Highway 97 connects Okanagan communities, part of longest highway in B.C. | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Highway 97 connects Okanagan communities, part of longest highway in B.C.

Highway 97 is the longest provincial highway in Canada.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Wikipedia.org
February 01, 2021 - 7:30 AM

Some residents may drive it every day and it connects many Okanagan communities but Highway 97 is also the longest highway in B.C. and part of one of the world’s longest north-south routes in North America.

Highway 97 is known by a number of different names, such as Route 97 when it crosses into the United States. Normally a major route for U.S. travellers making their way to Alaska, the border portion of the highway hasn't seen a lot of use in the past 9 months, due to COVID-19.

The highway in more normal times, however, is part of a route that officially begins in Weed, California, and passes through Oregon and Washington to the Canadian border at Osoyoos. It eventually becomes the Alaska Highway in northern British Columbia.

(South of Weed, Highway 97 becomes Interstate 5, and continues south to the Mexican border where it connects with highways in South America.)

Canada Wiki calls Highway 97 the longest continuously numbered provincial highway in British Columbia, measured at 2,081 kilometres.

It’s the longest provincial highway in any Canadian province.

Highway 97 is identified by a number of different designations as it passes through British Columbia.

It’s the Okanagan Highway for 269 kilometres of its length, from Osoyoos at the border to Vernon.

Portions of Highway 97 in northern B.C. are also known as the Cariboo Highway and the John Hart Highway. It becomes the Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek, and runs to Watson Lake in the Yukon where it is designated as Highway 1, eventually ending at Fairbanks, Alaska.

Interestingly, Kelowna, with a population of 142,000 is the largest community along the full 2,566 mile length of Highway 97 through Canada and the U.S.

According to Route 97.net, the Okanagan portion of the highway began as an ancestral trail that ran through Washington and British Columbia. It was used for thousands of years by Indigenous peoples who were unencumbered by border restrictions until recent times.

Highway 97’s route through B.C. passes through semi-arid desert, rainforest, grasslands and mountain ranges.

Highway 97 is also part of a much bigger picture, as it forms part of two important inter-continental highway networks spanning North and South America.

Although not officially designated as part of the Pan-American Highway, a network of roads spanning North and South America around 30,000 kilometres in length, it is one of several natural extensions of key American highways that connect with the trans-continental route.

Highway 97, along with Highway 99 in B.C. and Alberta’s Highway 2 are all considered Canadian routes for the Pan-American Highway, according to Wikipedia.

Consideration is also given to Highway 97 as a link in the CANAMEX corridor. a series of highway improvements linking Canada to Mexico through the United States.

The CANAMEX corridor was created as part of the NAFTA agreement, and is defined by several routes through Canada, one being British Columbia’s Highway 97.

(As part of the free trade agreement, the American portion of the CANAMEX highway will eventually be upgraded to four lanes along its entire length from Canada to the Mexican border. The present route, however, is defined through Montana on Interstate 15 to Alberta.)

Other highways that form part of the CANAMEX corridor include Highway 2 between Dawson Creek to the Alberta border and several highway designations in Alberta.

Highway 97 starts as Route 97 in California, travels the length of British Columbia and continues through the Yukon as Highway 1 into Alaska.
Highway 97 starts as Route 97 in California, travels the length of British Columbia and continues through the Yukon as Highway 1 into Alaska.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Wikipedia.org

— This story was updated at 2:41 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, 2021 to correct Highway 97's Okanagan termination at Vernon instead of Salmon Arm.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to tips@infonews.ca and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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