Because Castlegar is located at the confluence of two major rivers, the Kootenay and the Columbia, there is no shortage of amazing paddling opportunities for water lovers. Plus there are three major lakes and innumerable smaller ones all nearby. Whether you like cruising flat water in a canoe or on a stand up paddleboard or prefer playing in whitewater rapids in a kayak or raft, there is something for everyone. And the best part about paddling in Castlegar is you can do it right in the heart of the city! The Columbia River flows its way past the downtown core and one of the best places to access it is Millenium Park where small boats can easily be launched from the beach. Before embarking on any paddling trip in or around Castlegar, please visit our Paddling Safety Guidelines page.
Flat Water Paddling
Immediately north-west of downtown Castlegar is the Arrow Lakes system, which is divided into South Arrow and North Arrow. Together they offer no less than 230 kilometres of paddling opportunity! These bodies of water have a fascinating history as they were originally two lakes, 22 kilometres apart, until the construction of the Keenleyside Dam in the 1960s. By damming the Lower Arrow Lake, water levels rose an astounding 12 metres and today the whole lake system is easily accessible. Other popular lake paddles that are easy to access via car from Castlegar include Kootenay Lake and Slocan Lake. The latter backs onto the Valhalla Provincial Park and offers beautiful views of mountains and glaciers, while Kootenay Lake is one of the largest in the province. Please note that the wind can blow up suddenly on all these bodies of water, most especially Kootenay Lake, and so caution should be applied if paddling across them. There are also many smaller For something a little smaller, there are many lakes to choose from in the region including Nancy Green Lake, located just west of the city on Highway 3, and Champion Lakes, south of the city.
As mentioned above Castlegar’s closest river paddling is right in the heart of the city. Millenium Park offers easy access to the Columbia River and, in the summer months the current is negligible so it’s fun for the whole family to paddle around the sandy beaches here. Popular sites to see while paddling the Columbia near Millenium Park is the Blue Heron reserve near Waldie Island and Zuckerberg Island Park. The Kootenay River also falls within city limits and can be accessed from Millenium Park. (It’s important to note there are actually two Kootenay Rivers in southern British Columbia: one flows past Castlegar and the other flows out of the south end of Kootenay Lake near Creston.) There are many dam sites on both the Columbia and the Kootenay so be sure to research your paddling route if you plan on going any distance on either of these bodies of water. Another popular river is the Slocan, which flows out of the south end of Slocan Lake, mentioned above. The Slocan River has plenty of easy put ins and a favourite daytime activity is to following the Slocan Float route from Pass Creek to Crescent Beach. Note that there are the occasional rapids on the Slocan but even during Spring run-off none get larger than Class III. However, experience reading water is an asset and its important to stay clear of the sweeper trees.
There are a lot of fun excursions around Castlegar for intermediate and expert-level paddlers who enjoy whitewater. For example, when the conditions are right (usually during Spring run-off) there is a standing wave near the Brilliant Bridge near downtown that can easily be accessed by paddling from Millenium Park. There’s another standing wave in Trail called the “Industrial Hole” that can be accessed by driving south on Highway 22. It’s on the Columbia River at Rock Island, about 400 metres west of the turnoff to the mall. Park in the turn out or take the dirt turn off towards the river at the bottom of the large hill. Other fun whitewater can be found on the Slocan River between Slocan and Crescent Valley. In the late summer this tends to be a mellow stretch of water but in the Spring there are some really fun Class II rapids. It’s an 80-kilometre trip and will take about a day but to shorten it you can access the river at any of the bridges along Highway 6. Follow directions as for the Slocan River Float. South of Crescent Valley, near the confluence of the Slocan and Kootenay Rivers, is a popular Class III play spot for kayakers. Paddlers can put in at Crescent Valley and take out at Shoreacres. For more information regarding paddling adventures in the Slocan, contact Endless Adventures or Nelson Whitewater Rafting.