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The best way to describe the Kootenay Rockies is as Canada's most stunning mountain scenery. Year after year, visitors are dazzled by the enormity of the mountains that rise up from the region's valleys. The sensation of gazing up at towering glacial peaks humbles visitors. Even the most hardened travellers are unable to experience the Rockies without being touched by a sense of awe.
The Kootenay Rockies region stretches from the Okanagan Valley in the west to the Alberta border in the east. The British Columbia provincial boundary is the continental divide where water to the west flows out to the Pacific, and water to the east flows all the way to the Atlantic. The region contains four mountain ranges: the Selkirks, Purcells, Monashees and of course, the Rockies. A map of the area immediately shows a number of Provincial and National Parks that dot the region. It's in these areas of mountain wilderness that visitors will find the most spectacular, and protected, scenery in the province.
The rugged trails and hills of the Kootenay Rockies have nurtured a rich mountain biking culture. The sport is popular throughout British Columbia, but trails and riders are nowhere as abundant as in the Kootenays. All the towns and cities offer a vast network of singletrack and the city of Rossland has been crowned the mountain biking capital of British Columbia.National Parks Corridor
The National Parks Corridor was opened up with the development of the Canadian Pacific railway in the 1880s with the quest to unite Canada through trade. Highway 1 connects the corridor which is home to four of Canada's most treasured national parks Glacier National Park, Mt. Revelstoke National Park, Yoho National Park and Kootenay National Park as well as the cities of Revelstoke and Golden. Each park offers visitors unique experiences. Hiking trails are abundant and lead to some of the sights and wonders that make British Columbia world-renowned. If you're looking for snow-capped mountain peaks, glaciers and icefields, flowered alpine meadows and wildlife, you can spend days in any one of the parks. Go paddling on mesmerizing emerald green lakes while watching moose and bears on the shore. Explore mysterious hoodoos - granite formations weathered into spires by ages of wind and rain. Rest beside melt-water streams and roaring waterfalls edged by dense forests or brightly flowered meadows. If you're looking for wildlife, the national parks provide you with your best opportunities. The parks are home to countless species of small and large animals, including mountain goats, elk, eagles and marmots. These animals are often seen outside of protected areas grazing in clearings and beside roads. More »
The Valley of a Thousand Peaks is located between the Rocky Mountains in the east and the Purcell Mountain Range to the west. The mighty Columba River flows north through the entire Valley. The Columbia Valley features one of North America's longest continuous wetlands - a bird and wildlife watching paradise. Amidst the untamed wilderness and rugged mountains, the valley is home to some of the province's most elegant golf courses. The beautiful tree lined fairways are set against forested mountain slopes. The clubs offer challenging play, professionally maintained courses and groomed outdoor luxury that never lets you forget the enormity of your surroundings. If you are looking for luxury that comes straight from the wilderness, then mineral hot springs are a required visit. Places to visit include Fairmont Hot Springs and Radium Hot Springs. Whether or not you believe the springs possess special therapeutic and healing properties, there is no arguing the pleasure warm relaxing water can bring. More rustic and undeveloped springs are scattered through the mountains. More »
The Elk Valley wedged into the heart of the Canadian Rockies is approximately 60 kilometres from the Alberta and Montana borders. From its source at Elk Lakes Provincial Park, the Elk River makes its way through Elkford, Sparwood and Fernie before joining the Kootenay River, near Cranbrook. The river offers fantastic fly-fishing. The Crowsnest Pass cuts straight through the continental divide linking Southern Alberta with the stunningly beautiful Elk Valley. Thomas Blackiston of the 1800's Pallister Expedition saw, and is credited with naming, the Crowsnest Pass through which Highway 3 now passes. Prior to the settlement of the Elk Valley, the area was inhabited by migrant Indians who visited the hunter's Eden each year to harvest fish and game to carry them through the winter months. Migrants of the Tobacco Plains Band of the Ktunaxa (Kootenay) Indians were likely the first to enter the Elk Valley. Some of their artifacts and drawings can still be found in the area. The first white man known to travel though the pass was Michael Phillips in 1873. He returned the following year in search of gold and was disappointed to find only coal. It was coal that opened up the development of the valley. More »
Kootenay Lake, the largest natural lake in the Kootenay Rockies is flanked by forested mountain slopes. The lake was created as the great icefields retreated after the last ice age. The valley is bounded by the Selkirk Mountain range to the west and the Purcell range to the east. Peaks ranging from 2100 - 2750 metres (7000'- 9000') dominate the terrain, with year-round ice fields on the northernmost mountains. The slopes are heavily forested with a mix of pine, douglas fir, hemlock and cedar, and support a large and diverse range of flora and fauna. Today people cross Kootenay Lake on a car ferry. As late as the 1950's, a fleet of sternwheelers was the only link for many of the towns and villages that surround this large body of water. The settlements of Riondel, Kootenay Bay, Crawford Bay, Gray Creek and Boswell are strung along a thin band where Highway 3A follows the east side of the lakeshore. Wilderness is always close at hand and human residents share the landscape with large populations of deer, elk, moose, bear, mountain goat, cougar, and coyote. Kootenay Lake remains ice-free in winter, and wetlands at both ends of the lake and at Crawford Bay, including the 7000 hectare Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, host over 260 species of migrating and nesting birds - even wild swans and pelicans! Nelson is a funky mountain community set on the west arm of Kootenay Lake. As one of the oldest communities in the province, many of its buildings are restored heritage sites. Take a walking tour of several Victorian homes while exploring a city whose many artisans and musicians create a relaxed and laidback feel. In the shadow of the mountains, life often moves a little more slowly than anywhere else in the province. More »
The Central Kootenay area is defined by the arc of the Columbia River that flows south on to Washington Sate. The Columbia River has shaped the communities that sit on its banks. A bridge across it prompted the first settlement at Castlegar, while the sternwheelers that plied the river facilitated both the founding of Trail and the successful gold mines of Rossland. About 100 years ago, prospectors came to the West Kootenays, attracted by its rich ore deposits. Mining ghost towns can be found now, silent relics of past treasures. Some backroad travel to these ghost towns will enhance your visit to this extremely beautiful region. Visitors can learn about the development and history of the area at mining museums in Kaslo and New Denver. If you are a skiing enthusiast, you will be eager to try some of the best powder skiing in the world. The towering mountains often receive 23 metres of snow per season and contain more than a dozen snow sport areas. Red Mountain, for example, has been critically acclaimed as holding some of the finest snow sport resources in North America. Many other hills in the region offer snowcat excursions to the most exciting runs and helicopter charters can hunt out the best powder. More »
The Arrow Lakes and Silvery Slocan area is today home to tranquil valleys that are remote and sparsely populated. This was not always the case when in the late 1800s prospectors flocked here from all over North America in search of rich mining claims. Only a few made fortunes the majority worked hard for meager wages. The mining legacy is evident all over the region in charming small towns and villages that are built in the valleys of the Selkirk mountain range. The Arrow Lakes owe their present size to the Hugh Keenleyside Dam near Castlegar. Prior to 1969, the Arrow Lakes were two smaller lakes joined by a 32 km. (20 mi.) river. The Arrow Lakes run from Revelstoke in the north, south to Castlegar and are the main drainage system for the west Kootenay. This is angling country. Lakes large and small are teeming with rainbow and cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden, and kokanee. Two different ferries cross Arrow Lakes. The Upper Arrow Lake Ferry travels from Shelter Bay and Galena Bay connecting Highway 23. The Lower Arrow Lake ferry crossing is the Needles Ferry that connects Highway 6. Communities along the routes include Slocan, Nakusp, the Sandon Ghost town and Shelter Bay. The Silvery Slocan area exploded in the 1890s with the development of silver and lead mining and communities like Slocan, New Denver, Silverton and Sandon sprang up. Mines were worked until high production costs and low ore prices ended the boom. Rail lines from the north and south connected with steamboats plying Slocan Lake that created a vital link in the region's transportation network. The last train traveled the Slocan Valley rail line in 1993. Today, a tug and barge service continues to ferry rail cars from Slocan to Roseberry. More »
The Kootenay Rockies are a place of adventure, beauty and culture set against the humbling majesty of towering mountains. Glaciers, emerald lakes, powdered ski hills, elegant golf and unique communities promise not only a visit you'll always remember, but a mountain experience that will last your whole life.
A number of route-marked self-guided circle tours have been developed to aid the traveler explore the wonders of British Columbia.
The Hot Springs Heritage Circle Tour - What better way to experience the Kootenay Rockies than from an all-natural hot spring pool? Relax and enjoy the rugged mountains from the lap of natural wilderness luxury. Drive this tour from Cranbrook and stop at the most popular springs through the region. You'll pass through Fairmont, Radium, Nakusp and Albert Canyon Hotsprings as well as beautiful National Parks and cozy mountain communities. More »
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