Harvest flavours of Arrows Lakes lush, rich and wild
Fresh, laidback, local - make a fall visit to the Arrow Slocan in the central BC Kootenays to taste the rich harvest flavours grown and crafted by local producers amidst the region's beautiful lakes and rugged peaks.
Nakusp, BC - The sword is heavier than I expected. I’m at the Mithril Meadery in Nakusp, British Columbia, enjoying a taste of golden-hued mead from a wooden goblet in one hand while holding a sword from the Middle Ages in the other. It’s an appropriate place for a meadery considering we arrived here after an afternoon drive alongside the Valhalla Range of mountains, spotting peaks with names such as Gimli and Asgard.
Along with Lem Canlas and Riabi Lingao from Vernon, our crew has spent the day on a culinary tour of Nakusp, Arrow Lakes and Slocan Valley. One of the most fertile valleys in the province, the Arrow Lakes region has a long history of farming and food production. In the early 1900s, steamboats plied the river filled with vegetables and fruits headed for market further south. Today a new generation of producers and artisans are reaping the riches of the valley.
Our day began at the locally iconic Frog Peak Cafe. Part art installation, part eatery, Frog Peak is located in a 100-year-old building that was so run down when owners Laurel Giasson and her husband purchased it 17 years ago, the local fire hall was using it for practice drills.
After extensive renovations, it opened in 2005. Located adjacent to the Slocan Valley Rail Trail, today it boasts a colourful indoor seating area, covered patios, gardens, playgrounds, an eclectic artwork collection and delicious homemade food.
After double shots of espresso and hearty plates of eggs benedict and breakfast paninis, Canlas, Lingao and our crew drove 70 kilometres up the beautiful valley, weaving alongside rivers and lakes, past farms and forests, to Silverton. This historic lakeside village is dotted with mining-era architecture including the one housing Camp Cafe.
Owner Julie Sekulich says she and her husband Chad used to vacation in the Arrow Slocan region from their home in Edmonton. They became so smitten, they moved a few years ago and purchased the business. A long time baker and culinary arts enthusiast, Julie's passion is evident in the unique offerings at the café, which serves up some of the best sandwiches and carrot cake in the BC interior.
From Silverton we drove another 50 kilometres past stunning scenery, stopping briefly to take in the views at Summit Lake Provincial Park, before reaching the village of Nakusp on Arrow Lakes. There we visited the aforementioned Mithril Meadery, as well as the Valley of the Springs Winery.
At the meadery we get a hearty welcome from owner Dan Abraham. He’s a big fan of all things Medieval, including mead, an alcoholic beverage made with fermented honey that’s been through bouts of popularity since 400 A.D. Given the upswell in craft brewing the past few years, the drink is seeing a steady increase in interest again. There are now 11 BC companies brewing it, including Mithril. Wielding the sword Abraham hands me, and sipping mead, I find I'm able to appreciate the merits of the medieval period more keenly.
Being from the arid Okanagan Valley, Canlas and Lingao were surprised to learn that the cooler, more humid climate of the Arrow Lakes is hospitable for wine grapes without the need for extensive irrigation.
Jody Scott and his wife Brenda, who grew up in the region, planted grapes on their property back in 2007 as a hobby for their retirement. Instead the vineyard became a full-time business, with Valley of the Springs opening its cellar door in 2020. The vineyard has an expected yield of 700 cases this year. We tucked into a charcuterie board and a bottle of Trailhead Red by the outdoor fireplace, listening to Jody share stories from his 30 years in the logging industry.
While in the area we also visited Burton City Cider, perched on Arrow Lakes across from Mt. Ingersoll. The Cidery was established by Barbara and Alan Ross in 2018 as a retirement plan from their jobs in real estate and law in Calgary.
“Now I work harder than I ever have before,” says Barbara, laughing. The couple manage their 30-acre farm that has sheep, chickens, a llama, and of course, an orchard.
The cidery, which offers tours and a tasting room, had six ciders on tap for us to try. Our favourite was the Raspberry Apple paired with calzones made on site.
Plan your own tasting tour with the region's new guide to Craft Brewers and Tasting Rooms, published by Arrow Slocan Tourism.
At the end of the long day day we relaxed at Halcyon Hot Springs, 35 kilometres north of Nakusp. Established in 1894, the lakeside resort has a long history of enchanting its visitors. Its panoramic views of Arrow Lakes and the lithia-rich mineral springs that flow from the mountains behind the resort have drawn visitors to Halcyon since the beginning for its relaxing, healing effects.
Today chalets and cottages range the hillside, coupling with the two hot pools, a cold plunge, a summer swimming pool, on-location spa, and the renowned Kingfisher restaurant to create an all-encompassing guest experience. While we soaked, the sun set behind the Monashee Mountains, its burnt-orange glow reflecting off the water, and we praised the Eden that is harvest season in Arrow Slocan.
WHEN YOU GO
- There are multiple hot springs in the Arrow Lakes region including Halcyon, Nakusp, and the natural pools beside Halfway River, 11 kilometres up a Forestry Service Road from Hwy 6.
- The village of Nakusp is 100km from Revelstoke and requires a free ferry ride at Galena Bay. From Vernon, it’s 200km and requires a free cable ferry ride at Needles.
- Mt. Abriel is the area’s newest recreation area with 26 campsites and easy access to 51 mountain biking trails.