Castlegar peaks, beaches and lakes make for great escapes
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Rock climbing, kayaking or camping, Castlegar is the next adventure playground you need to discover.
Castlegar, BC - There aren’t too many places in Canada where you can sip craft beer on a patio and watch rock climbers scale a natural cliff only 20 metres away. Actually, there’s only one. The Lion’s Head Smoke and Brew Pub in Robson, British Columbia, is a 35-year-old restaurant in a tudor-style building that fronts the Columbia River and backs onto a 45-metre-high rock wall popular with local and visiting climbers.
On a sunny day in September, Gitansh Nagpal and his girlfriend Saumya Bhasin drove the ten minutes from his home near downtown Castlegar to the pub for frosty pints of the local Tailout Brewery beer and some slow-roasted brisket, as well as to watch climbers in colourful shirts shimmy up the warm rock.
Both Nagpal and Bhasin moved to the West Kootenay region of BC from Northern India six years ago and met while at Selkirk College. They’re now based in Castlegar and are enjoying exploring its amenities, from the 23-hectare Millennium Park with its natural swimming ponds and bike park, to the myriad of lakes, rivers, and waterfalls that surround the little city in the valley.
After their lunch the pair drove 11 kilometres west to Scotties Marina on Lower Arrow Lake so Bhasin could try kayaking for the first time. The wind had been blowing earlier in the day, to the delight of local kite surfers, but by the afternoon the lake was perfectly placid.
They slipped their rental boats into the calm water and paddled around the breakwater, enjoying the late season sunshine and views of the surrounding forests and mountains.
An hour later Nagpal was looking to do something a bit more exciting so they tracked down the Marina’s owner, Rod Slusar, who connected them with local Mike Hadkin, who took them out in his wakeboard boat to zoom around the lake. Lower Arrow is part of the 232-killometre-long Arrow Lakes system that offers innumerable sailing, paddling, and fishing opportunities.
Just downstream from Scotties is where the largest Kokanee salmon on earth was caught (weighing in at over 12 pounds). For those who love fishing, there are three Castlegar-based fishing charters that will guide you to the perfect spots for trout, walleye and whitefish.
Slusar says it was the lakes that lured him to the West Kootenay from his home in Calgary last year. He had purchased a used Bayliner, sight unseen, and came to pick it up from Scotties Marina where it was moored.
When he arrived, though, he realized the trailer he had brought was too small. He remained in the area, exploring all it had to offer, until he was told he’d need to pay moorage if he didn’t move the boat he’d purchased. Knowing Scotties was for sale, he decided to just buy the marina instead and stay in the region he’d come to love.
After an exciting ride on Hadkin’s boat, Nagpal and Bhasin once again loaded into their vehicle and drove five minutes west to Syringa Provincial Park. Set within a protected grassland ecosystem and tall Ponderosa pine trees, the 85-site campground opens onto three large beaches on Arrow Lake.
The couple set up camp facing the lake and watched the sun set behind the Christina Range of the Monashee Mountains. As the stars came out, they reflected on their day and the variety of activities all within 20 kilometres of Castlegar. If they could enjoy this many things, from paddling and boating to craft beer tasting, camping, and rock climbing, what will trips further afield into the Castlegar area uncover? They resolved to find out.
WHEN YOU GO
- Castlegar is located in south-central BC, a 7-hour drive from Vancouver or Calgary. It’s also a 3-hour drive from Spokane, Washington.
- Air Canada flies into the West Kootenay Regional Airport in Castlegar five times a week.
- Russian Doukhobor culture is strong in the city. Visit the Doukhobor Discovery Centre and get a bottle of authentic borscht at the airport.
- There are 62 mountain bike trails offering 122 kilometres of riding in Castlegar.