Street (Highway 3), with mostly small shops & restaurants, and in Oliver along Highway 97/Main Street which also has the south Okanagan's only movie theatre and hospital..
The area is blessed wtih low levels of precipitation, high average temperatures, comfortable humidity levels, short winters and an early spring season which are perfect for golf and for growing grapes for winemaking. The very warm lakes are popular for boating, swimming, waterskiing, and fishing. Boating is permitted on Osoyoos Lake, and only non-motorized recreation is permitted on Tuc-el-Nuit Lake on the outskirts of Oliver. Vaseux Lake, to the north along Highway 97, has excellent fishing and is surrounded by stunning cliffs. Bear and Madden Lakes are known for trout fishing.
Oliver has a number of golf courses and an 18 kilometre bike trail along the Similkameen River. Osoyoos also has the Sun Bowl Arena for skating, as well as a waterslide park and Mt Baldy Ski Area is just east of town.
Both towns have plenty of single family homes, with some lakefront vacation condos in Osoyoos. There are a number of farm properties/acreages close to each of the towns.