Winlaw is one of many small rural communities that make up the Slocan Valley. Located in the West Kootenay region of south east British Columbia, the valley is approximately 100 km (62 mi) long and 5-10 km (3-6 mi) wide and situated between the Arrow and Slocan Lakes in the Selkirk Mountains. With stunning scenery and nature in abundance, there is plenty here for the outdoor enthusiast from kayaking and fishing to cycling and hiking. For those looking for more physical activities mountain biking, river rafting and rock climbing are just a few in the Slocan Valley to challenge you.
Winlaw is located on Hwy 6, 49 km (31 mi) north-west of Nelson; 48.6 km (30 mi) north of Castlegar via Hwy #3A and Hwy 6; 97 km (60 mi) south of Nakusp on Hwy 6.
Located on the western shore of Slocan Lake and in the Selkirk Mountains, Valhalla Provincial Park was originally created to protect the diverse landscape of the area. Graced by stunning peaks of the Valhalla Range, backcountry opportunities abound. Hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing, boating and hunting in season are all available in the park. Visitors may also see pictographs from thousands of years ago when early indigenous people lived in the area.
The entire Slocan Valley Rail Trail is some 52 km (32 mi) in length and follows the Slocan River from South Slocan to Slocan. Midway is the community of Winlaw. South of Winlaw on the section to Passmore the trail winds through forest and marshland where waterfowl can be seen. Fish habitat structures can be viewed from this part of the trail near Winlaw Rapids. These were built to provide a safe journey for the juvenile trout. North of Winlaw towards Lemon Creek there is farmland, small beaches and a café or two. Across the river just north of Winlaw is Winlaw Nature Park, popular for picnicking and swimming. The rail trail is open year-round for a multitude of outdoor activities from hiking and biking in the summer to cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
| Slocan River. Photo: Province of BC |
A popular area for anglers and those who enjoy fly fishing, the Slocan River and Slocan Lake are well-known for their large rainbow and bull trout. The river and lake are only open at certain times so it is important to check before you go. Access points can be reached from the nearby trail including in Winlaw.
There are many opportunities to have fun on the Slocan River and several tour companies offer floating trips, kayaking and whitewater rafting. You can also put your own kayak in the water at one of several access points.
| Slocan Trail. Photo: Phil Best |
The village of Winlaw got its start when John Brown Winlaw took the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 1890s to the end of the line and set up the first lumber mill. Prospectors came to the region at the same time looking for silver and while many were gone by 1910, silver mines thrived until into the 1970s. In 1908 the Doukhobors moved to the small community of Brilliant near Castlegar and gradually spread into the Slocan Valley. This set the path for others wanting a quieter, rural lifestyle which continues to this day.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia