Posted by: cherylyoung | February 20, 2011

Columbia Lake lies squeezed between two walls of rock, the Purcell Mountains and the Rocky Mountains


Nestled in the southern end of the Columbia River Valley is the community of Canal Flats, located just off Highway

93/95 that links Cranbrook in the south of the valley

 with Golden, about 140 miles (239 km) to the north.


Canal Flats sits 1 kilometre from the southern end of

 the 16-kilometre long Columbia Lake, the source of

the Columbia River that flows north to Kinbasket Lake

 before turning south to finally empty into the Pacific

 Ocean at Astoria, Oregon, a journey of 1,225 miles

(1,960 kms).

Columbia Lake lies squeezed between two walls of

 rock; the Purcell Mountains to the west and the Rocky

 Mountains to the east.


In pre-Contact native America and the early years of

western exploration, the Kootenay Valley was a major

transportation corridor.


 Due to curiosity of geology, the headwaters of the vast

Columbia River are separated from the south-flowing

Kootenay River by a low, 1.2-mile wide (2-km) berm of

land called Canal Flats.


The Kootenay River then meanders down into the US

before flowing back north into Canada to join the

Columbia River at Castlegar, BC.


Canal Flats was originally named McGillivray’s Portage

 by David Thompson, who passed through the area in



Not far from the Canal Flats Provincial Park are the

remains of a canal, completed in 1889, which connected

Columbia Lake with the nearby Kootenay River, hence

the name Canal Flats given to the post office in 1913.

The canal was part of a scheme by English/Austrian

 entrepreneur William Adolph Baillie-Grohman in the

1880s to breach Canal Flats and divert water from the

 upper Kootenay River into the Columbia system,

thereby sufficiently lowering the level of Kootenay Lake

to reclaim the 48,000-acre rich alluvial plain in the

Creston area and open up a north-south navigational

system from Golden to Montana.


The scheme was abandoned under pressure from the

Canadian Pacific Railways, concerned about its

Columbia River Crossings, and from Settlers around

Golden who feared that their farmlands would be flooded.


Baillie-Grohman had to settle for building a canal and

lock system between the two rivers, completed

in 1889.

Only two ships ever passed through the canal; in 1895

 the vessel Gwendoline successfully navigated the

 canal from the Kootenay River to the Columbia River,

 followed in 1902 by the North Star.


The canal builder owned the first store and post office

in the community as well as the first steam sawmill in

the valley, the start of the lumber industry that has put

Canal Flats on the map.

Canal Flats is the gateway to several backcountry provincial

parks, including Whiteswan and Top of the World, and

is an entrance to the Kootenay River Road.

Location: Canal Flats is located just off Highway 93/95

at the southern end of Columbia Lake in the Kootenay

River Valley, between Skookumchuk and Fairmont Hot Springs




business card




  1. Reblogged this on Cheryl Young's Blog.

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