The region's first inhabitants were members of the Secwepemc nation of Interior Salish-speaking peoples. They named the area Tk'emlups, meaning “where the rivers meet.” David Stuart of the Pacific Fur Company spent the winter of 1811 in the area and was impressed with the fur-trading possibilities. He built a trading post, Fort She-whaps, in September 1812. The post was the first non-Indigenous settlement in southern British Columbia. In November, the North West Company (NWC) arrived and constructed a post nearby named Fort Thompson. The Hudson’s Bay Company took over the trade in the area after it merged with the NWC in 1821.
In the late 1850s gold seekers arrived and ranching and farming began. Kamloops became a general depot for the region. The completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885 encouraged further development, and by 1893 Kamloops had a population of 1,000. Since the late 1950s, it has grown rapidly as a regional centre.
Kamloops is the trade and distribution centre for the southern BC interior. It is serviced by the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways, several airlines, and three major highways. Initially, agriculture dominated the economy, but by the 1960s, forestry and mining had also become important. A large pulp mill is still a major employer, and the city is home to many companies and services related to forestry. In addition, the New Afton mine, located 10 km west of Kamloops, produces copper and gold, while the Highland Valley mine, located 50 km southwest of the city, produces copper and molybdenum.
Other significant employers in Kamloops include the Royal Inland Hospital, Thompson Rivers University and the headquarters of the BC Lottery Corporation.
The more than 200 lakes in the region offer tourists opportunities to fish and boat. Several ski resorts, including Sun Peaks, are found nearby.