The East Kootenays is a region in south-eastern British Columbia, generally taken to include the valley of the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers south of Golden to the USA border Canada. The valley is bordered to the east by the Rocky Mountains and to the west by the Purcell Mountains. About 60,000 people live in the region (2016).
Cities and towns
- 1 Cranbrook — anchoring the south end of the East Kootenays and the largest city in this region.
- 2 Fairmont Hot Springs — natural hot springs, three golf courses, and a small, family-oriented ski hill.
- 3 Fernie — renowned for great skiing and close enough to Calgary to be a weekend destination.
- 4 Invermere — a small community on the north end of Lake Windermere, popular as a summer and weekend destination when its population may increase dramatically with visitors from neighbouring Alberta.
- 5 Kimberley — the Barvarian-styled town just north of Cranbrook, a former mining town and excellent ski destination.
- 6 Radium Hot Springs — famous for its hot pools
- 7 Sparwood — see the Terex Titan, at one time the largest truck in the world, and the mural art that depicts the history of the former nearby mining communities.
- 1 Kootenay National Park — many of the park's attractions are near the road of this skinny-but-immense park
- 2 Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park — trails provide the only land access: camping, hiking, mountain climbing, viewing spectacular mountain scenery, fishing, horseback riding, and ski touring.
The East Kootenay valley is generally wider, drier and has greater extremes of temperatures than the West Kootenays, with which it is often compared. The valley is only a few hours drive from Calgary and other points in southern Alberta, and many people from those areas own property and/or visit during the summer for boating, fishing and golf and in the winter for skiing.
From Canal Flats, about 30 minutes north of Cranbrook, the Kootenay River enters the valley from the Rockies and flows south; the Columbia River starts its journey north from its headwaters in Columbia Lake.
Early in the 1900s, there was a plan to join the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers at Canal Flats, how that community got its name. Perhaps fortunately, that project did not succeed. Traces of the attempted canal are still visible.
The region's dominant landform is the Rocky Mountain Trench, which is flanked by the Purcell Mountains and Rocky Mountains on the east and west, and includes the Columbia Valley region, the southern half of which is in the region. Another distinct area is the Elk Valley in the southern Rockies, which is the entrance to the Crowsnest Pass and an important coal-mining region. The Columbia and Kootenay River valleys form the bottomlands of the Rocky Mountain Trench.
The most common and convenient way into this area is by private vehicle. The valley is accessed from the north at Golden from the Trans Canada Highway Rte 1, from the east through Kootenay National Park to Radium Hot Springs or, in the south, from southern Alberta on Rte 3 via Fernie. Highway 3 is the only east/west route in the south and links this valley to the West Kootenays starting at Creston, an hour west of Cranbrook.
There is little in the way of scheduled public transportation.
Tour buses are numerous, bringing visitors to places like Radium Hot Springs.
- Mountain Man Mike's. One trip per week on Tuesday from Calgary to Sparwood (3 hr 15 min), Fernie (3 hr 45 min), and Cranbrook (6 hr), and on to Kaslo. They also offer a weekly service to Kaslo from Vancouver on Sunday.
Highways 95 and 93, which overlap for much of their run through the region, are the north-south route, while Highway 3 crosses from east to west.
- BC Transit, ☏ . Three buses a day M-F (45 min) between Kimberly and Cranbrook. $3 (no change provided).
The mountains are what you've come to the East Kootenays to see. Look up: they are all around you.
Fort Steele Heritage Town (near Cranbrook) is a collection of heritage buildings set up as a North-West Mounted Police outpost. Staff in period costumes help illustrate how live was during that era
The Canadian Museum of Rail Travel is a must for train buffs. This Cranbrook museum has exhibits of passenger rail cars built in the 1920s and in the 1900s.
Kimberly has the "largest freestanding cuckoo clock in Canada".
Soak in the hot pools at Radium Hot Springs or Fairmont Hot Springs.
Go hiking or climbing at Mount Fernie Provincial Park (near Fernie), St. Mary's Alpine Provincial Park (near Kimberly), Windermere Lake Provincial Park (near Invermere), or Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park near the Alberta border.
Ride the rails through the Mark Creek valley's spectacular scenery at Kimberley's Underground Mining Railway.
Ski at Kimberley Alpine Resort, or the Fernie Alpine Resort. Fairmont Hot Springs also has a ski hill.
Invermere and area are host to the biggest outdoor curling bonspiel in Canada every January. The spiel is held on the frozen Windermere Lake.