An unexpected pleasure–Oroville, Washington

Memorial Day weekend posed a problem.  Where to go without reservations?  We had mail waiting for us over the border in Washington and didn’t want to linger in Canada through the weekend.  But all of the state parks in northeastern Washington were booked solid for the long weekend.  We called several decent-looking private RV parks.  No luck, all full.  I was worried.

With visions of spending a three-day weekend in various Walmart parking lots, we headed to Washington.  After finishing the final leg of the Cassiar Highway on Monday, we drove for two days through British Columbia, with lush farming and timber regions on the Yellowhead Highway and arid, craggy hills around Cache Creek.  By the way, British Columbia is very large. On Wednesday, we headed southeast through Kamloops and Kelowna on Route 97.  Kelowna was not what we expected. It is in the beautiful Okanagan Valley—full of vineyards and fruit trees.  But the main road was an endless, traffic-ridden strip of every imaginable retail store, chain restaurant, and outlet mall, clogged with people at 1:30 on a weekday afternoon.

For an hour or so I wondered why we had left Alaska.  Then we crossed the border into Oroville and things quickly improved. It is a funky little border town–still in the fertile Okanagan region–without a chain store in sight.  Our mail wasn’t in yet, so we had to overnight somewhere nearby.  We decided to check out the Osoyoos Veterans Memorial Park, which turned out to be an amazing campground wedged between the edge of town and the southern end of Lake Osoyoos, a gorgeous lake stretching across the border into Canada.

Our lucky campground--you can just see the truck.

Our lucky campground–you can see the truck if you look closely.

The park was almost empty.  You would expect a Veterans Memorial Park to be busy over Memorial Day weekend, wouldn’t you?  But no.  Apparently everyone heads to the big mountains and this lovely, serene gem in the foothills had plenty of room for us.  In fact, on our first two days here, the place was almost empty.

The swimming beach with one woman and a baby. It's a refreshing swim.

The swimming beach to the right with one woman and a baby. It’s a refreshing swim.

We enjoyed the sun and heat, with swimming several times a day for me and Zoe.  The park is bordered on three sides by water—the lake at the end, with an estuary on one side and a river on the other.

The lake.

The lake.

The river.

The river.

Our willow-side camsite.

Our willow-side campsite.  Notice that there is no one around.

There are birds everywhere and frogs are going full-throat in the evening.


Even with the weekend now in full swing, the park is not even remotely full and most of the campers are Canadians, down from B.C.

We love it here.  We had brunch today at an excellent restaurant downtown, the Pastime Bar and Grill.  It was big-city quality in this tiny town and they let Zoe sit next to us at an outside table.  Then we drove up into the hills east of town to Molson, a ghost town that has been preserved as a museum.

Old Molson

Old Molson


Molson is at almost 4,000 feet elevation.  Lots of snow in the winter but dry and sunny now.

Molson is at almost 4,000 feet elevation. Lots of snow in the winter but dry and sunny now.

Molson's law office.  Even then.

Molson’s law office.

We lucked out on this one.


6 thoughts on “An unexpected pleasure–Oroville, Washington

  1. I love finding a great place to camp when you least expect it! On our return trip to the states from Alaska we took the exact same route as you and spent 2 nights in Oroville. Is the Veteran’s Memorial Park the one in town where you have to drive down a hill to the campsites? When we got there late in the afternoon in mid August that park was full. We stayed in a quiet private park on the river and really enjoyed Oroville. We didn’t get to do much sightseeing as we spent most of the time doing laundry and buying groceries but we did go out to dinner at the Mexican restaurant in town. Almost every other person there was from BC! And we found Kelowna exactly as you did – bumper to bumper traffic for miles with nothing but stop lights and big box stores.

    • Yes, that is the campground. I can’t understand why it isn’t full this weekend, but it’s great for us. We also looked at the private park on the river, which had a few spaces. The river is really high and fast with the spring runoff and I was concerned that Zoe would jump in and be gone! This is a great little town and beautiful area.

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