Paddle the Homelands of the Ktunaxa

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Visit the #Ktunaxahomelands to connect to the Indigenous culture of the region through water-based experiences. Learn how each lake, river, and waterfall belong to each other, their origins traced back to ancestral times.

Lakes and wetlands dot the landscape. Rivers and waterfalls swell and shrink, depending on season and snowpack. As unique as they are kindred, these waterways pulse through the Kootenays, shaping the landscape, the culture, and the spirit of all who swim, play, fish, paddle or simply enjoy going with the flow. To many visitors, these waterways bring fun, recreation, relaxation and a sense of adventure to their life. But to the Ktunaxa people who have traveled in and occupied the area for more than 10,000 years, these waterways also bring survival, strength and nourishment to their homelands. 

“Always and into the future, water is the giver of all life, and creates interconnectedness for all things,” said Janice Alpine, tourism engagement lead for the Ktunaxa Nation Council. “Water has always played a vital role—historically, culturally, and spiritually —for Ktunaxa People. From the area’s mineral hot springs to the waterfalls, lakes, rivers and wetlands, they are tied to our Creation, and fundamental to our way of life.”

“It’s my hope that by communicating with travellers our stories, history, ways, traditions and connection we have to the land we’ll raise public awareness, increase understanding of the past, and build new relationships, based on mutual values and respect for the role and authority of the Ktunaxa People in our homelands. This is an important aspect in protecting the environments we depend on, now and for future generations.”

In Ktunaxa homelands, each lake, river, and waterfall belong to each other, their origins traced back to ancestral times, when giant spirit animals ruled the earth. As a traveller kayaking or paddling the area’s waterways, learn how these water passages were once used by the Ktunaxa, and acknowledge the gift the water gives you today, in that moment. 

Then, just for fun, picture the chaos, magnitude and magic of a massive water monster named Yawuʔnik̓, tearing these same waterways through the land while being pursued by giant spirit animals, preparing the world for the arrival of humans.

Raft the St Mary’s River with Kimberley Rafting Co, watch for their new “Rivers of Reconciliation” tour 2022.

Ktunaxa Creation connected to waterways

Since time beyond the reach of memory, the homelands of the Ktunaxa People were ruled by spirit animals. Yawuʔnik̓, a huge water monster, bothered many of the animals. With news of the human race coming to earth, it was decided by the chief spirit animal, Naⱡmuqȼin, that Yawuʔnik̓ must be killed. A Big Chase ensued.

Yawuʔnik̓ swam the Kootenay and Columbia waterways, creating one of the world’s biggest continuous river systems. Eventually, Naⱡmuqȼin and his war party were victorious in his pursuit of Yawuʔnik̓, capturing the water monster and killing him. 

The waterways—all lakes and rivers, sloughs and waterfalls—formed during the BIg Chase linked the Ktunaxa People, and provided sustenance.

They fished them, travelled them, and used them for hunting, foraging, and traditional ceremony. Ktunaxa relied heavily on boats to navigate the landscape, and created the unique and widely-admired sturgeon-nosed canoe to traverse Rocky Mountain waters. 

Ktunaxa Creation: Waterways Itinerary

When you visit here, you are connecting to the landscape formed by Naⱡmuqȼin, Yawuʔnik̓, and the Big Chase.

Here is a water-play itinerary featuring lakes, waterfalls, and river adventures in the homelands of the Ktunaxa.

  • Paddling Ktunaxa homelands
    Sunrise paddle through #Ktunaxahomelands across Columbia Lake.
  • Paddling Ktunaxa homelands sunset
    Bummer’s flats is a perfect paddle spot within #Ktunaxahomelands sunrise or sunset.
  • Bridge over ### RIVER
    Kimberley’s Mark Creek Bridge allows anyone to get close to the water.
  • Paddling LAKE
    The headwaters at Canal Flats is a significant location within #Ktunaxahomelands, the spot where it all began.
  • Waterfall NAME
    Just outside of Kimberley you’ll discover Marysville Falls.


Travel #Ktunaxahomelands and while doing so, support Ktunaxa tourism businesses. Ktunaxa Ready has made it easy for you via this helpful directory.

Tourism Kimberley makes it easy to experience #Ktunaxahomelands with their round up of outdoor adventures.

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