The name Kelowna is derived from its Indian name, which means grizzly bear. It is believed that the name came about by an Indian reference describing an early settler who lived in an underground home like a cave.
Kelowna is the Okanagan's largest city and the Valley's first pioneer settlement. In 1859, Father Pandosy and companion John Casorso established the first white settlement in the Okanagan Valley. Father Pandosy was an Oblate priest and established his chapel and farm. You can still see some on the original settlement buildings at Father Pandosy Mission on Benvoulin Road.
By 1883 the Casorso family from Piedmont, were managing the fields of the Catholic Mission in Kelowna and pioneering several of the Okanagan's agricultural industries. They were the entrepreneurs whom begun the agricultural industry for Kelowna. The Casorso family introduced Australian-style sheep farming, they also raised herds of hogs to supply their butcher shop and half a century later they began to grow grapes commercially. You can still visit their Pioneer Country Market located on Benvoulin Road just down the road from the original mission site.
In the transportation sector Kelowna has come a long way. In 1905 Kelowna had a population of 600 people and was incorporated as a town. A ferryboat was brought in to facilitate easy lake crossing. On July 19, 1958 the newly constructed Okanagan Lake Floating Bridge was officially opened. The bridge is 640 metres long and to this day remains North America's largest floating bridge. Then in 1990 The Coquihalla Highway "Connector" opened allowing an easy 3.5-hour trip via Merritt to the Pacific Coast. In 1946 pilots used a 3000-foot grass airstrip and then in 1960 the Kelowna airport opened. In 2003 the Kelowna International Airport was the 11th busiest airport in Canada with 863,645 passengers traveling through it.
Kelowna offers outstanding health facilities. Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) is the Central Okanagan's primary acute care health facility. It operates 337 beds - 12 intensive care, 8 coronary care, 139 medical, 1 obstetric, 10 pediatric, 24 psychiatric, 38 rehabilitation, 88 surgical and 20 nursery. Located next to KGH is the Centre For Southern Interior Cancer Clinic. This centre opened in 1998 to provide many services including diagnosis, assessment, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and various support and counseling programs.
Kelowna also has a diverse education system. School District #23 has 41 schools including 30 Elementary schools, 6 Senior Middle Schools, and 5 Senior Secondary Schools. 24,105 students are enrolled in these 41 schools and of these there are 1,453 French Immersion school students. There are also 11 private schools including Catholic schools that provide education for the Kelowna area. Kelowna's post secondary education is in the middle of a changeover from being Okanagan University College to UBC Okanagan starting September 2005. There is also a vast array of vocational and adult education programs offer through other post secondary institute.