Dramatic Beauty of Arrow Lake


Launch: Nakusp Municipal Ramp, in downtown Nakusp. Or, one could launch at either friendly Syringa Park Marina or Syringa Provincial Park at the south end of the lake near Castlegar.

Nearby campsites: McDonald Creek Prov. Park is just south of Nakusp, and you can also camp at either Syringa Park Marina or Syringa Provincial Park.

Comments: The lake is 170 miles of beauty, but with few coves for anchoring in Lower Arrow Lake.


-----The Columbia River is unique. The drop from the lofty headwaters in the Rocky Mountain Trench of British Columbia to the sea is fast and continuous. Thus, it is the ideal river to develop hydropower. From the Trench to the top of the Arrow Lakes, the Columbia drops almost 1,100 feet - and most of that (950 feet) is through the dams at Kinbasket and Revelstoke. The Ohio / Mississippi River System is much longer, but our start down the Ohio was only about 725 feet above sea level New Orleans.

-----From the top of Arrow Lake, there are still 12 more downstream dams generating power and the biggest of all, Grand Coulee, is about 250 miles downstream - and it is still 1,290 feet above sea level. The last dam, Bonneville, is only 146 miles from the sea and the river is still 72 feet above sea level. In contrast, the last dam on the Mississippi is near St. Louis, over 800 river miles from the Gulf.

-----There was a natural pause in the pell-mell rush of the Columbia's waters to the sea. Before 1968, there were two long narrow lakes (Upper and Lower Arrow Lakes) separated by a 20-mile gentle stretch of faster water. Indians, fur traders, and voyageurs relaxed as they paddled through this 145-miles of easy water. For years, wood-burning sternwheelers plied these waters delivering people and goods between Castlegar and Revelstoke. In 1968, BC Hydro took the plural off the Arrow Lakes by building an 80-foot high dam five miles above Castlegar, BC. The dam drowned the gentle turbulence that separated the lakes. The rising water of Arrow Lake also drowned some of the finest fruit growing farms in British Columbia, and the towns that supported the farmers. The Kootenay country lifestyle was changed forever.

-----Arrow Lake is a 136-mile storage reservoir, with large fluctuations in water level depending upon power needs in the United States. The lake was down over 50 feet when we arrived at the town ramp at Nakusp. A dam-created lake is very different in its upper end from the lower reaches. At the very top end of the lake, there is an end of lake influence, beyond which there is the natural flow of the river. In the upper reaches, the lake is shallow with shorelines almost those of the river's original banks.

Almost the Original Banks - Upper Lake

-----The closer one approaches the dam, the deeper is the lake water, and generally the less the influence of tributary stream valleys. Banks near the dam aren't natural, and are often steep.

Steep, Unatural Banks - Lower Lake

-----Trailering Halcyon from the town of Revelstoke to Nakusp, we paralleled the former Upper Arrow Lake. With the lake level low, the Columbia River had re-established itself, wandering across broad mud flats that had formerly been orchards and farm land. At least the top 30 miles of the lake was criss-crossed with shoals and shallow channels. The Boaters' Guide warns, under an ominous title, Area South of Revelstoke is Critical, that "even at highest reservoir level this area, on both sides of the channel, is covered by only two to six feet of water." Almost down to the free ferry at Shelter Bay, it looked more like a canoe trip than a powerboat cruise. We decided to launch at Nakusp, at the bottom of the former Upper Arrow Lake and cruise southerly.

More Dangers

-----We launched just before sundown and cruised south into The Narrows, that was the former gentle rapid connecting the two lakes.


The Wooden Ramp at Nakusp---------------------T View Back to Town

-----It was apparent that logging was a key extractive industry. Clear cuts were evident on the ranges bounding the lake, yards for storing timber were managed by small work tows, and large towboats pulled huge rafts of timber to the mill at Castlegar.




Logging Slash - a Common Hazard - Replacing the Blade Lost to Slash


Arrow Park Ferry ---------------VDramatic Storm


-------------Dancing Stump -----V---------------Dawn Beauty of Scalping Knife Mountain


(08 - 04)

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