Lakes. Rivers. Creeks. Ponds. Standing Waves. Waterfalls. You name it — Castlegar has it. The city and surrounding area is a hot spot for kayakers because whatever your preference, there’s something for you here. Located at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers and near the shores of Arrow Lake, Castlegar offers every kind of flat-water paddling opportunity as well as fun rapids and waves for play boaters. The closest spot where families love to kayak is Millenium Park located right in the heart of the city. Boats can be launched from the beach here and there are safe natural swimming ponds in which to play in.
Before embarking on any kayaking trip in or around Castlegar, it’s important you have the right gear such as personal flotation device (PFD) and thermal clothing when the weather is cooler. Visit our Paddling Safety Guidelines page for more information about what to take on a kayaking excursion. To help us pinpoint the best kayaking spots in Castlegar, we spoke with Chris Ryman, co-owner of Endless Adventure, a local company that offers tours, lessons, equipment and more. Chris has been paddling in the region for 20 years and has a number of first descents under his sprayskirt, including the first run over the 72-foot-high Beaver Falls near Fruitvale. He says for whitewater kayaking, it’s recommended people wear a helmet, good footwear and a first aid kit and he also recommends checking water levels before you go. “The biggest thing is knowing where the local water levels are at,” he says, citing the fact the dams on the river regularly change the water flow. “A lot of travellers forget about that one.” Sources include paddlingmaps.com and the BC government water levels tool so you know how fast the water is flowing ahead of time. These are his picks for the best kayaking spots in Castlegar.
If you and your family are interested in paddling flat water on a lake, Chris’s first recommendation is the Arrow Lakes system, which is divided into North Arrow and South Arrow. The latter is closest to Castlegar and provides about a hundred kilometres of paddling opportunity. Chris says the best launching spots are the beaches at Syringa Provincial Park, located a short drive from downtown Castlegar on Broadwater Road, and, 15 kilometres past that, Deer Park. For other popoular lakes that are smaller, Chris suggests Champion Lakes, located south of the city, and Nancy Green Lake, located just west of the Castlegar on Highway 3.
There are both flat-water river kayaking opportunities in Castlegar as well as whitewater runs located nearby. For gentle paddles, look no further than the Columbia River and the Kootenay River, both of which are located near downtown and can be accessed from a number of locations including Millennium Park. Chris says it’s important to know what water levels are doing before you go as there could be a faster current than you’re expecting, though. Typically in the Spring hydroelectric dams open their gates so there’s more water rushing down the river. But throughout a large part of the year, these are fun, mellow paddles for kayaking families. For more exciting fare, Chris suggests the Slocan River, located north of the city. During spring run-off the section between Crescent Valley and Kootenay River offers rapids up to Class III. He also says the Salmo River, southeast of Castlegar, is fun and the Senango Canyon section is particularly exhilarating with one of the few Class IV rapids in the region.
Whitewater and Standing Wave Kayaking
If a playboating is more your style, there are a lot of different features around Castlegar to enjoy. As mentioned above, rapids form on the Salmo and Slocan rivers during Spring runoff and are fun to play in. Also, Chris recommends a standing wave near the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers by the Brilliant Bridge appropriately called the Brilliant Wave. Depending on water levels and flow, this wave ranges from a world-class expert feature to a small wave that people can learn on. “When the Columbia River is lower, the wave is usually flatter,” Chris says. There’s also a small retentive hydraulic in the Columbia River near Blueberry at the end of 105 Street. According to Chris, “It’s a fun one to practice aerial front flips and cartwheels.” Other features exist on the Columbia River at Rock Island, about 400 metres west of the turnoff to the Waneta mall, south of Castlegar. When the Columbia River is lowered by the dams, the Trail Wave and Hero Hole appear. Trail Wave ranges from an easier wave supporting up to five kayakers to a more steep hole with a foam pile. And Hero Hole is aptly named because it’s fun to practice tricks in.
For those more interested in running creeks, an expert-only variation of kayaking, Chris says there are many to choose from in the Slocan Valley, just north of Castlegar. They include Koch Creek, Lemon Creek and Wilson Creek near New Denver, “which is world class,” he says. In all those cases, you can drive a forest service road to the put-in. To purchase equipment related to flat-water kayaking, you can visit Canadian Tire in Castlegar or for rentals and whitewater-specific gear, go to Endless Adventure.