Canal Flats is located in one of North America's truly unique features - the Rocky Mountain Trench. This huge geologic feature represents a suture formed when the North American continent acted as a battering ram fending off westward-drifting land masses as they crashed into our continent. In the area, the Rocky Mountain Trench is more the result of normal faulting than collisions with exotic land masses.
The area was first traveled north and south along the Columbia and Kootenay rivers by a nomadic group who fished and hunted sheep and went over the mountains to hunt bison in the lowlands of Alberta.
The first Europeans in this valley were looking for new worlds to explore and exploit, but found an old world where cultures were robust and the people settled in their own traditions. In 1806, David Thompson journeyed into the Rockies, engaging some natives to guide him across the portage from the Columbia River to the Kootenay River at Canal Flats and down to the mouth of the St. Mary's River. Thompson continued to trade, explore and survey from 1807 to 1811, covering all trade sources in the southeastern part of British Columbia.
Prospecting and mineral exploration later brought more white men to this area. Gold was discovered on Skoo Kum Chuck Creek (about 1864), and more mining developments started up and people converged on this corner of BC. The wagon road from Galbraith's Ferry at Fort Steele to Canal Flats was made in 1886, and in 1887 a bridge was built over the Kootenay River at Canal Flats.
The large expanse of land known as the Skookumchuck prairies was settled in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. People came to homestead and ranch; they were given grants of land to settle and grow wheat crops and other produce to supply and feed the country. In the immediate area, mining, horse trading, logging and ranching were the beginning of the influx of people. Mining camps were followed by squatters settling and land was granted for homesteads. This was the way of life for the early settlers in the Wasa Lake, TaTa Creek, Skookumchuck and Canal Flats area.
Canal Flats is located on Highway 93/95, where the Lussier and Skookumchuck Rivers join the Kootenay River. Canal Flats is 30 km (18.5 mi) north of Wasa.
The Skookumchuck Service Centre has long been popular as a stopping ground for travelers moving between the Columbia Valley and Cranbrook, with a coffee shop, gas station and a scenic picnic area with a host of friendly ducks waiting to be fed.
This day-use park is popular with swimmers, boaters and windsurfers. Great views of the Rocky Mountains and Columbia Lake. Just north of Skookumchuck, on the east side of Columbia Lake.
A family vacation destination since the 1950's, Wasa Lake village advertises the warmest swimming lake in the Kootenays. Wasa Lake Park offers camping, swimming, hiking, cycling, boating and nature viewing opportunities. There is an 8 km wheelchair and bike accessible trail around the lakeshore and a 2.7 km self-guided interpretation trail. World class attractions such as Fort Steele Heritage town, guest ranches, ski hills and golf courses are nearby. In addition to being a popular recreation spot, the park protects a representative grassland ecosystem. It includes a portion of North America's most northern ponderosa pine forest set amid blue bunch wheatgrass meadows that provide habitat for a wide diversity of animals and plants.
Many archaeological sites are located here, in what was once the traditional home of the Upper Kootenay First Nation. Forest cover is mostly spruce, pine, and some fir, and most of the plateau is carpeted with alpine flowers. Small populations of large mammals inhabit the park, and an abundance of birds live around Fish Lake. This lake is noted for its cutthroat trout and dolly Varden fishery, but you must have a valid BC fishing licence and a copy of the park's fishing regulations before casting a line.
Nestled against the west slopes of the Rocky Mountains, Premier Lake is one of the key recreational fishing lakes in the East Kootenay. The emerald green lakes of Premier and four smaller lakes, Canuck, Yankee, Cats Eye and Quartz offer a unique and varied fishing experience in a secluded and pleasant park atmosphere. The area is rich in wildlife. Premier Ridge, west of the lake, is an important wintering range for elk, whitetail and mule deer, and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Forests of Douglas fir and western larch are common in the park. Osprey, eagle, heron, king fisher, numerous forest birds and water fowl can also be seen. Premier Lake Park is situated 72 km north of Cranbrook.
Abundant fish populations within the Whiteswan and Alces lakes led to the establishment of this semi-wilderness park. Both lakes are managed for high-yield fisheries. Rainbow trout have been stocked in the lakes since 1961, with annual releases of about 30,000 fingerlings. Steps taken to make the fishery self-supporting include improvements to the spawning channel, prohibiting motorboats on Alces Lake, and restricting angling to fly-fishing only. During May and June, spawning rainbow trout can be seen in Inlet and Outlet Creeks, and in the channel between the lakes. Recreational activities include swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and hiking. A boat launch is also available.