Trekking Tales: Into the West Kootenays – part 1

On our April trip to the Kootenays, we encountered an abundance of beautiful sights

Try going from Point A to almost any other point in our province without seeing wonderful waterways. While it might be possible, it would certainly be a challenge.

On our April trip to the Kootenays, we encountered an abundance of beautiful sights, not only the rivers and lakes, but also significant changes from winter to spring. Rivers and streams varied between trickles and signs of rapidly rising torrents. Tulips and daffodils greeted us in the towns, Creston adding flowering fruits trees. On the Rogers Pass between Golden and Revelstoke, huge windrows of snow bordered Highway 1. Scary-looking remnants of recent avalanches, just beyond the car’s windows, provided a vivid contrast with burgeoning new leaves and multiple greens elsewhere.

We had left the North Thompson River south of Barriere, and counted herds of well-fed deer in the fields as we drove towards Adams Lake. Soon following Adams River, famous for its abundance of spawning salmon in the fall, we saw where it opened into ice-free Shuswap Lake. Draining that lake, so popular for houseboat excursions, is the South Thompson River, which we crossed beside Squilax on the Trans Canada Highway. Turning east we skirted the lake past Salmon Arm, Sicamous, and beyond. The smaller lakes of Eagle Pass were still frozen. Instead of crossing the Columbia River at Revelstoke, we turned south and drove along beside it. The power-producing Mica and Revelstoke dams upstream have reduced it to a shadow of its former self. Reaching Upper Arrow Lake, we joined the line of cars (almost all with doggie companions) and trucks waiting at Shelter Bay to board the ferry that would take us across it.

Leaving this lake behind us at Nakusp, we traversed up to icy Summit Lake, its ski hill just closed for the season, and then down to Slocan Lake. Briefly enjoying spring flowers in New Denver, we were soon at the top of the next pass in the Selkirk Mountains, where broken trees and shrubs were twisted within the remains of an avalanche beside us. Now on the “old home” stretch, we followed Kaslo River down to Kootenay Lake. Here, where we had lived and worked for 25 years, we joined our friends in their homes and activities. Oh yes, several of our favourite doggies greeted us too, having no trouble persuading me to go walking – anywhere is fine. Water was part of the picture everywhere we went. Friends took me to well-loved places like plummeting Fletcher Falls where droplets of spraying water glistened in the sun’s rays, and beside and over Kaslo River on a fabulous purple footbridge built with love and community donations. After crossing Kootenay Lake in their small boat, we reached the charming home of intrepid friends. This tiny community has boat access only, unless you count hiking in on a well-used trail for two or three hours. Every place we stayed had a “million dollar” view.


Eventually tearing ourselves away from these much-loved people with whom we’d shared both a life well-lived and a “big” birthday, we drove south beside Kootenay Lake. This spectacular lake lies between the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains. Rivers feed it at both the north and south ends; it drains out through the appropriately named West Arm. At Nelson’s orange bridge, where the current is significant, the Kootenay River becomes evident once again. We weren’t going that way. Balfour was our last stop in the West Kootenays for this trip. Our sights were set on the East Kootenays.