Balfour is a pretty little village on the north shore of the West Arm of Kootenay Lake, at the junction of the lake’s North, South and West arms. Balfour serves as the western ferry terminal for the ferry route across Kootenay Lake to Kootenay Bay on the east shore of the lake.
Tranquil today, Balfour bustled in the old mining days of the 1890s, as sternwheelers plied the waters of Kootenay Lake, transporting prospectors and supplies to and from mining camps along the lakes’ shores.
With the completion of the railroad early the next century, the value and use of the sternwheeler diminished, with activity in Balfour declining.
Take the longest free Ferry Ride in the world, a 40-minute scenic crossing of Kootenay Lake, from Balfour to Kootenay Bay. BC Ferry: Inland Ferry Services in British Columbia
Plan your visit to Balfour to coincide with the annual Bill King Memorial Derby over the May long weekend and the Rainbow Derby over the Thanksgiving Weekend.
Buchanan Lookout (elevation 6,263 feet/1,909 metres) is a great day-use spot for family outings, with spectacular views, lovely flowers in season, and a 2-km loop trail below the lookout that provides access to viewpoints on the rock bluffs. Buchanan Lookout was the first fire lookout constructed in British Columbia (1920) and the sixth to be registered in Canada. Interpretive displays on fire lookouts are also located in the present tower, a 14′ x 14′ cab built in 1965. Travel north to Kaslo, then head west on highway #31A for 3 km to the Blue Ridge Forest Services Road. Follow the main road for 7.5 miles (12 km) to the lookout, staying right at the 7-km junction.
Hang Gliding: The Lookout on Mount Buchanan also provides ramps used by hand gliders for launching. The two ramps are managed by the Kaslo Hang Gliding Club.
Cross Kootenay Lake and stop in at Boswell, where the Glass House of the late David Brown features half a million empty, square embalming fluid bottles used to build this curiously beautiful house.
Golf: Golfers have three golf courses to choose from in the area: Balfour Golf Course on Queensbay Road is a prestigious 18-hole (6,510 yards, Par 72) Les Furber designed facility. Players will find the front nine carved neatly through a forested region with sand and water hazards strategically placed, while the back nine uses the mountains to provide elevation from tee to green, with a scenic view across Kootenay Lake to the Purcell Mountains. Also on Queensbay Road in Balfour is the Eagle View Golf Course, a par 3 course that’s perfect for working on your short game. In Crawford Bay, on the eastern shore of Kootenay Lake, is the championship 18-hole Kokanee Springs Golf Resort. Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Fishing: Kokanee Creek and Kootenay Lake maintain considerable populations of various fish species, including kokanee, rainbow and cutthroat trout, dolly varden, burbot, and whitefish. Kootenay Lake supports record-sized rainbow trout. ‘Kokanee’ means ‘red fish’ in the Kootenay Indian language and is the name given to the land-locked salmon that spawn in large numbers in Kokanee Creek in the late summer. Charter fishing and rental boats are available.
Skiing: In winter, blast out of some of the legendary ‘bottomless powder’ at Whitewater Ski Resort, a popular spot for snowboarders and downhill skiers located a short drive south of Nelson. The community Ski Hill in Nelson, Morning Mountain, also offers great family and beginners skiing.
Cross-country Skiing: Over 16 miles (25 km) of cross-country skiing trails at Whitewater Ski Resort are maintained by the volunteer operated Nelson Nordic Ski Club. Many of the nearby golf courses also offer cross-country trails in the winter months. Snowmobilers can head for the Cedar Creek Forest Service Road to Cody Cave Park.
Skiing & Winter Activities in the Kootenays.
For an experience under this world, visit Cody Caves Provincial Park on the eastern slopes of the Selkirk Mountains, near Ainsworth Hot Springs. The cave system features an underground stream flowing through ancient limestone formations, discovered by prospector Henry Cody in the 1890s.
The rugged mountain wilderness of Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park offers excellent recreation in summer and winter, with some fine angling for trout in the more than 30 glacier lakes. The park is a mountain wilderness of 32,035 hectares, most of which lies above 1,800 metres. The Kokanee Glacier is one of three glaciers within the park that feed over 30 small lakes.
Kokanee Creek Provincial Park south of Ainsworth has facilities that include hiking and ski trails, a visitor centre with displays, educational interpretive programs, and the largest campground in this part of the West Kootenays (168 vehicle/tent campsites). Canoeing and kayaking are popular and there is a boat launch located east of the day-use area. The large 1-km sandy beach makes this one of the best places for swimming and sunbathing in the area.
Other parks nearby include West Arm Provincial Park east of Nelson, and Pilot Bay Provincial Park south of Kootenay Bay.
North of Balfour is the small village of Ainsworth Hot Springs, considered to offer the best commercial hot spring in BC. Set into the mountainside overlooking the vast expanse of Kootenay Lake and the Purcell Mountains, Ainsworth is open year-round, and is popular with families and local residents wishing to linger in the soothing waters and play in this exhilarating wilderness playground.
To the southeast of Balfour is Nelson, one of the prettiest towns in British Columbia, in one of the most beautiful settings. Over 350 lovingly restored heritage buildings and facades, breathtaking views and personable citizens make this city a little oasis of genuine civility.
Circle Tour: See the best of the area on The Okanagan and BC Rockies Circle Tour. Travel the sunny interior of British Columbia, north through the Okanagan to Sicamous, following Highway 1 into the mountains of the BC Rockies. From Golden, head south through the Columbia Valley to Creston, and west through Boundary Country and the Southern Okanagan to complete the loop. Circle Tours in BC.