On a sunny, clear day, the drive up BC Highways 93 and 95 would probably be stunning, with mountains rising up on either side of the Kootenay River. Tackle this drive in winter, though, and you’re more likely to find those peaks hidden in low-hanging clouds. On my drive, there was very little to see, other than the road ahead of me, occasionally interrupted by my windshield wipers. But, there were still a couple of meaningful stops along the way:
Just north of Canal Flat, you’ll reach Columbia Lake, the headwaters of the mighty Columbia River.
There are a couple of roadside turnouts which provide a nice view of the lake. This photo looks south — you can see Highway 93/95 on the right, and in the distance, you can see the southern edge of the lake. Columbia Lake drains at its northern end, and the Columbia River first heads north, before making a turn back to the south, towards the U.S. The river you’ve been driving along, from Cranbrook to Canal Flats is the Kootenay River. At Canal Flats, it turns east.
The Kootenay River never touches Columbia Lake, even though the two are less than a couple of kilometers from each other. Back in 1889, a canal was constructed that connected them. It was first conceived as an idea to divert water from the Kootenay River into the Columbia, but when that idea was rejected, it became a passage for boats. However, only two steamboats ever passed through the canal — and the second one, the North Star in 1902, was too big to fit between the lock gates. So, the captain blew up the gates with dynamite. After that, the canal deteriorated.
Dutch Creek Hoodoos
Near the north end of Columbia Lake, there’s a brief but surprising change in the landscape. As you cross Dutch Creek, you’ll notice an eroded hillside, that looks more like the South Dakota Badlands than the Canadian Rockies.
Watch for a dirt road, that’s on the north side of the bridge. It leads to a small parking area, where you can view the river, or walk back across Dutch Creek for a better look at the hoodoos on the hillside.