Salmon Arm takes its name from its location along Shuswap Lake. The lake has four “arms,” and Salmon Arm is in the south, named after the large runs of salmon that used to run up the creeks that empty into the lake.
The city, which is in the southern interior of B.C., is a tourist town in the summer, with many beaches, camping facilities and house boat rentals. It is also home to the longest freshwater wooden wharf in North America.
Settlers established the town within the traditional territory of the Secwépemc. After the laying of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885, miners and settlers came in search of gold. By the end of the 1890s, the town had grown to include two general stores, a school, and a hotel. By 1904, Salmon Arm had acquired a reputation for having an excellent fruit harvest. It became a city in 1912.
In 1951, Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh visited Salmon Arm while on a royal tour of Canada. In 1982, while passing through, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau infamously gave some protesters the finger.
Traditionally, the forest industry and related businesses have been the largest employer in the area. The city benefits from access to the mainline of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which passes through the city.
In 1998, an area of 13,500 acres immediately southwest of Salmon Arm was destroyed by a wildfire started by lightning.
Five elementary schools, one middle school, and a secondary school with two campuses are within city limits. Salmon Arm also offers early French immersion, late French immersion and outdoor learning programs.
Salmon Arm has a campus of Okanagan College that offers many programs in a wide range of fields.
Large crowds of tourists and locals are drawn to the beaches at Sunnybrae, Canoe, and elsewhere on Shuswap Lake during the summer. The city has many large hotels, as well as berths for a number of houseboats.
The community offers a number of recreational facilities and sports leagues. There are fields for soccer/rugby/football, fields for baseball/softball, as well as a six sheet curling rink, five-pin bowling lanes, several golf courses, and many seasonal recreational businesses.
The Salmon Arm Silverbacks hockey team, in the BCHL, plays at Shaw Centre (formerly the Sunwave Centre). Located in the same area are the city's recreation centre, curling rink, lawn bowling facility, horseshoe pitch, and the Salmon Arm campus of Okanagan College.
During every third weekend of August, the annual Salmon Arm Roots and Blues festival draws thousands of people with an international roster of performers. The Festival emerged from the Shuswap “coffee house movement” of the 1970s and ‘80. From its grassroots beginnings, Roots & Blues has grown into one of the largest and most musically diverse festival in the B.C. interior.
Salmon Arm is home to a multiplex movie theatre and a single screen theatre for movies and live stage performances. Additionally, a community theatre society hosts plays and other live stage performances at the Shuswap Theatre.
The RJ Haney Heritage Park & Museum celebrates the history of the region and offers a dinner theatre program during the summer months.
Housed in a historic building, the Shuswap Art Gallery is the city’s main public art gallery.
An all-organic farmers market offers a wide variety of locally produced food every Wednesday afternoon from May through October and continues every second Wednesday from November through April. Popular eating spots include AnDiamo Ristorante Italiano, Barley Station Brew Pub, the Blue Canoe Bakery Café, and Fire on Wheels (for wood-fired pizza).
The Mall at Piccadilly is popular among shoppers, both visiting and local.