Kokanee Glacier Park is located in the Slocan Range of the Selkirk Mountains, between Slocan Lake and the north arm of Kootenay Lake. It is a mountain wilderness of 32,035 hectares, most of which lies above 1,800 metres, with half at elevations above 2,100 metres. Protection of significant grizzly bear habitat was the main reason for an expansion of the park in 1995. The glacier, for which the park is named, clings to the slopes of the 2,774-metre Kokanee Peak at the centre of the park.
The Kokanee Glacier is one of three glaciers within the park that feed over 30 small lakes and form the headwaters for most of the park’s waterways. The area is composed of an immense system of granite rock known as the Nelson batholith. As the earth cooled, pressure forced slower cooling minerals into holes and cracks in the granite. These deposits and finger-like veins of minerals rich in gold and silver were discovered in the late 1800s, attracting prospectors from afar. Small mining operations sprung up in the area during this time. Several mines were quite profitable, but only operated for a few years. Many of the park’s trails that exist today were built for miners hauling ore and supplies. Historical cabins and interesting old mine sites combine with many natural features including peaks, lakes and alpine basins to form a rich and diverse environment for back-country recreation.
The terrain is extremely rugged, the hard granite rock having been sculpted into jagged peaks by the carving action of glaciers. Three of these glaciers – Kokanee, Caribou and Woodbury – are the source of many of the park’s creeks that have cut deep valleys across the landscape. Three biogeoclimatic zones are found in the park, although it is primarily in the Engelmann spruce/subalpine fir zone. At higher elevations, forests give way to alpine communities of dwarf blueberry, white rhododendron and heather interspersed with open grassy areas, wildflower meadows and moss and lichen covered boulders. At lower elevations, forests consist of a mix of Engelman spruce, alpine fir, lodgepole pine, hemlock and western red cedar. The numerous steep slopes and avalanche paths support slide alder and huckleberry.
The alpine slopes are the summer home for a wide variety of wildlife including mountain goats, deer, black bears and grizzlies. More frequently observed, however, are smaller mammals like the hoary marmot, marten, ground squirrel and pika. Blue and Franklin grouse inhabit the forests while ptarmigans can often be seen in the open areas and dippers can be found around the many lakes. Sharp-shinned hawks and golden eagles are sometimes seen soaring through the open skies overhead.
Many of the more than 30 lakes in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park have been stocked with cutthroat trout. The streams also have rainbow and cutthroat trout and dolly varden. For information on angling in the park, contact Kokanee Park Marine at the entrance to the park on Hwy 3A. Boat rentals are also available here.
The park offers excellent wilderness recreation in both summer and winter, but is best known for its top-notch backcountry hiking and wilderness camping. Trails within the park – there are more than 85km of them – range from easy to difficult, with most falling into the moderate range. There are five access roads leading to the start of trails into the central area of the park. These routes include Kokanee Creek via Highway 3A, Woodbury Creek via Hwy 31, Keen Creek via Hwy 31A, Enterprise Creek via Hwy. 6 and Lemon Creek via Hwy. 6. There is also limited access by way of helicopter and floatplane.
There are 30 wilderness camping areas throughout the park, and three cabins for overnight use – Slocan Chief, Woodbury and Silver Spray. If you require information regarding winter camping, please contact the Alpine Club of Canada to reserve a cabin in the park. Visitors are reminded that, as this is a wilderness area without supplies or equipment of any kind, they should be reasonable physically fit and well equipped for all conditions. And don’t forget the chicken wire. Believe it or not, it is recommended that you surround your vehicle with chicken wire during overnight stays to protect it from porcupines, which like to chew on rubber!
Located in the wilderness area of the Selkirk Mountains, between Slocan and Kootenay Lakes, the Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park is 21 miles (34 km) northeast of Nelson.
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