Premier Lake Provincial Park, Skookumchuk, Photo Destination BC Kari Medig
Skookumchuck is located in the Canadian Rockies in one of North America’s truly unique features – the Rocky Mountain Trench. There are several parks in the area including: Columbia Lake Provincial Park which includes Tilley Memorial Park is popular with swimmers, boaters and windsurfers. Wasa Lake Provincial Park, just south of Skookumchuck offers swimming, hiking, cycling, boating and nature viewing. Northwest is Premier Lake Provincial Park, nestled against the west slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Premier Lake is one of the key recreational fishing lakes in the East Kootenays. 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 also rich in wildlife.
Skookumchuck is located on Hwy 93/95, where the Lussier and Skookumchuck Rivers join the Kootenay River. It is 54 km (33.5 mi) north of Cranbrook, 80 km (50 mi) south of Invermere. Other communities in the area include: Kimberley, Fort Steele and Fairmont Hot Springs.
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.