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Home / Kootenay Rockies / The Arrow Lakes and Silvery Slocan

The Arrow Lakes and Silvery Slocan

Bike_Riding_SlocanThe Arrow Lakes and Silvery Slocan sub region is today, home to tranquil valleys that are remote and sparsely populated. View Map of RegionThis was not always the case. In the late 1800s prospectors flocked here from all over North America in search of rich mining claims. Only a few made fortunes where 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.

Kokanee_Salmon_SpawningThe 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. The lakes large are teeming with rainbow and cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden, and kokanee.

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 here were worked until high production costs and low ore prices ended the boom. Rail lines from the north and south connected with steamboats on 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.

Slocan on Highway 6, claims to be the smallest city in the British Commonwealth with some 363 inhabitants (2001), and perhaps the smallest incorporated city in the world. Slocan is located at the extreme south end of Slocan Lake in the Slocan Valley. Slocan City, as the town was previously called, was a booming mining town back in the 1890s, when silver was discovered at Sandon. The town was once the end of the line for railway travellers into the valley, and served as a freight and passenger depot for sternwheelers heading up the Slocan Valley. Today, Slocan serves as an excellent base for outdoor adventure seekers wishing to explore the mountains, parks, lakes, rivers and streams in the area.

Valhalla Park a favoured 49,600 hectare wilderness area, is right on Slocan's doorstep. It runs 30 km (18 mi) along the west shore of the Slocan Lake and most of the Valhalla range of the Selkirk Mountains. In the northwest, the New Denver Glacier at 2,758 m (8,963 ft) in elevation dominates the landscape while the block shaped Devil's Couch at 2,667 m (8,668 ft) and Hela Peak at 2,717 m (8,830 ft) define the central area. Numerous cirque basins, several larger deep lakes and chains of smaller lakes surround the ridges. Cascades and waterfalls are common on almost every creek. The shoreline of Slocan Lake is for the most part a rugged combination of bluffs and large rocks interspersed with beautifully isolated pebble and sand beaches. Pictographs on the rock bluffs overhanging Slocan Lake are reminders of former First Nations inhabitants, while overgrown trails and logging flumes mark the passing of the local mining boom which brought European pioneers to this area a century ago.

Heading north 27 km (17 mi) on Highway 6 from Slocan is the community of Silverton. The region was first settled in 1892 by miners working the south face of Idaho Mountain, extracting the rich deposits of lead and silver. The area was first inhabited by the Kootenai and Salish First Nations, whose pictographs can still be seen along the shores of Slocan Lake. Silverton Gallery and Mining Museum is a must-see, featuring an outdoor museum of mining equipment from the local mines at the turn of the twentieth century. The art gallery displays the works of the local artists, and is also a theatre where performances are regularly scheduled year-round.

Idaho_Peak_near_New_DenverNorth another 8km (5mi) on Highway 6 is New Denver. Founded in 1892 on the shores of Slocan Lake, the Village of New Denver saw its first houses built by the mining prospectors. These mining pioneers were followed by merchants and businessmen, who built stores and hotels, and the village prospered. New Denver soon became the hub of government services in the Slocan Valley. The former mining town is now noted mainly for its spectacular location on Slocan Lake, with the peaks of the Valhalla Mountains rising more than 2,100 m (6,825 ft) on the opposite shore. During World War 2, New Denver was the site of an internment camp that housed some 2,000 Japanese-Canadians displaced from their West Coast homes.

The ghost town of Sandon, 8km (5mi) east of New Denver on Highway 31A, was in the 1890s known as Monte Carlo of North America. Famed for its unbelievably rich deposits of silver-lead ore following the 1891 discovery of silver by Eli Carpenter and Jack Seaton, thousands of men soon filled the small valley almost to bursting. In its heyday, Sandon had a population of over 5,000 and boasted numerous hotels and saloons, three breweries, bordellos, schools and churches. Sandon was abandoned in the forties when the mines ran out and was severely damaged in a flood in the 1950s. But since the 1970's a group of dedicated volunteers has worked on-site to preserve and restore artifacts and buildings such as the beautiful Slocan Mercantile Block, which now houses the Sandon Historical Society Museum and Visitor's Centre. Today, Sandon draws thousands of visitors a year to enjoy its many attractions and its amazing display of authentic British Columbia history.

Nakusp48 km (29 mi) northwest of New Denver along Highway 6 in a picturesque setting at the foot of the Selkirk Mountains, on the east shore of the Arrow Lakes, is the village of Nakusp. Like so many other communities in this sub region Nakusp was first established during the mining boom in the Slocan Valley at the turn of the twentieth century. Ringed by the Selkirk Mountains to the east, the Valhallas to the south and the Monashee Mountains to the west, Nakusp offers two hot springs and a host of outdoor recreational opportunities.

The Nakusp Hot Springs invite visitors to relax in their soothing waters. Pools are naturally heated and range in temperature from 38°C/100° F to 41°Celsius/106°F. Chalets and campsites make the location a cozy mountain retreat all year long.
Heli-skiing based out of Nakusp serves up some of the best snow and finest ski terrain in British Columbia. Cross-country ski trails in the winter and backcountry hiking in the summer provide pleasant pastimes.

Situated just 10km (6 mi) south of Nakusp on Highway 6 heading towards the Lower Arrows ferry terminal is McDonald Creek Park, one of a system of four provincial parks on the Arrow Lake reservoir. With facilities on the eastern shoreline, the park is a holiday destination for swimming, boating and fishing opportunities.

Fall-Scene_near_FauquierDriving along Highway 6 between Nakusp and Fauquier the traveler will notice many osprey nests perched on the tops of power poles which parallel the highway. The ospreys return to the nests every spring to raise their young and spend the summer and fall feeding on fish from the lake. The little community of Fauquier, which is pronounced "Folkier or Folkyeah", has a population of 159. It is here that the traveler picks up the free cable ferry which crosses Lower Arrow Lake and joins Highway 6 to the Okanagan, On the opposite bank of the crossing is Needles a ferry landing and nothing more.

Heading north from Nakusp on Highway 23 towards Revelstoke is Halcyon Hot Springs. The natural hot springs found at Halcyon have made this spot overlooking Upper Arrow Lake a popular destination. Development has been entirely based around the hot springs, with two commercial resorts, a few individual rental cabins and many private cabins. 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 at is the Needles Ferry that connects Highway 6.

Past the ferry crossing and 25 km (15 mi) south of Revelstoke on Highway 23 is Blanket Creek Park and where Blanket Creek flows into the Columbia River just north of the Upper Arrow Lake. Popular with local residents, this park was originally a farm and has now been developed to provide recreational opportunities. With its warm man-made swimming lagoon, adventure playground, historic homestead site and easy access to scenic Sutherland Falls, this park offers enjoyment for the entire family.

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