British Columbia is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west, by the U.S. state of Alaska on the northwest as well as parts of the west, on the north by the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, on the east by the province of Alberta, and on the south by the U.S. states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The current southern border of British Columbia was established by the 1846 Oregon Treaty, although its history is tied with lands as far south as California. British Columbia's land area is 944,735 square kilometres (364,800 sq mi). British Columbia's rugged coastline stretches for more than 27,000 kilometres (17,000 mi), and includes deep, mountainous fjords and about six thousand islands, most of which are uninhabited.
British Columbia's capital is Victoria, located at the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island. The province's most populous city is Vancouver, which is not on Vancouver Island but rather is located in the southwest corner of the mainland (an area often called the Lower Mainland). Other major cities include Surrey, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Richmond, Delta, and New Westminster in the Lower Mainland; Abbotsford, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Langley in the Fraser Valley; Nanaimo on Vancouver Island; and Kelowna and Kamloops in the Interior. Prince George is the largest city in the northern part of the province, while a village northwest of it, Vanderhoof, is near the geographic centre of the province.
The Coast Mountains and the Inside Passage's many inlets provide some of British Columbia's renowned and spectacular scenery, which forms the backdrop and context for a growing outdoor adventure and ecotourism industry. Seventy-five percent of the province is mountainous (more than 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) above sea level); 60% is forested; and only about 5% is arable.
The Okanagan area is one of several wine-growing regions in Canada and also produces ciders; other wine regions in British Columbia include the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, and the Fraser Valley. The cities of Kamloops and Penticton, and rural towns of Oliver, and Osoyoos have some of the warmest and longest summer climates in Canada, although their temperature ranges are exceeded by the warmer Fraser Canyon towns of Lillooet and Lytton, where shade temperatures on summer afternoons often surpass 40 °C (104 °F) but with very low humidity.
Much of the western part of Vancouver Island and the rest of the coast is covered by temperate rainforest. The province's mainland away from the coastal regions is not as moderated by the Pacific Ocean and ranges from desert and semi-arid plateau to the range and canyon districts of the Central and Southern Interior to boreal forest and sub-arctic prairie in the Northern Interior.
A few Southern Interior valleys have short cold winters with infrequent heavy snow, while those in the Cariboo, the southern part of the Central Interior, are colder because of their altitude and latitude, but without the intensity or duration experienced at similar latitudes elsewhere in Canada. The northern two-thirds of the province is largely unpopulated and undeveloped, and is mostly mountainous except east of the Rockies, where the Peace River District, in the northeast of the province contains BC's portion of the Canadian Prairies.
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—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)
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