Merritt, BC, incorporated as a city in 1981, population 7113 (2011c), 6998 (2006c). The City of Merritt is located in the Nicola Valley of south-central British Columbia, at the junction of the Coldwater and Nicola rivers, 88 km southof Kamloops on the COQUIHALLA HIGHWAY.
Two groups of the INTERIOR SALISH, the Nlaka'pamux and Okanagan, replaced the NICOLA-SIMILKAMEEN who had first inhabited the area. Fur trader Alexander ROSS visited the region in the winter of 1813. The great fur brigades, with hundreds of horses carrying packs of fur between Fort Kamloops (see KAMLOOPS) to the north and FORT LANGLEY on the lower Fraser River, used routes through the valley from 1848 to 1860.
Settlement began and cattle ranches were established in the 1860s. Coal, discovered in the 1860s, was being mined here in the early 1900s. The community of Forksdale was renamed Merritt in 1906 after William H. MERRITT, promoter of the failed Nicola, Kamloops and Similkameen Railway. Merritt became a mining boomtown and was incorporated as a city for the first time in 1911. The city prospered until the GREAT DEPRESSION, when it went into receivership and lost its municipal status. The province ran community operations until 1952. In 1958 it was reincorporated as a village, it gained town status in 1965 and regained its city status in 1981.
The growth of the lumber industry and the opening of large COPPER mines in the region in the 1950s and 1960s made Merritt the commercial centre of the Nicola Valley. Forestry remains the principal industry of the area. Craigmont Mines (10 km west of Merritt) produced copper from 1962-82 when low copper prices forced its closure. Under new ownership the mine is supplying magnetite recovered from the mill tailings created during the copper production to the western Canadian coal industry. Since the opening of the Coquihalla Highway (1986), the tourism sector has been expanding.
The region around Merritt is famous for its fishing lakes and the rolling hills of the surrounding cattle country. Nearby Douglas Lake Ranch is the largest in Canada at over 200 000 ha and 20 000 head of cattle. Both Thompson Rivers University and the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, a First Nations organization, are located in the city. The annual Merritt Mountain Music Festival in July is a major event.