Hidden Gems Found only in the Kootenays

Hidden Gems Found only in the Kootenays

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Only in the Kootenays will you find some of the most unique, historic, cultural and quirky attractions found in the world!  These fascinating gems hold the key to our memorable past and the character of our remarkable communities.  Come discover some of our unusual interests found in the ‘Kootenays’.

The hot springs originate around the Cody Caves above and to the east of Ainsworth Hot Springs. The water works its way down through fractures in the rock, increasing in temperature at a rate of 40C per km until it his a lakeshore fault – a rock layer on a 45-degree angle.  This hot springs feature a unique horseshoe cave with falling mineral waters that form into a pool, providing a natural steam bath.

Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort, horseshoe-shaped caves, photo by Don Weixl

The two 'grain elevators' alongside Highway 3 in Creston are a very few in Canada that are still standing and have survived!  The grain elevators were built in 1935 and 1936, with the red one being the first. They were built to accommodate the wheat and grain crops expected from the Creston flats once they were reclaimed, a project also took place in 1935. Farmers sold their grain to the elevator, which then distributed it to markets in other parts of the country and to destinations around the world.

Celebrating over 45 years, the Doukhobor Discover Centre in Castlegar is a rare heritage attraction nestled at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers. This museum, on traditional Doukhobor orchard land, will introduce you to the unique skills, beliefs, culture and lifestyle of the Doukhobors as lived circa 1908-1939.  This complete communal village offers videos, thousands of artifacts, communal house with petch (over), the banya (sauna), linen textiles and other crafts.

This unusual roadside attraction was built from over half a million discarded embalming fluid bottles. In 1952, David H. Brown retired from 35 years in the funeral business. It occurred to Brown that there should be some practical use to put the bottles to. The Glass House, in Sanca, is built in a cloverleaf patter with three main rooms, circular shape, 48 feet in length, 24 feet wide and with the upstairs room, it contains 1,200 sq. ft. of floor space. Over 320 doze flowers border pathways and entice visitors from the terrace over a bridge also built of glass bottles. A winding path beneath the bridge leads to a rocky lakeshore and a lookout called the ‘lighthouse’ offers spectacular views of Kootenay Lake.

The Glass House along the East Shore of Kootenay Lake, photo by Don Weixl

The small settlement of Craigellachie is a historic site, famous for the point where the last spike on Canada’s first trans-continental railway was driven joining the western part of the Canadian Pacific Railway, built from the Pacific, to the segment built from the east. Donald Smith, Lord Strathcona, a director of the CPR drove the last spike on November 7, 1885. The town is named for a prominent crag in Morayshire, Scotland. A plaque and display commemorates the driving of the last spike to complete Canada’s transcontinental railroad located on the south side of the TransCanada Highway (west of Revelstoke).

During World War II, over 20,000 Japanese Canadians were forcibly relocated from the coast to remove internment camps. The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre is located on the side of one of ten such camps in the Slocan Valley (near New Denver) and is dedicated to the preservation of the physical history and personal memories of Japanese Canadian internees. It is the only interpretive site of its kind in Canada and contains original internment shacks and a large hand carved Buddhist shrine that was built by a temple carpenter during the war. A beautiful commemorative garden has been created by master gardener and former internee Mr. Roy Sumi.

Castlegar’s Sculpturewalk features sculptures by local and international talented artists, located on a pleasant walking tour. Visitors can vote for their favourite piece via ballot, the winner of the People’s Choice Award is purchased by the city for their permanent collection.

Castlegar's Sculpture Walk - Lighthouse Fireball by Eva Asplin, photo by Adrian Wagner 

Step back in time aboard the oldest sternwheeler in the world! The SS Moyie, in Kaslo, is the oldest surviving intact vessel of her type in the world. Berthed at the edge of Kootenay Lake, the sternwheeler rests permanently in her former port of call. Owned and operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway, the SS Moyie plied the waters of Kootenay Lake for nearly 60 years.  Launched in 1898 to provide connecting service to Nelson from CPR’s Crowsnest pass line from the east, the Moyie remained a fixture on Kootenay Lake until 1957.

SS Moyie on Kootenay Lake in Kaslo, BC; photo by Andrew Penner

Enjoy the spectacular views and hear the fascinating history of the “Great Sullivan Mine” on Kimberley’s Underground Mining Railway in Kimberley. The rail links the downtown with the site of the old Sullivan Mine surface facilities and recent reclamation activities and continues its route shuttling riders to the base of the Kimberley Alpine Resort.

Fall into the past, relive the memories and enjoy the folklore of the island by going through the Chapel House in Castlegar. The Island park will take you back several thousand years to when the Lakes Salish people first fished and build their winter pit-house; when explorer David Thompson sailed down the Columbia River over 200 years ago and when Alexander Zuckerberg built his unique Russian Orthodox Chapel House. Alexander Zuckerberg, a great Russian writer, humanitarian and pacifist, came to Canada to teach Doukhobor children. Shortly afterwards he settle on the island (later named Zuckerberg Island Heritage Park) and began building the Chapel House. Zuckerberg was as unique as his work and is greatly admired to this day by many people.

Castlegar's Zuckerberg Island Chapel House, photo by David Gluns

Honourable mentions (for other unique attractions are):
Fairmont Hot Springs - Funtastia Fun Park where all their lamas have unique hair cuts (i.e. mohawks)
Parson - World's Largest Paddle at Columbia Outpost Adventures
Nelson - Heritage buildings and is "#1 Small Town Arts Community in Canada"
Radium Hot Springs - Rolf the Woodcarver 
Revelstoke - The Enchanted Forest (350 hand-crafted ferry tale figurines & BC's tallest treehouse)
Sparwood - Terex Titan: The World's Largest haul truck
Yahk - Yahk Soap & Candle Company go and see their goats on their roof 

 


Story by a KootRocks Staffer, top/cover photo by Phil Best of the SS Moyie in Kaslo.

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Tags: Columbia Mountains Explore Canada ExploreBC The Kootenays

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