There’s no shortage of water to play on in Castlegar. Located at the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers, and at the base of the 232-kilometre-long Arrow Lakes system, the city offers unlimited water recreation from fishing and swimming to skating and paddling. If you’re partaking in the latter, please read the tips below for paddling safely because even on the flat, calm waters surrounding Castlegar, there are important safety precautions and regulations all paddlers should abide by. Firstly, Transport Canada mandates that all paddlers, whether in a canoe, raft, kayak or on a stand up paddleboard must have the following:

Going for a paddle? Be sure to pack the following:

  • Canadian-certified lifejacket. (A leash is not an alternative to a lifejacket and you will be fined for not wearing one.)
  • Buoyant heaving line that’s a minimum of 15 metres (50 feet) long
  • Whistle or another sound signally device

Water level fluctuation info to know before you go:

Every body of water around Castlegar is subject to level fluctuations caused by weather and seasonal influences. For example, Spring run off from the alpine snowpack (called “freshet”) will swell rivers and make them flow higher and faster. Likewise, heavy rains will have an impact. But by far the biggest factor that impacts water levels in the West Kootenay region on a day-to-day basis are the hydroelectric dams, operated by BC Hydro. The Columbia River, Kootenay River, and the Arrow Lakes are most prone to changes due to the dams and according to Chris Ryman, owner of Endless Adventure, there are trends that can be expected throughout the year. For example “every March the level of the Columbia River is intentionally kept low until the Kootenay River runs its course during freshet,” he says. The BC Hydro Meteorological Data website tracks water levels every 15 minutes at the Columbia/Birthbank station (between Castlegar and Trail) and the Slocan River near Crescent Valley. However, good gauges do not exist on the Kootenay River so there’s a lot of educated guesswork that needs to happen in order to understand what the paddling conditions are like there. The best bet is to speak with an expert such as Ryman to get a sense of water levels. He and the Endless Adventure staff can be reached at or 250-359-8181.

More safety tips to remember for your next paddling excursion

  • Always paddle with a friend
  • Tread lightly on the loose rocks, wear proper footwear
  • Pay close attention to water levels – they change quickly
  • Ask the locals paddlers about water levels or hazards
  • Know your gear
  • Know your skills
  • Stay away from logs and other debris
  • Bring water and a dry bag with a first aid kit, snack and a warm layer
  • Leave no trace

Popular Paddling Spots

We wrote an entire article about the most popular places to paddle around Castlegar and you can find that here: “Best Paddling In Castlegar.” The highlight, though, is that you can paddle 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 Millennium Park where small boats can easily be launched from the beach. Here are a few other locations:

  • Columbia River
  • Arrow Lakes
  • Slocan River
  • Brilliant Bridge
  • Slocan Lake