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Canal Flats is a village located at the southern end of Columbia Lake, the source of the Columbia River in British Columbia, Canada. In 2006, it had a population of 700. [1]



Canal Flats is on Highway 95,in the Kootenay River Valley, between Skookumchuck and Fairmont Hot Springs. The population was 700 in 2006. Timber is the main industry in the village with a sawmill located in the village. Canal Flats is the gateway to several backcountry provincial parks, including Whiteswan and Top of the World, and is an entrance to the Kootenay River Road.

Canal Flats sits 1 kilometre from the southern end of the 16-kilometre long Columbia Lake, the source of the Columbia River that flows north to Kinbasket Lake before turning south to finally empty into the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon, a journey of 1,225 miles (1,960 km). Columbia Lake lies squeezed between two walls of rock; the Purcell Mountains to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east. The Kootenay Valley area was a major transportation corridor in pre-Contact native America and the early years of western exploration.

A low, 1.2-mile (2-km) wide berm of land called Canal Flats separates the headwaters of the Columbia, which flows north at its beginning, from the south-flowing Kootenay River. The Kootenay meanders down into the US before flowing back north into Canada to join the Columbia River at Castlegar, BC.

Canal Flats was originally named McGillivray's Portage by David Thompson, who passed through the area in 1808. Not far from the Canal Flats Provincial Park are the remains of a canal, completed in 1889, which connected Columbia Lake with the nearby Kootenay River, hence the name Canal Flats given to the post office in 1913.

Baillie-Grohman Canal

The canal was part of a scheme by English/Austrian entrepreneur William Adolf Baillie Grohman in the 1880s to breach Canal Flats and divert water from the upper Kootenay River into the Columbia system, thereby sufficiently lowering the level of Kootenay Lake to reclaim the 48,000-acre rich alluvial plain in the Creston area and open up a north-south navigational system from Golden to Montana. The scheme was abandoned under pressure from the Canadian Pacific Railways, concerned about its Columbia River crossings, and from settlers around Golden who feared that their farmlands would be flooded.[2]

Baillie-Grohman had to settle for building a canal and lock system between the two rivers, completed in 1889. Only two ships ever passed through the canal; in 1895 the sternwheeler Gwendoline successfully navigated the canal from the Kootenay River to the Columbia River, followed in 1902 by the North Star.[2]

The canal builder owned the first store and post office in the community as well as the first steam sawmill in the valley, the start of the lumber industry that has put Canal Flats on the map.

Canal Days Party

The Canal Days Party is an annual event that celebrates Canal Flats and is enjoyed by locals and visitors. Held on the first weekend in June, Canal Days kicks off with a Talent Show on Wednesday, followed by a special Canal Days Bingo on Thursday. Friday we see a Kiddies' Parade and Family Dance at the Community Hall. Saturday starts out with a pancake breakfast followed by a Parade which ends at the Civic Center and kicks off the afternoon activities, such as Ball Tournament, Raffles, Beer Garden, Kids' activities, etc. The Canal Flats Citizen of the Year is also named during Canal Days. This special weekend is concluded with a Dance and live entertainment on Saturday evening followed by the most wickedly awesome drunk fest held atop the hill near the sandcliffs.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Downs, Art, Paddlewheels on the Frontier -- The Story of British Columbia and Yukon Sternwheel Steamers, at 101-113, Superior Publishing, Seattle, WA 1972

See also

External links

Coordinates: 50°09′N 115°50′W / 50.15°N 115.833°W / 50.15; -115.833



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