Merritt is the beginning of the Thompson/Nicola region cattle country. It’s a much different culture then the Okanagan, but one whose character you can explore and experience. The pioneers, who in the late 1850s were looking for a route between the Coast and the Interior, discovered a vast expanse of grasslands in the valley where livestock could roam. So ranching soon took root and large tracts of the valley were used for raising cattle.
The city originated in the 1880s when three large ranches were joined to form a community known as Forksdale, at the junction of the Nicola and Coldwater rivers
Any walking tour of the city’s downtown core begins at Baillie House where the Visitor Centre is located (2250 Voght). Pick up a walking tour map, and then take a look around the house. Now overseen and run by the Nicola Valley Heritage Society, Baillie House is the oldest building in town and consists of a house, barn, store, storage garage, and garden. It was built by businessman Cosam Bigney, in 1908, for his English finance, but she died before ever moving in.
The town’s most famous and most visible building is the Coldwater Hotel (1999 Coldwater Ave.) and a must-visit destination. Though it no longer rents out its rooms, its restaurant and pub still serve as an iconic gathering place for visitors and locals alike. Completed in 1910, the copper domed building was originally constructed to house business people attracted to area’s booming ranching industry.
Merritt has been home to countless country music festivals. The sidewalks in town read like a who’s who of tht music genre with plaques and signs honoring- Adam Gregory, Johnny Cash, Chris Cummings, Joanne Allen, Brooks & Dunn, Merle Haggard, Dixie Chicks, Dr. Hook Spaner & Webb, Kenny Rogers and many others. Mural artist, Michelle Loughery, has created larger than life murals of country music artists who have appeared in Merritt.