The shores of the Arrow Lakes hold some of the most wonderful secrets-hidden swimming holes, bountiful fishing spots and even the region’s largest natural arch.
Most of these hidden or lesser known places are only accessible by water up and down the Arrow Lakes, so that’s how I found myself travelling the dusty winding Deer Park FSR with Endless Adventure our trip for the day? To paddle across the lake by kayak and then hike the trail up to the Renata Natural Arch.
High above the calm waters of the lake, winding our way 38-km northwest of Castlegar BC, my guides and owners of Endless Adventure Andrea and her husband Chris pointed out waterfalls on our drive to the rural community of Deer Park, where we’d begin our trip across the lake. This would be my first time kayaking, and Chris and Andrea put my nervousness at ease, going over the equipment, how to use it, and doing a safety demonstration.
From there we pushed off into the cool waters of Arrow Lakes, setting off on the days adventure under a clear sky, and paddling through water as still and reflective as glass. As we paddled closer to the mountains across the lake, Chris pointed out the arch high on the mountainside, it would be easy to pass by if you didn’t know that it was there, partially hidden by the forest around it.
Once we crossed the lake and pulled our kayaks up onto the beach, the sun sat high in the sky, which meant it was time to take advantage of all the water around us. After a quick dip in the lake to cool off, and a lunch along the shore, we headed off on the hike up to the arch. A quick look in the Rec sites log book told us that we were only the third group to be heading up the trail this season.
Switchbacks gently took us up above the lake, we occasionally stopped to catch our breath and look out at the view. It wasn’t long before we reached our destination, the closed in trees gave way, and we emerged through the forest where I got my first close-up glimpse at the Arch.
I’ve spent countless hours, days and months exploring the Kootenays, but never have I seen a view as breathtaking as this.
Spanning 45-metres (148 ft.) across, and 34-metres (112 ft.) in height, the Natural Arch rises up on the mountainside. Seeing the arch from the lake, far down below doesn’t do it justice. We spent some time exploring underneath, and hiking up behind it to look out at the view beyond of the Norns Range carefully framed by rock. A small pool of water and a gurgling brook trickles down the mountainside underneath the apex of the arch, hinting at its geological formation.
When it was time to begin the trek back down, I stayed behind on my own for a few brief minutes, attempting to accurately capture the grandeur of the space. I then packed my camera away, and took a moment to listen to the gentle breeze blowing under the arch, and the sounds of the small stream. It was hard to turn around and leave, I could have stayed there for hours watching the clouds pass through its natural picture frame.
We ended off the day with another quick dip in the lake, and then begun our paddle back across the Arrow with one last passing glance towards that geological marvel hidden along the mountainside.
Words and photos by Ashley Voykin.
Ashley Voykin is a landscape and outdoor adventure photographer in the West Kootenays. Her work focuses on big mountains, small towns and exploring those spaces. Committed to capturing local landscapes in a new way, she can often be found chasing Northern Lights late into the night and finding new views of endless lakes and mountains around the Kootenays.