Prior to 1902, Kootenay Bay served only as a flag stop for paddlewheelers. In 1908, there was a pack trail to Crawford Bay and Gray Creek which was later upgraded to a wagon trail in 1912, but the steep terrain kept Kootenay Bay quite isolated.
The Fraser family, after emigrating in 1912, ended up owning a lot of the land in the area, and in the 1920s started the first commercial and agricultural development at Kootenay Bay. During the 1920s and 30s, there were about 25 permanent residents, most of whom were ranchers and fruit growers.
In 1947, the ferry terminal moved from Gray Creek to Kootenay Bay, and by June of 1948, the Trans-Canada Highway had been paved through to the ferry landing. During the same year, the K'niksu Lodge was built which was one of the first destination resorts on Kootenay Lake and had a faithful clientele of fishermen. It also served as a meeting place for local groups. Unfortunately, the lodge burned to the ground in 1962.
With the new upgraded highway and increased traffic, there came cabins, restaurants, a gas station, and a garage. Today, Kootenay Bay continues to offer hospitality to the traveling public and is home to about 100 people.
Kootenay Bay is the eastern port for the Kootenay Lake ferry that connects with Balfour on the west side. Highway 3A runs south from Kootenay Bay along the east shore of Kootenay Lake to Creston.
The historic Pilot Point Lighthouse was built in 1907, when it was the lake and not the highway that joined the burgeoning Kootenay communities together. Steamers moved up and down the lake carrying ore destined for the smelter, people looking to settle, supplies needed by the communities, and farm produce. The lighthouse building is open and people are encouraged to go inside to see the view from the top. To get there, turn south on Pilot Bay Road from the Kootenay Bay ferry landing. At 4.5 km (3 mi), there's a small blue and white trail sign on the right, just before the road ends. It's a short but somewhat steep 10-15 minute walk on a broad, well-maintained trail that meanders through a cool, mossy forest, leading to expansive views of the lake from the lighthouse.
Kokanee Springs Golf Resort is one of Canada's finest championship 18-hole courses. It is considered by many to be the flagship of the Kootenay golf courses, residing in a magnificent mountain setting on Kootenay Lake. Every hole is framed by spectacular panoramic views of the Kokanee Glacier and the surrounding area. Kokanee Springs is a Norman Woods original, characterized by its long driving fairways, immense rolling greens, immaculate course upkeep, and ability to interest and challenge golfers at all levels.
Year-round fishing is available at Kootenay Lake, where visitors can catch three varieties of trout (Gerrard rainbow, Dolly Varden, and Kokanee) and whitefish. The lake's largest catch is a 35lb 12oz Gerrard Rainbow trout, and the world's largest recorded Kokanee- almost 10 pounds- was caught here. The Kootenay area also has many creeks, small lakes, and rivers to challenge any skill level.
The West Kootenay region contains over 80 hiking trails, all of which provide hikers with spectacular mountain scenery, breathtaking glaciers, alpine lakes, flower-strewn meadows, and incredible wildlife.
Kayaking and canoeing offer an opportunity for a unique and timeless experience. Four and five-day kayak trips can be planned and plotted out using maps of the area or you can take several daytrips, staying in any of the accommodations available. The area is full of wonderful sights, historical treasures, and great places to explore. The water is crystal-clear and all the destination spots are garbage-free. A great place to come and relax.
Miles of unmarked powder are characteristic of the ungroomed trails in the area. With mild temperatures, an average of 10 to 15 feet of fabulous snow, and breathtaking scenery, the ride is always a thrill. A wide variety of terrain provides a memorable experience for all riders, from the novice to the expert, and even those looking for "extreme snowmobiling". If you're looking for an uncommon experience and like to make new tracks in new snow, make this area a priority for your next trip. The elevations run from about 2,000 feet all the way up to 7,000 feet. The main season runs from December to April.
Starbelly Jam Music Festival is an outdoor musical extravaganza, held annually in Crawford Bay. The festival showcases musical talent from near and far. Many musical styles are featured, from folk and blues, reggae and world music, a bit of country or classical, and a touch of Celtic here and jazzy stuff there. This two-day event is all about fun and celebration; kids are very welcome at Starbelly and the event organizers go out of their way to give them a larger-than-life experience they won't soon forget. There are activities for kids, children's workshops, and special entertainment. Plus the giant parade and its colourful and noisy Starbelly tradition! There are also family workshops, a craft fair, and a variety of food booths.