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April 30, 2024

Kootenay Fun Facts

Known as BC’s Mountain Playground (in the southeast corner of British Columbia) we are renowned for natural, clean, uncrowded activities and experiences that reflect the Kootenay Rockies distinctive mountain lifestyle. Each of the communities offers their own eccentric vibe and fascinating history. 


It is no surprise that the ‘Ktunaxa Creation Story’ of how the Kootenays came to be is as exciting and vibrant as the land itself. The ‘Ktunaxa Creation Story‘ helps us understand that all these places we see labelled on maps had names long before Europeans arrived with their pens and paper. Nasu?kin (Chief) Joe Pierre is one of the best people to share the ‘Ktunaxa Creation Story‘, and you can find several recorded versions of this online, or a written version

Map Produced by the Ktunaxa Nation Council

Below are ‘fun facts’ that you may not know about each of our mountain communities:


~ The Castlegar SculptureWalk is the ‘Sculpture Capital of Canada’.

Sculpturewalk is an outdoor exhibit of original sculptures by local and international artists – a walking tour in downtown Castlegar.

Castlegar SculptureWalk; photo by Mitch Winton


~ Receives more sunshine that anywhere else in British Columbia.

Environment Canada reports Cranbrook as British Columbia’s sunniest city. Receiving on average 2,229 hours (that’s over 182 days worth) of sunshine annually, the blue bird days in Cranbrook are abundant.


~ This community is always on Mountain Standard Time (they do not observe Daylight Saving Time)
~ Home to two still-standing, original Grain Elevators in Canada (one has been recently renovated; with future renovation plans for the second one)
~ There are five wineries: Baillie-Grohman EstateRed Bird EstateSkimmerhorn Estate, William Tell Family Estate and Wynnwood Cellars Estate

In 1864, mountain men and prospectors following the Dewdney Trail and discovered the beautiful Creston Valley.

Red Bird Estate Winery; photo by Mitch Winton


~ The largest and oldest community in the Elk Valley.
~ Learn about the Legend of the Griz, a big mountain man who brings lots of snow/powder to the mountain peaks that surround Fernie.

Fernie is named after William Fernie who, alongside Colonel James Baker, was the driving force behind the coal mines located here (1887). With the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railroad in Fernie in 1898, the production of coal in the Elk Valley began in earnest and the new town of Fernie took shape opposite the CPR tracks, to the north of the original settlement.

Downtown Fernie in Winter; photo by Henry Georgi


~ The Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge is Canada’s longest authentic freestanding covered timber frame bridge.

Golden has its roots in Canada’s pioneer days of mountain tourism. Many families in Golden are descended from the Swiss Guides; mountaineers, skiers and alpine hikers brought from Switzerland by CP Rail, who brought their alpine expertise to help connect the first tourists to the mountains and wilderness landscape surrounding Golden. Golden, BC is surrounded by six of Canada’s most stunning national parks; Yoho, Glacier, Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Mount Revelstoke.


~ Gray Creek is famous for its lost gold boulder in the bay – lost in 1892.

Stretching for approximately 6-km along the shoreline and encompassing a wide mountain bench which attracted early orchardists and settlers, Gray Creek is home to Kootenay Lake’s oldest general store – the Gray Creek Store, (started in 1913).

Local legend ‘Tom Lymbery of Gray Creek Store‘ has written historical books for the area. An engaging and in depth look at the early days of settlement in Gray Creek by a man who grew up in it.


~ Lake Windermere is one of the warmest lakes in the region
~ During the winter months, Lake Windermere has the longest skating path (34-km) in the world, known as The Whiteway.

David Thompson and Charlotte Small arrived in this valley July 18, 1807. Follow the Thompson’s Trail. Visit the place he first chose to build a warehouse on the edge of Lake Windermere. Then visit the site of Kootenae House, the first trading post on the Columbia River where Thompson began a successful ‘commerce’ with the people of the First Nations.

The Whiteway on Lake Windermere; photo by Mitch Winton


~ Home to the SS Moyie, the oldest intact passenger sternwheeler in the world.

This mountain village is right on the shore of Kootenay Lake. Nestled in a lush valley, and surrounded by the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains, this charming place is home to only 1,000 residents.

SS Moyie on the shoreline of Kootenay Lake in Kaslo; photo by Field & Forest


~ The Kimberley Nature Park is one of Canada’s largest municipal parks.
~ Home to the largest cuckoo clock in Canada; and Happy Hans our community mascot.

From 1917 to 2001 Kimberley’s Sullivan Mine was the leading producer of lead and zinc in the world. In the late 1970s, confronting the inevitable conclusion that its mineral resources could end – the community embarked on an ambitious theme of a downtown renewal and for a time it was known as the Bavarian City of the Rockies, home to Happy Hans. Today, the community has moved away from the Bavarian theme and has increased their abundance of outdoor experiences available to residents and visitors. And, from time-to-time you’ll see Happy Hans’ smiling face at a community festival or event.


~ Home to 6 natural resort hot springs: Ainsworth, Canyon, Fairmont Hot Springs, Halcyon, Nakusp and Radium Hot Springs.

Your trip is incomplete without a visit to at least one of the Kootenay hot springs along your route! 

Halcyon Hot Springs Resort near Nakusp, BC; photo by Mitch Winton


~ It is known as the Number #1 Small Arts Town in Canada.
~ Nelson hosts the International Mural Festival in mid August – street artists, muralists, creators, and art enthusiasts joining the festival from the local, national, and international art scene.
~ The Diefenbunker is one of 50 atomic bomb shelters built in Canada between 1959-61, Nelson’s bomb shelter is in the basement of the Grey Building.

In 1826, William Kittson of the Hudson’s Bay Company recorded the first journey down Kootenay Lake’s west arm to the Columbia River. He was followed by Captain Palliser in 1858 and Edgar Dewdney in 1865.

Nelson’s Murals; photo by Mitch Winton


~ Home to the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre . It is a National Historic site dedicated to telling the story of over 22,000 Japanese Canadians who were relocated during World War II.

Founded in 1892 and incorporated in 1929, the Village has a dynamic history, including a mining boom in its founding days, a Japanese Canadian internment camp in the 1940s, and a residential facility for Doukhobor children in the 1950s. Following mining and forestry economic ups and downs, the village is now a small, vibrant community with a diverse population.

Photo courtesy of Nikkei Memorial Internment Centre, Commemorative Garden


~ Home of the Largest Paddle in the World.

World’s Largest Paddle, south of Golden BC; photo by Mark Teasdale


~ BC’s Powder Highways offers winter/ski experiences from over 100 operators, made up of alpine resorts, backcountry guides, backcountry huts, backcountry lodges, cat-ski operators, community ski hills, heli-ski operators and 16 Nordic ski clubs.

RED Mountain Resort in Rossland, BC; photo by Mitch Winton


~ The first recorded visit to the hot springs was by Sir George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1841.

The iron-rich cliffs in the south end of Kootenay National Park are known as the ‘Iron Gates’ (Sinclair Canyon) – they were formed by intense heat and pressure as the Canadian Rockies were being built. Located in the UNESCO Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site and open year-round, the spacious family-friendly hot springs facility welcomes visitors from around the world. The naturally heated mineral water is usually 39°C (102F).

Radium Hot Springs pools in Kootenay National Park; photo by Kari Medig


~ Chic Scott was one of the first to complete the Bugaboo to Rogers Pass, in Glacier National Park, winter ski traverse.


~ West of Revelstoke is BC’s Tallest Treehouse at the Enchanted Forest.

Founded in 1880 as a transportation and supply centre for the mining rush – this was bolstered by the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885 (connecting the west to the east at Craigellachie). The history of the Canadian Pacific Railway through the Mountains of Western Canada is one about great changes in geography, industry and the movement of people, playing a pivotal role in the creation of Canada as a nation. The Revelstoke Railway Museum plays a valuable and essential role in collecting, preserving and interpreting this history.

Enchanted Forest’s Treehouse; photo by David Gluns


~ The Seven Summits Trail is one of the most sought-after cross-country/all-mountain rides in North America and was awarded an International Mountain Biking Association Epic Ride Status.

Gold was discovered on Red Mountain in 1887, and a settlement grew up there. The town site and surrounding area were acquired in 1892 by a prospector, Ross Thompson, after whom the town was named Thompson; it was renamed Rossland in 1894. Between 1890 and 1916 Rossland was a booming gold-mining town.

KC Summit, overlooking Rossland; photo by Mitch Winton


~ It is home to the largest Penny in the World (2.4-metres/8 feet).
~ The Shambhala Music Festival is Canada’s premiere electronic music and arts festival.


~ Today a heritage ghost town, Sandon was once the capital of the Silvery Slocan in the 1890s when Canada’s richest silver mining community grew to a population of 5,000.

Ghost town of Sandon (near New Denver, BC); photo by Field & Forest


~ Home to the ultimate monster truck, the Terex Titan is the World’s largest tandem axle dump truck, 2 greyhound busses and 2 pickup trucks can fit into the box.

Be sure to stop at each community’s Visitor Centres – to get more information on what to do and see while visiting.


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