When traveling between Vancouver and Kamloops most people will travel on the Coquihalla Highway (Hwy 5) the whole way. Without a doubt this is the fastest way to get between these two cities, however it does not provide the opportunities to stop and enjoy the beautiful views of the Nicola Valley which are between Merritt and Kamloops. For spectacular scenery of lakes and the cattle country that this area is known for then take a detour from Merritt and continue northwards on Hwy 5A to Kamloops. It won’t take long to find yourself enjoying this “low road”. Our first stop along the highway was the historic Murray Church.
The Murray United Church was originally built in 1876 and was the oldest building in the Nicola Valley. I say “was the oldest” because in January of 2019 an arsonist destroyed this church along with two other churches in the nearby town of Merritt. The only thing left standing was the brick chimney on the side. The church has been rebuilt and has just reopened. We were lucky enough to have a peek inside and see how it has been lovingly restored. The simple stained glass window provides a scenic view of the rolling hills that surround this valley.
The church was named after Reverend George Murray, a Presbyterian minister, who came to the area in 1875. He would travel on horseback, covering an area of 600 miles, preaching in different communities throughout the Nicola Valley. In 1927 the building became a United Church and held weekly services until 1957 when it then was used for special occasions only.
Soon after leaving Murray Church you will see the south end of Nicola Lake. Travel a bit farther along the road and there will be a rest area where you can pull over and walk down to the dock here. The day was beyond perfect for some spectacular photos of this lake.
Towards the north end of the lake, at the intersection of Hwy 5A and the Douglas Lake Road, you will find the Our Lady of Lourdes Church. This building was constructed in 1979, on the spot of the original church which was built in 1898. It is a beautiful wooden structure and is worth a quick stop to admire the placement of logs on the main building, as well as on the church’s spire.
Beaver Ranch Flats Conservation Area lies just past the north end of Nicola Lake. This wetland area was completed in 1991 and is now a popular spot for bird watching. The area is dedicated to Lawrence Guichon, a rancher and conservationist in the Nicola Valley who realized the importance of protecting the water and grassland of this region. It is a peaceful spot to stop and soak up the beauty of the surrounding terrain.
The last stretch of road to Kamloops passes by a few more lakes, including Stump Lake, a popular fishing spot, and Shumway Lake which the Kamloops Canoe and Kayak Club use for training. There are also some fantastic abandoned barns and buildings to photograph along the side of the road.
Our last stop was beside Separation Lake, only 2 km in length, with its abandoned homestead sitting silently beside it. A fantastic view to finish up road-tripping along 5A!