The Nicola River’s source is in the highlands west of Okanagan Lake on the west side of the divide, north of the Bear Creek Recreation area and south of the Shorts Creek watershed. The meltwaters of the mountains and high plateau at about 1700 m (5580 feet collect in many streams to become the Nicola River which runs for 3 km south, then 11 km west.
The river passes through flat marshlands before entering Barton Lake then it continues 2.5 km down to Old Dave Lake. These small lakes are hidden away from recreation users and may only be seen by loggers or hunters.
The riiver continues west for 3 km before it bends to the north. The river flows north for 7 km to a junction with Beak Creek then Frank Ward Creek 7 km farther. From this point, the river bends west flowing into the east end of Douglas Lake. The lake is 6 km long and the outflow is found on the Spaxomin (Douglas Lake) Indian Reserve.
There is a small dam for flood control and irrigation use at Lower Nicola just south of Nicola Lake. The river meanders a lot along its entire length so measuring distances is very difficult. These meanders are located just before entering Merritt.
On the west side of Merritt the Coldwater River joins the Nicola and the river continues west/northwest for 60 km to Spences Bridge where it joins the Thompson River. Highway 8 and the Merritt Subdivision (Kettle Valley and CPR) both follows the river northwest.
Some Additional Nicola River Notes:
- The length of the river is about 213 km.
- The river’s watershed is about 7225 square km
- There are 11 significant tributaries of the river.
- Four of the tributaries have salmon-bearing habitats
- Water quality has decreased due to irrigation draw-down, upstream logging, loss of riparian habitat along the shorelines, and runoff issues from mining, farming/ranching, and industry
- The name “Nicola” was changed from the French “Riviere de Nicholas”, named after Chief Nicola an important First Nations leader during the fur trade and Fraser River Gold Rush