Location: Kootenay Lake area of SE British Columbia; north of Creston and east of Nelson. Hwy 3A to the east and Hwy 6 to the west are the BC portion of the 280-mile International Selkirk Loop that extends into Idaho and Washington, offering a complete “Two Nation Vacation.”
The communities, mountains, rivers and parks that surround Kootenay Lake make up a remarkable area. The lake and steep mountainsides kept the area difficult to access and relatively undeveloped until the last century, preserving its pristine state - not even the Salish or Ktunaxa aboriginal peoples who visited to fish and pick berries made permanent settlements here. Sternwheelers plied its waters until the 1950s, providing the main transportation to and from the communities along its shoreline. It wasn't until the 1960s that a paved road was built along its eastern shore, making this spectacular region easily accessible. The mountainsides are heavily forested with towering trees, a testament to the region’s Interior Rain Forest classification; driving north up the lake, pine forests give way to fir, hemlock and cedar stands. The lake itself is a treasure; it is one of the largest bodies of fresh water in southern British Columbia and is clean and clear enough to drink.
Cruising in a boat is possibly the best way to enjoy Kootenay Lake, which stretches approximately 120 km (90 miles) from north to south. From this unique perspective on the water you will enjoy the broad vistas of the surrounding mountain ranges, quiet hidden coves, vast sandy beaches, vibrant lakeside towns and some of the best Dolly Varden and rainbow trout fishing in North America. Kootenay Lake is home to the Gerrard rainbow trout, which feed on Kokanee salmon, a landlocked sockeye; they are the largest trout in the world with some specimens topping 35 pounds.
Kootenay Lake has several marine parks along its roadless western shoreline; Davis Creek/Lost Ledge, Drewy Point and Midge Creek/Campbell Bay Provincial Parks are accessible only by boat. The drive along Highway 3A, one of the most popular motorcycle routes in North America, affords many beautiful views as it winds its way north from the lovely agricultural jewel of Creston, between Kootenay Lake and the towering mountains which contain it. The road passes quaint towns, artisan workshops, galleries, beaches, golf courses, campgrounds and the "Glass House" - a house built entirely from embalming fluid bottles!
In Crawford Bay, visit the broom maker who fashions the brooms for Harry Potter movies, located across the road from a glass blower busy making gifts for his shop and a blacksmith’s forge where you may watch them working. The hill between Crawford Bay and Kootenay Bay offers the best view of Kokanee Glacier, a relic of the ice ages clinging to the 10,000-foot mountains. In Kootenay Bay a 35-minute free ferry ride transports visitors across Kootenay Lake to Ainsworth Hot Springs and points beyond - the longest free ferry in North America.
On the west shore, Balfour is the western terminus of the Kootenay Lake Ferry. The "North Kootenay Lake and Silvery Slocan Super Side Trip" passes north through the mining heritage towns of Ainsworth Hot Springs and Kaslo, flanked by massive glaciated mountains and endless forest in an area rich with Provincial Parks. Steeped in colorful history and fantastic natural beauty, Kootenay Lake is a recreational paradise.