Castlegar is a city of 7,800 people (2011) in British Columbia on the southern tip of the Arrow Lakes chain. It sits at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers, and is a perfect base for a wide range of outdoor activities. The surrounding lakes and mountains offer unlimited outdoor possibilities. There is tremendous fishing on both big rivers and on the Arrow Lakes, and Syringa Creek Provincial Park is nearby.
The city's population includes a large number of Doukhobors, who were largely responsible for much of Castlegar's early development and growth.
A sizeable Portuguese community grew as workers, mainly from the Azores islands, moved in to take up employment in the area. The area which was to become Castlegar was an important centre for the Sinixt (Lakes) Peoples. Outside the city limits are the small surrounding communities of Ootischenia, Brilliant, Robson, Robson West, Raspberry, Tarrys, Thrums, Glade, Shoreacres, Fairview, Genelle, Pass Creek and Krestova. There are also the much smaller communities of Deer Park, Renata, and Syringa on Lower Arrow Lake.
Taken together, these outlying areas comprise an approximate population of a further 8,000 people.
On 5 September 1811, David Thompson arrived at the location where Castlegar now sits, where he camped near the mouth of the Kootenay River. A plaque dedicated to David Thompson can be found on the east bank of the Columbia River overlooking the present day site of Castlegar.
The first settlement in the area was West Waterloo, now known as South Castlegar. There was widespread provincial interest in gold prospecting in the late 19th century, and by 1895 there were 40 houses in Waterloo. The town boomed until the end of the century when interest in the local mines declined.
Castlegar takes its name from Castlegar, County Galway, Ireland, the ancestral home of townsite founder Edward Mahon. (Castlegar is on the eastern boundary of the city of Galway.) The city was planned in 1897. Around 1902, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) built the bridge at Castlegar and laid the wide gauge railway tracks to Trail. There was little in Castlegar until after the completion of the CPR bridge.
First Nations history
Castlegar is in the border area between the Sinixt (Interior Salish) and the Ktunaxa Indian bands. Experts cannot agree where the Ktunaxa range ended, and where the Sinixt began. There was much overlapping of cultural and territorial activity between the two peoples. The Sinixt were the original people in the area, and that the Kootenai arrived several hundred years ago from central Canada.
"Qepitles" was a site on the north side of the Kootenay River, just above the junction with the Columbia River. Native implements (arrowheads, pestles, etc.) have been found along the nearby Arrow Lakes. A reconstructed kekuli dwelling was established on Zuckerberg Island, at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers.
The Doukhobors put a ferry into operation near Brilliant on the Kootenay River in 1910 and the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) made an application to the CPR for a railway station and siding to this point. Brilliant was the centre of the CCUB commercial enterprises. Located on the site was the Brilliant Jam Factory, a grain elevator, and a flax seed mill.
Hot days and cool nights in summer, with moderately dry weather and cold winters with heavy snowfall due to the mediterranean tendencies of high winter precipitation. Castlegar is wetter than most places in the Southern Interior of BC, as the city receives around 400 mm more precipitation than nearby Kelowna, Penticton and Kamloops (which are in the dryer Okanagan region of British Columbia, while Castlegar is in the Kootenay region).
- By car: Castlegar is about 600 km from Calgary and from Vancouver on Highway 3.
- By sir: Air Canada offers daily flights from Vancouver and Calgary to the West Kootenay Regional Airport 2 km SE of Castlegar. Nearby airports include Trail Airport, which is 40 km to the south.
- By bus: Greyhound Canada offers twice daily bus service east and west to major towns and cities throughout their network.
By rental car
Budget and National have offices at Castlegar Airport and Downtown locations.
By public transit
There is a limited bus service through the Castlegar area. Contact BC Transit for schedule.
- Castlegar Sculpturewalk, 276 Columbia Ave. The sculpturewalk is an annual, rotating exhibition of sculptures and artwork by international artists. In 2017, works of 330 artists were brought to the town to compete for a $25,000 prize.
- Zuckerberg Island Heritage Park, 901 7th Avenue. Suspension bridge to wooded island where you can see the confluence of two of the greatest rivers in British Columbia: the Columbia and the Kootenay. Picnic areas and nature walks.
- 1 Doukhobor Discovery Centre, 112 Heritage Way, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. May-September: M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5 PM; off-season by appointment only. outdoor displays, interactive educational exhibits and historical artifacts illustrating Doukhobor life in the Southern Interior of British Columbia (1908-1938). Adults $10, seniors $8, students: $5, children (under 5) free.
- CPR Station Museum, 400 13th Ave, ☎ . Apr-Oct: Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM; Jul-Sep: daily 10AM-5PM. 1906 Canadian Pacific Railway station with perfectly preserved caboose. Gift shop offers a variety of handmade gifts crafted by local area artisans, including paintings and pottery. Suggested donation of $2.
- Kootenay Gallery, 120 Heritage Way (across from the Castlegar Regional Airport, just past the Doukhobor Discovery Centre), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Mar-Nov: Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM; Dec 1-2: daily 10AM-5PM. A principal gallery for the visual arts within the West Kootenay region. gift shop.
- Climbing: an up-and-coming climbing area with the potential to grow, great rock around try the "waterline" and some other local spots,
- Mountain biking: some unreal trails and secret spots that will blow your mind. Locals are friendly and helpful. The Seven Summits train is one of the more well known.
- 18-hole championship course at Castlegar Golf Club (non-members welcome)
- 9-hole par three at Little Bear Golf Course
- Syringa Creek Provincial Park (on the Arrow Lake, 19 km northwest of Castlegar on Hwy 3A -- look for the Robson exit just before or after you cross the bridge over the Kootenay River). Large sandy beach, good swimming, large campsite, hiking trails, boatlaunch, sani-dump. Campsite often full during peak season so book ahead if possible. This all-season 4500-ha park protects provincially significant interior Douglas-fir forests and preserves one of the few remaining examples of grassland ecosystems in the Kootenays. A variety of wildlife are at home in the park including, elk, deer and a herd of rocky mountain bighorn sheep that can often be observed grazing on the many rock bluffs.
- Boating: Great boating and fishing on the Arrow Lake, west of Castlegar.
- Scotties Marina - moorage, fuel, food, burger bar, bait, free boat launch
- Syringa Park Marina—moorage, fuel, food, boat launch
- Floating the Slocan: Popular summer activity is a 2-3 hour float down the Slocan River from Slocan Park to Crescent Valley. Tubes available for purchase at Canadian Tire or for rent at Wildways in Crescent Valley.
- Hiking: Numerous day and multi-day hikes in area.
- Summer festivals
- Castlegar Sunfest—first weekend in June
- Shamabhala Music Festival—western Canada's largest party. 5 days and 4 nights in mid-August
- Kaslo Jazz Festival—floating stage, August long weekend
- Red Resort. About 30 mintues drive to Rossland, one of Canada's best and most famous ski resorts. 5 lifts, 2900 vertical feet, 83 marked runs and deep Kootenay power snow, large adjacent cross-country area.
- Whitewater Winter Resort. Located approximately 50 minutes from Castlegar, cross-country and downhill ski area, famous for deep powder snow. 3 lifts, 1300 vertical feet.
- Cat and heli-skiing:
- Valhalla Powder Cats. Based in Crescent Valley, cat-skiing in deep untracked powder, single day and packages available.
- Baldface Lodge. Cat-skiing from helicopter accessed alpine chalet.
- Wildhorse Catskiing. Based in Ymir, deep powder cat skiing, with day trips and packages.
- Snowwater Lodge. Alpine lodge with cat-skiing and heli skiing in the Selkirk Mountains close to Castlegar.
- Snowmobiling: Hundreds of kilometers of groomed and ungroomed trails located around Castlegar.
- Cross-country skiing
- Yes Please!, 277 Columbia Ave, ☎ . Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM. Art by local artists.
- Cuisine of India, 908 Columbia Ave, ☎ . Inexpensive, authentic Indian food served as spicy as you like. Lunch buffet and dinner.
- Greek Oven, 400 Columbia Avenue, ☎ . Popular Greek and Italian spot downtown, summer patio, closed Mondays.
- Chopsticks Chinese and Japanese. Sushi bar and table service, good sushi and relatively authentic Chinese cuisine.
- Lions Head Pub (across the bridge from downtown Castlegar in Robson). Neighbourhood pub with 12 beer taps of BC microbrews, summer patio and fire pit, lunch and dinner.
Pubs and bars
- Black Rooster Bar, Grill and Restaurant. In the Super 8 hotel. Outdoor patio, lounge atmosphere, numerous plasma TVs, good food and drink, moderately priced.
- Nealy O'Brien's Pub. Small Irish-themed pub.
- Molly's. Downtown in the Marlane hotel. The region's only show-lounge. Shows till 11PM daily.
- Thirsty Duck Pub. Located in south Castlegar toward Trail. Open daily for Lunch, Dinner and drinks.
- Lions Head Pub, 2629 Broadwater Road, ☎ . 11:30AM-1AM. In Robson, North Castlegar: turn left on Broadwater Road after the Brilliant Bridge at the north end of town. Smoked BBQ meats, house made menu. Specializing in BC craft brewed beer -- 12 taps. Between the Historic Lions Head Rock and the Mighty Columbia River, this 2 floor Tudor style building is one of a kind in the kootneys, expect some live bands, daily free pool and foosball everyday.
- Element Night Club, Bar and Grill. Large night club in downtown Castlegar boasts being one of the biggest in the province (over 600 person capacity). Top 40/Dance DJs with the occasional international live act. Two floors, large dance floor, two bars, three pool tables, leather couches, and a well ventilated smoking room. Excellent food. Bar and Grill is open M-Sa from 11AM. Club is open till 2AM Wednesday to Saturday.
Coffee shops and cafes
- Bagels and Brew, 1502 Columbia Avenue #9, ☎ . Specialty coffee drinks, fresh roasted coffee beans, and loose teas. Bagels are boiled and baked, and a variety of cream cheeses are available. Sandwiches, melts, soups and salads are also featured on the menu.
- Common Grounds.
- Canadas Best Value Inn and Suites, 1935 Columbia Ave, ☎ . Pets are allowed. From $110.
- Super 8 by Wyndham Castlegar, 651 18 Street, ☎ . Free continental breakfast and WiFi. Pet-friendly, non-smoking hotel with themed rooms, accessible rooms, and executive and Jacuzzi suites. Each comes with a microwave, refrigerator, 42-inch flat-screen TV, and access to guest laundry facilities. Heated indoor pool and hot tub. From $137.
- Flamingo Motel, 1660 Columbia Ave., ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Free shuttle service from Castlegar Airport and Bus Terminal. Non-smoking rooms, colour TV, fridges, stoves and microwaves and High Speed Internet access.
- Sandman Hotel Castlegar. Large indoor atrium pool, whirlpool and fitness centre, nearby forest trails, high-speed internet, business centre, exercise gym, free parking, on-site restaurant, pets allowed in some rooms, pool, wheelchair accessible, whirlpool. From $135.
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