Kaslo enjoys the distinction of being called British Columbia’s Prettiest Town and the Switzerland of the Americas … and justifiably so. Elegant Victorian era buildings, tree-lined streets and magnificent lake and mountain views give credence to these titles bestowed upon the community of Kaslo.
This quaint little hamlet is nestled on the shores of Kootenay Lake, between the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains.
With a history rich in mining lore, Kaslo was actually originally staked as a sawmill site in 1889, becoming a silver ore mining and transhipment boomtown in the 1890s, with a population peak of 6,000. With the decline of mining activities, forestry continued to sustain the community, and has remained the mainstay of the local economy till today, along with tourism.
Steeped in history and surrounded by parks and wilderness, this is one of the most pristine areas in the world. Summers are sheer magic, with fabulous camping, scores of hiking trails, excellent fishing, swimming and boating of all kinds. Wintertime provides ideal conditions for cross-country, backcountry, snowcat skiing and snowmobiling. Eco-tourism and outdoor adventure make Kaslo a favourite of those searching for the unspoiled glories of nature.
Kaslo’s range of business and services and the wide variety of clubs, organizations and cultural societies are sure to provide just what you are looking for.
Location: Kaslo is located in the West Kootenays at the junction of Highway 31 and Highway 31A on the western shore of Kootenay Lake, 42 miles (67 km) northeast of Nelson.
Tour the SS Moyie, a Canadian Pacific Railways sternwheeler that plied the waters of Kootenay Lake from 1898 until 1957. Beautifully restored, the Moyie is designated as a national historic site, and is the oldest remaining vessel of her type in Canada. Located on the waterfront – open summers only. The Moyie is also a monument to the determination of Kaslo residents and craftspeople who brought her back to her former glory.
Kaslo was the first community on Kootenay Lake to be incorporated, in 1893. One of the largest lakes in British Columbia, Kootenay Lake has some fine beaches and great fishing.
Conjure up vivid images of mining life in the late nineteenth century with a visit to the Kootenay Star Mining Museum in the old Fire Hall on Front Street.
Celebrated over the May Day weekend for the past 90 years, the Kaslo May Days boast the longest consecutive annual Maypole Dance in North America.
Jazz lovers can enhance their experience of the charm of Kaslo during the Kaslo Jazz Festival. Great acoustics, superb musicians, the unique floating stage set just offshore from the sandy beach, and the great views all combine to make the festival a fabulous annual event.
Celebrate Winter in the Forest; be prepared to take part in a 3-legged snowshoe race, obstacle course, woodsman competition or horse drawn sleigh ride. Or, just enjoy the entertainment.
Kaslo’s Village Hall, built in 1898, is one of only two wooden municipal buildings that are still in use as the seats of local government.
The Langham Cultural Centre, housed in a restored Victorian hotel, exhibits the work of Kootenay artists and sometimes offers live theatrical performances.
Buchanan Lookout (elevation 6,263 feet/1,909 metres) is a great day-use spot for family outings, with lovely flowers in season, spectacular views over Kootenay Lake and the mountains that cradle Kaslo far below, 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.
Diving: Dive sites near Kaslo include the wall dive at Verandah Point on the northeast shore of Campbell Bay, approximately 3.5 miles from Kaslo on the east shore of Kootenay Lake. To the south of Kaslo you can dive amongst discarded relics from yesteryear off Ainsworth, the site of refuse disposal by the community way back in the past. This site is a treasure trove for junk divers searching for old bottles and other memorabilia along the sloping lake bed, at depths of 60 feet (18 metres) and deeper.
Golf: Kaslo Golf Club on Oak Avenue at the south end of Kaslo offers a beautiful 9-hole golf course, one of the oldest golf courses in BC. Great views on each of the 9 holes include a panoramic lake view on #1 fairway, a glacier view on the 4th green, and the 5th fairway lined with 100-year-old apple trees.
Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
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. To the northwest of Kaslo is the Summit Lake, located south of Nakusp.
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. See Skiing & Winter Activities in the Kootenays.
Fishing: Although famed for its scenery, Kootenay Lake also boasts the world’s largest rainbow trout, the Gerrard, which grows up to 30 pounds, and the kokanee, a landlocked salmon that spawns in large numbers in Kokanee Creek in the late summer. ‘Kokanee’ means ‘red fish’ in the Kootenay Indian language. Other fish species found in Kootenay Lake include rainbow and cutthroat trout, dolly varden, burbot, and whitefish. Kootenay Lake rarely freezes, allowing great fishing year-round. Charter fishing and rental boats are available.
Hiking: The 2-km Fletcher Lake Trail (difficult, 92-meter elevation gain) is a steep rustic trail leading into an alpine lake area. The trail starts on a skid road in a cutblock, and winds its way through dense sub-alpine forest and creekside vegetation to the east end of Fletcher Lake. The area is inhabited by grizzly bears, so hikers should make a noise when hiking. Hike in groups, and store food out of bear-reach and well away from campsites. The site at Fletcher Lake provides good backcountry camping and fishing. Access to the trailhead is via the Fletcher Lake logging road that branches off Woodbury Creek logging road north of Woodbury Creek. A number of hiking trails are located in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park.
Fletcher Falls Recreation Site beach site on the west shore of Kootenay Lake offers picnic facilities and 4 campsites. Cartop boats and canoes only. A trail above the camping area leads to a spectacular waterfall and moss-lined grotto on Fletcher Creek. The falls are most spectacular in the spring when visitors are washed by the cool mist off the falls. Access to the site is 6 miles (9 km) south of Kaslo on a dirt road immediately south of the Fletcher Creek bridge.
Camping: Across the lake from Kaslo is a small undeveloped recreation site providing wilderness camping and fishing on Leviathan Lake. Access to the Leviathan Lake Trail is by boat on Kootenay Lake, south of Campbell Creek. The 6-km (2 to 3 hour) easy trail follows the Campbell Creek road to the lakeside site. North of Kaslo is a small recreation site on Milford Lake a small sub-alpine lake scenic views down Kootenay lake, accessible on the Milford Lake road, which leaves the west side of Highway #31, 9.4 km north of Kaslo. Travel up Milford Lake Road for 8 km to a junction. Turn right at this junction and continue to the lake. Although there are some steep rough sections, the road is suitable for 2wd high-clearance vehicles.
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.
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.
Drive the bumpy, but beautiful gravel road route along the Lardeau River from Kaslo to Galena Bay (about 88 miles/142 km) and see the old Quaker settlement of Argenta, as well as the gorgeous countryside.
Ghost Town: Travel back into the history of this region, to the Ghost Town of Sandon, once the Capital of the Silvery Slocan and now a renowned and restored historic site. Located northwest of Ainsworth on Highway 31A, Sandon was an incorporated city of 5,000 people at the height of the mining boom in 1892. Two railroads once served this Monte Carlo of Canada, with its 29 hotels, 28 saloons, opera house, 2 newspapers, 5 men’s clothing stores, a bank, and several other gambling halls, brothels, offices, stores and businesses. Other old Mining camps near Sandon in the Valley of the Ghosts that are worthy of a visit are Retallack, and Zincton.
Internment Camps: A shameful period of history has been commemorated at the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, on Josephine Street in nearby New Denver, where visitors can enrich their understanding of internment history. In 1942, about 22,000 Nikkei (people of Japanese descent), 75% of whom were Canadian citizens, were stripped of their civil rights and labelled “enemy aliens”. The federal government ordered men to road camps, while families were placed in animal stalls awaiting forced removal to interior BC relocation camps or sugar beet farms in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. More information on Internment Camps in British Columbia and Canada.
South of Kaslo are the communities of Mirror Lake, Balfour, and 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.
Ferry Ride: From Balfour you can catch the longest free ferry ride in the world, a 40-minute scenic crossing of Kootenay Lake from Balfour to Kootenay Bay on the east shore of the lake.
Circle Tour: See the best of the area on The Okanagan and Kootenay 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 British Columbia.