Startlingly visible from anywhere on Nelsons lakefront is the distinctive, 600-metre-long, emergency orange cantilever bridge which has shifted Highway 3As traffic over the CP tracks and the West Arm of Kootenay Lake since it was officially opened on November 7th, 1957 by premier W.A.C. Bennett. The Bridge retired the cable ferry which had operated nearby since 1913. Upstream near the City-side bridgehead stands the district headquarters of the RCMP and some industrial buildings which serve as a reminder that this was for many years the site of the CPRs Fairview boatyards. The surrounding district is Fairview, formerly Bogustown, the terminus of the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway until 1900 when the CPR permitted N&FS/GN trains to run into Nelsons Station.
At the northern end of the Bridge, the 3A angles to the right in front of the Villa Motel and the North Shore Inn and, following a route that was pioneered as a waggon road in 1912 or 13, heads for Balfour, easterly 34 kilometres along the West Arms north shore. A few kilometres along is the arresting site of the wheelhouse and upper deck cabins of the old CPR lake steamer Nasookin, now high and dry at the head of a little bay and serving as someones unique abode.
Willow Point, Nine Mile Narrows and Crescent Bay are marked on some maps as settlements, but they are largely sites of Post Office super boxes for the storage of mail addressed to local residences which are beginning to colonize cul-de-sacs and crescents with urban overflow. Willow Bay got its start when Alexander B. Shannon pre-empted 160 acres on Duhamel Creek here on March 7, 1892. In the mid-90s the Oro Mining and Milling Company, Limited, sent manager Guillermo A. Farini to begin work on the Golden Wedge group of claims high in the Kokanee Range above. With its own 18,000-board-foot-per-day sawmill in the heights, Oro M&M cut lumber to house its 50 workers and a ten-stamp crushing mill that the company in 1898 hauled up the waggon it had built up Duhamel Creek. The Golden Wedge quickly played out.
At Crescent Bay, Big Lous Café fronts for the Crescent Beach RV Campground.
Passing pleasant cottages tucked into the cedars, the Highway humps along over the base of Mount Yuill, losing its shoulders periodically, posing perils for cyclists. The bridges are simple concrete slabs, most dating to 1955. Surrounding the mouth of Kokanee Creek, the enormous provincial campground entices travellers with its hot showers. Lands on the east side of the creek were pre-empted by Robert William Yuill on October 14th, 1889, and by Neil McLeod on the west side on March 26, 1892.
At the head of Kokanee Creek was the sky-high, on-again-off-again operation of P.W. George and Bruce Whites Molly Gibson Mining Company. In 1900 the outfit reported using an aerial tramway to swing 787 tons of silver ore down from the mine above the tree-line to Kittos Landing wharf on the Arm from which it was loaded onto barges bound for the smelter at Nelson. In the evening of December 25th, 1902, disaster overtook struck when an avalanche carried away the bunkhouse, killing nine workers. By 1911, writes Major Angus Ward Davis in The Kootenays in Retrospect (Kootenay Yesterdays, vol. 3, ed. Edwd. L. Affleck, The Alexander Nicolls Press, Vancouver, 1976), Consolidated Mining and Smelting owned the property upon which sat a crushing mill, the machinery for which had to be dragged via a ten-mile-long road from the Arm up to an elevation of 5,000 feet above sea level. From the mines lowest portal at 6900 feet elevation, a 7,000-foot-long aerial tramway delivered ore to the mill. The highest works were at the 8300-foot level.
After clearing his pre-emption on Kokanee Creek, Yuill sold it to Charles Wesley Busk in 1891. According to E.L. Affleck in Kootenay Lake Chronicles, the Molly Gibsons management developed such a poor rapport with Busk that he denied the miners a right-of-way for either a waggon road or an aerial tramway from the beach up to their works. So protective did Busk become of his fruit-treed, tennis courted hide-away that he resisted all encroachments, even requiring the Balfour-bound waggon road to detour around his property. Eventually it became the site of reputedly the first official Boy Scout campground in North America.
Harrop and the CPR wharves at Sunshine Bay
Not far east of the Kokanee campground a short road leads down to the lakeshore and the free ferry that crosses the West Arm to Harrop, site of George Owen Buchanans original lakeside lumber mill.
G.O. Buchanan began his journey westward in the employ of the CPR as an administrative clerk in the Mainline construction camps. Come 1886 he and partner Hugh Ferguson were operating a second-hand portable sawmill supplying the CPR with rough timber with which to build snowsheds in the Rogers Pass area. With his timber limit cut and his partner drowned, G.O. decided to investigate possibilities around Stanley/Nelson generated by the Silver King and in May of 1888 took passage on the goods-packed barge which R.E. Lemon drifted down the Columbia from Revelstoke to Sproats Landing. In company with Jack Egan and James McDonald, Buchanan walked to the Silver King and forthwith staked one timber limit on Toad Mountain and another here near Harrop. He arranged to buy the sawmill which the Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company had set up in 1885 at Kootenai Landing on the Northern Pacific Railroad at Pend Oreille Lake and the next spring he moved his family down to Stanley, assembled the mill on a property at what is now Harrop and on July 12, 1889, cut his first board. Bob Yuill was employed in the mill as an engineer. Buchanan quickly ran out of timber and two years before the great flood of June, 1894, washed away the mill buildings, G.O. removed the machinery to Kaslo.
Surviving the flood was the mills boarding house, and in 1906 Ernest Harrop moved into it, opened a general store and bought part of the old Buchanan property. On January 1st, 1907, he opened the Harrop post office for the benefit of settlers who were arriving in the neighbourhood to try their hands at fruit farming. The Appleton brothers Oscar Bruce and Orlando Price who had each registered 320-acre pre-emptions on January 20, 1896, and June 2, 1897, respectively, soon became the local leaders in the industry, and around their cherry, potato, apple and strawberry operations a Co-operative coalesced which erected a packing-house nearby on the Railway wharves at Sunshine Bay. By April of 1908 enough children were locally resident that a school was opened. As a quiet rural community Harrop farmed through the Great War and on until the fruit trade collapsed with the onset of the Depression in the 30s. Ernest Harrop sold his store in 1930 to Herbert Fairbank in 1930 who took over to post bureau, too. Fairbank sold out to John Berry in 1937, and his widow closed the store in 1961. Stafford and Son ran a little sawmill nearby for a few years post-W.W.II, but these days Harrop is pretty well a Nelson bedroom community.
Dedicated rail buffs will cross and then mosey down to Sunshine BayMallow, in CPR-speakbetween Harrop and Procter, near the mouth of the Arm. The great rotting piles spiking the waters are all that remain of one of the most romantic and storied CPR operations in this region. During 1897, having struck an agreement with the Dominion government and bought the charter of the British Columbia Southern Railway, the CPR organized its Crows Nest Line (CNL) and laid rail from Lethbridge to the southern tip of Kootenay Lake. Rather than hacking a right-of-way on up the inhospitable west lakeshore to Nelson, and appreciating that the Lake remained largely ice free all year round, CP opted to ferry freight cars on transfer barges and passengers on paddlewheelersCrow boatsoperated by its B.C. Lake and River Service. At the Lakes southern end the Company built Kootenay Landing, and for a year or so floated everything right up to Nelsons waterfront. The West Arm, however, is a series of basins separated by treacherous spits of sand out-washed by the regions creeks. Its narrowness and mid-summer low waters, combined with its tendency to ice up in mid-winter and the congestion at Nelsons wharves, quickly convinced the CPR to build a thirty kilometre long branch line to deeper water at Sunshine Bay near Procter. An agreement reached with the Great Northern in June of 1900 allowed CP to cross the right-of-way of the N&FS near Five Mile Point in exchange for $75,000 and a permit to run trains right up to Nelsons station on CP steel. Extending trackage eastward out of its Nelson yards, CP installed the crossing at Troup Junction and built on along the south shore of the Arm. On December 6th, 1900, the branch was opened to traffic, and by January 20th of the next year, the Company had completed a complex of wharves and barge jetties in Sunshine Bay to handle freight cars. The Companys sparkling white and black passenger sternwheelers bypassed the new installation as they continued to deliver people and the mail directly to Nelson, ice permitting.
For thirty years, through the mists of winter and the storms of summer, BCL&RS steamers moaned and splashed their way up and down the Lake. However, at 0745 on January 28th, 1929, some quarter-million pounds of 2-10-0 Decapod locomotive and tender crashed through the aging steel-work of the Surprise Creek bridge on the Rogers Pass section of CPs Mainline. For the next seventeen days the Southern Mainline was called upon to handle all the Railways western traffic. Already stretched to the limit keeping up the regular service while handling some 6,000 tons of Trail-bound Kimberley concentrate per day, the CPs Lake service couldnt cope. Even as it was enlarging the Sunshine Bay facilities, the Company accepted that it must build the long-postponed rail connection up the Lakes western shore. An alignment was quickly surveyed, and that summer of 1929 the Company set more than 1,000 men to cutting the 55-mile-long railbed across the granite and quartzite toes of the Nelson Range. One and a half million tons of hard rock had to be blasted out of numerous cuts and four tunnels1 and dumped into fills. For the five defiles that could not be filled, steel truss bridges had to be built. On January 1st, 1931, the section was declared complete and the Southern Mainline became a through-route; goods and passengers could roll steel on steel across southern Alberta and B.C., from the Mainline at Medicine Hat to Mainline at Hope.
On the last day of December, 1930, the B.C. Lake and River Service operated boats on 359 miles of route. The next days opening of the Kootenay Lake connection reduced that significantly by eliminating the route-miles of the Crow boat service. The Moyie and her Company kin continued to call at Sunshine, but only to pick up passengers and heavy freight bound for Lake-side communities on what had been the feeder routes. Age and improvements in highways and road transportation retired these vessels one by one, the Moyie outliving them all to make her last run on April 24th, 1957. CP contracted the Kootenay Water Transport Company to employ its tug, the Melinda Jane, to carry on the barge service to Kaslo and remote Lardeau until 1977. Sunshines piers were stripped of steel and the piles left to decay.
Five or six kilometres eastward over the toes of Balfour Knob from the Harrop road the Highway arrives at Balfour (529m) and its out-riding posse of private campgrounds. Towards the centre of the settlement 3A hooks hard-right into a large parking lot, leaving highway 31 to continue northward up the west side of the Lake through Ainsworth and its hot springs, some fifteen kilometres away, and on to Kaslo and Lardeau. The parking lot marks the end of the 3A on the western side of Kootenay Lake.
Centuries before the arrival of the Europeans in this neck of the woods, the site of Balfour was a favourite haunt of the Native Americans who came here to fish and harvest huckleberries. Their relationship to this ancient campground changed on May 24th, 1889, when two aliens filed pre-emptions on properties at this beautiful location. Besides claiming his 320 acres, Carl Sutterly failed to make any impression on History. The well connected English civil engineer Charles Wesley Busk, however, engaged at the time in laying out the townsite of Salisbury for Constable Henry (Harry) Anderson and surveying parts of Baillie-Grohmans grant at the Lakes southern tip, became instrumental in the development of this area. By the summer of 1890 he had a general store built, the land subdivided into a artistically-streetd townsite and was raising his Balfour House Hotel as the centrepiece of his 200-acre orchard estate. Still planting seedling fruit trees on the property, Busk opened the hotel for business in the spring of 1891. Perhaps backed into a financial corner by the failure of his big, new wharf at Salisbury to handle lakeboats, in 1892 Busk sold everything at Balfour except a large house that he had built and a few surrounding acres of grounds. Taking over the store and the hotel were Joseph and Mary Gallup and family who watched the extant Anglican church of St. Michael and All Angels rise to completion in December of 92 to serve the small community which was growing up around the store and hotel. To supply the Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company with materials with which to build its works at Pilot Bay across the Lake, in the early 1890s Tom Procter set up his West Kootenay Brick Company on a clay bank about a mile downstream from the Balfour Hotel landing. With the Works finished and in need of charcoal for its smelting process, locals logged off the trees around Balfour and floated them across the Lake. When Kootenay M&S shut down its operations in the autumn of 1895, Balfour was hard hit and slipped into a decade long doldrums.
Come 1907 Busks old orchard property came into demand by a wave of immigrants to the Lake whose aspirations were fixed upon the fruit-growing industry. Balfour, still playing its rôle as a transportation transfer point, boomed and in the summer of 1910 Edith M. Middleton was called from Nelson to set up a school. By that time, the CPR, in full pursuit of the tourist dollar, was scouting Lake locations with the intention of raising a tony hotel. Appreciating what a pretty location Balfour is, CP bought property on the bench above the settlement and of wood and plaster it built its posh, fifty room Hotel Kootenay Lake, lands now owned by the Balfour Golf and Country Club. Set in a formal gardens and serviced by an aerial tramway strung up form the waterfront, the hotel was officially opened on August 3rd, 1911. Unfortunately, its business was destroyed by the recession of 1913 and it closed its doors during the next year as the War was breaking in Europe. Pressed into service in 1917 under Dr. H.B. Olson as a convalescent home for World War Ones lung-damaged veterans,2 the Hotel saw its most glorious moment on October 1st, 1919, when Edward, Prince of Wales, popped by to thank the broken soldiers for their sacrifices. In 1920 the surviving veterans were transferred to other facilities and the Hotel remained vacant until it was demolished in 1929 by contractors Rawlings and LaBrash, much of its materials being incorporated into various houses in Nelsons new Fairview district.
Since the collapse of the fruit industry around the same time as the demolition of the Hotel, Balfour has hung on as a retirement community-cum-summer camp for Nelsonites and, of course, as a Lake ferry port.
Today at Balfour, a couple of cafés face onto the ferry service parking lot at the end of the 3A, and the windows of the one on the waterside look out over the marina wharves and the hordes of semi-tame green-headed Mallards and sundry other waterfowl. Beyond the ferry dock and maybe 200 yards across the Arm is Proctor. When the CPR decided to terminate the Columbia and Kootenay Railway at Nelson rather than at the mouth of the Arm, it released the Roads reserved land there for sale. Thomas G. Procter bought a few lakeshore acres and the hunting a fishing lodge he erected thereon in 1891 became Procters Landing. Reports E.L. Affleck in Kootenay Lake Chronicles, Procters was an out-of-the-way place until early in 1901 when the CPR built its docks at Sunshine Bay/Mallow. Attracted perhaps by the bar in Procters lodge, some of the Companys Lake and River Service boat crews built homes nearby, seeding a community. In 1903 Procter surrendered his lodge to the Gilbert Snows who refurbished it as the Outlet Hotel, a big, white two-storeyed wooden edifice with fancy upper and lower verandahs prominently placed on the waterfront. Hale and Glendenning built their 40,000-board-foot-per-day sawmill nearby in 1906. A year later, with the influx of orchardists into the region, George F. Daniells arrived with his family to open a store on Railway Avenue, on the townsite on the far side of the tracks from the Hotel. By the time Miss F.B. Johnson called Procters first school classes into session in 1910, Fred. Sammons had taken over the Daniells store, Jack Russell was at work in his blacksmith shop and the Watts Lumber Company of Terrible Tempered Edward Watts had purchased the sawmill. The sawmill mysteriously burned on October 31, 1912, ruining the employ of about 40 men, but a jam factory was by then operational to preserve the produce of the areas extensive strawberry fields. In 1913 a real school house was completed. It was enlarged into a two-room affair in 1920, by which time the jam factory had closed, the Nelson hotelier Wm. A. Ward had purchased the Outlet Hotel, and a public hall and Presbyterian and Anglican churches had been built.
Big changes came to Procter on January 1st, 1931, when the CPR opened the line of rail up the west side of the Lake from Kootenay Landing. But for cargoes destined for the upper Lake, activity at the Sunshine Bay wharves all but ceased. Even though the converted vehicle ferry Nasookin stopped by the community as it shuttled between Frasers Landing and the end of the Creston highway at Gray Creek, business traffic declined rapidly and families moved out of Procter. Ward kept the Outlet Hotel profitable by improving its cuisine and promoting it as a destination for weekenders and picnickers who boated or came by holiday train from Nelson. In 1947 Balfour became the cross-Lake ferry port and service was withdrawn from Procter. Ward changed the name of the Outlet to the Holiday Inn, but tastes and definitions of fun had changed, though, and in 1966, decrepit and forgotten in an age of comfortable cars and good highways to places far away, the Outlet was pushed down. Since 1977, when the Kootenay Water Transport Company quit work, Procter has had a tough go, hanging on as a modestly priced retirement community and weekend retreat from the bustle of Nelson.
Ainsworth Hot Springs, some 15 kilometres up the shore from Balfour is the old Camp of the Kootenays. In the spring of 1882, as part of his associates Columbia and Kootenay Railway and Transportation Company plan, Geo. Jennings Ainsworth pre-empted 160 acres near the 40ºC hot springs which were such a balm to the foot-sore in the region. The Associates suspected that there was worthwhile ore bodies in the neighbourhood, but the intention may also have been to eventually create a tourist destination for their railroad. By the time, however, that mines were showing potential, the Associates plans had come to naught, ruined by the protectionist sentiment in Canadian politics when it came to allowing Americans access to the raw riches of Canada. In 1888 Gustavus Blin Wright bought the pre-emption and by June of 1889 his No. 1 was the big shipper in the Camp, sending some 146 tons down five miles on the new government waggon road to a wharf on the Lake. Along with 357 additional tons from John F. Stevens, John C. Davenports and Thomas Munns Little Donald, Wheeler and McCunes Skyline, the Spokane, and Abel D. and Della Wheelers Krao and Let-er-Go-Gallager, the No. 1s ore was loaded onto, likely, the Surprise or the Galena and chuffed 100 miles up the Lake and the Upper Kootenay River to Bonners Ferry. The high point of Hot Springs production came in 1896 when 2,000 tons was divided between the Hall Mines smelter at Nelson and the Kootenay Mining and Smelting Company works at Pilot Bay, and yielded, reports B. Richard Atkins in E.L. Afflecks Columbia River Chronicles, some 116,000 ounces of silver. Come the next year, only the No. 1, Tariff and Black Diamond were producing.
Mining struggled through the Great War years and into the 20s. During that decade the company which had acquired most of the properties bethought itself to develop the hot springs into an amenity mainly for their workers, but open to all. Old adits and mining tunnels were finished out, a lodge built and operations began.
Mining at Ainsworth survived the Depression and, with the modernization of the works, rewarded the Yale Lead and Zinc Company until the end of the 50s when the lodes were finally exhausted. In 1962 Yale L&Z sold the hot springs operation to the Homens who, with highway 31 carrying travellers and vacationers past their doorstep, refurbished the property and passed it on to their daughter in 1979. In 2002 the Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort has been developed into an attraction which, coupled with a street of vintage buildings in the town, draw visitors from afar.
Summer and winter, from 0600 until 10 oclock at night, the 1780 ton Motor Vessel Osprey 2000 converts the Lake into a liquid link in the 3A as she floats up to 250 people and 80 vehicles between Balfour and Kootenay Bay in about 20 minutes. At five nautical miles, this was, until provincial budgetary shortfalls dictated the implementation of user fees in November of 2002, the longest free ferry ride in the known universe. Governmental service across the Lake has been in operation since 1931 when the Department of Highways converted the former CPR Crow-boat, Nasookin, into a ferry to carry vehicles and passengers between Frasers Landing near Balfour and the eastern end of the proto-3A at Gray Creek. In 1947 the 629 ton Anscomb relieved the ancient Nasookin. In the winter months, mid-October to the long weekend in May, the Osprey 2000, which replaced the Anscomb on August 26th, 2000, works alone, hurrying to complete ten round trips a day. During the summer she is joined by the 509 ton M.V. Balfour which came to help the Anscomb in 1954. Together they maintain a fifty minute schedule during the heart of the day. On the Balfour it takes about fifty minutes to complete the crossing, long enough to buy a coffee in the ships commissary and prowl the deck marvelling at this magnificent gem of a lake.
B.C.s third largest natural body of fresh water, Kootenay Lake has been here for at least 14,000 years, a souvenir of the retreating Wisconsinan ice sheet. Its valley, the Purcell Trench, is a glaciated graben classically complete with mountain streams plunging from the mouths of hanging valleys. To the east, the forested Purcell Mountains serrate the horizon; south-west, the Nelson Range of the Selkirks is separated by the chilly waters of the West Arm from the Slocan Ranges to the north-west, keepers of the famous Kokanee Glacier. Smaller pleasure craft, respectful of the Lakes penchant for brewing up sudden squalls, keep within running distance of shore in their search for Kokanee salmon, Dolly Varden, and Rainbow trout.
Northward, looking up the length of the Lake, a sparse necklace of great aviator-alerting white balls mark a three kilometre long span of cables, shore to shore, part of the 86 mile long line which transmits 170kV of electricity from what was West Kootenay Powers Power Plant No. 3 at South Slocan to the power-hungry Sullivan mine operations at Kimberley on the eastern slopes of the Purcells. When the suspension was completed on April 8th, 1952, it was the longest in the world.
Today the balls hang sixty feet above the Lakes surface, half their original height, for on March 6th, 1962, a young Freedomite Doukhobor placed dynamite on the legs of the 112 metre tall pylon on the east side of the Lake and brought the 240 ton structure down. The East Kootenay Power grid could not sustain the shock and failed, plunging the entire Rocky Mountain Trench into darkness, temporarily trapping men underground in the Bluebell at Riondel and in the Sullivan. Emergency purchases of power from out-of-province utility companies averted disaster and alleviated discomfort until WKP could effect a repair. This was accomplished on April 2nd when the span was re-hung on a 52 foot tall A-frame similar to that on the Coffee Creek Bluffs opposite. Meant as a short-term measure until another tower could be erected, it still serves.
This Lake was the Ktunaxas secret until 200 years ago. Who the first European was to see it remains disputed. E.E. Rich in The Fur Trade and the North-west to 1857 (McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 1967), states that it was the NorWester, Duncan McGillivray, who came over the White Man Pass in 1801 and paddled at least this far down the Kootenay system. Other worthy historians disagree, maintaining that a bout with rheumatic fever cut short McGillivrays expedition. David Thompson, also of the North West Company, tromping around in this region in the later 18-aughts, likely saw the Lake only through the eyes of his lieutenant, Finan McDonald, but no record of that sighting survives. A long-treasured rumour that David Douglas, the itinerant Scottish botanist for whom the famous fir tree is named, explored the Lakes surrounds in 1825 still has currency in some quarters. However, according to Elsie G. Turnbull in Old Mines in the West Kootenays (Volume XX of the B.C. Historical Quarterly, 1956), A.G. Harvey, Douglass biographer, maintains that Douglas came no closer than the mouth of the Lower Kootenay River on his way back home to Britain from the Coast via York Factory on Hudsons Bay.
Although HBC records indicate that a party of its voyageurs ventured out onto what must have been Kootenay Lake in 1826, the Company received no reliable description of these waters until Archibald McDonald, the factor of Fort Colvile from 1833 to 1844, reported that he was taken by an escort of Ktunaxa to see the huge outcrop of what appeared to him to be lead on the Lakes eastern shore. This was in September of 1844.
Members of the British contingent of the Boundary Commission admired these waters in 1859, and that September Captain John Palliser, having completed a large part of his exploration of the plains of Ruperts Land, crossed the Rockies via the North Kootenay Pass and had himself canoed down the Lake on his way to Fort Colvile, seeking an all-British route to the Coast. In the spring of 1865, having left most of his crew resting in Fort Shepherd after a wearing hike in from Fort Hope, Edgar Dewdney and a couple of stalwarts paddled and portaged3 their way up the turbulent Lower Kootenay River and made their way across the Lake likely to Crawford Bay to search for an easy route through the Purcell Mountains to golden Wild Horse Creek in the Rocky Mountain Trench. The Purcells are a formidable barrier, but above the Bay, Angus Macdonald, the factor at Fort Colvile, had told Dewdney, was the Rose Pass, an easy hike into the Trench via the St. Marys River which flowed into the Upper Kootenay River not far from Wild Horse Creek. Dewdney explored the Rose, and the Wellsnow Earl GreyPass at the head of Hamill Creek toward the upper end of the Lake. Though either pass would have admirably served his needs, Dewdney appreciated that without reliable ferry service his trail could not cross the Lake. With that he paddled back to Fort Shepherd and blazed his trail up the Pend dOrielle and over the Nelsons to get to the foot of Kootenay Lake, thence to the Moyie and into the Trench from the south.
Next: EAST SHORE