View of the Rocky Mountains, Columbia Lake, British Columbia
About three hours drive from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on the border of the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, exists one of the most beautiful areas in western Canada. Nestled among the Canadian Rocky mountains in an area called “East Kootenay”, Columbia Lake is the largest warm water lake in the area. This is a freshwater lake that acts as the main source for the Columbia River, which is a river that is over 2,000 km long and the largest river in the Pacific Northwest in North America spanning from British Columbia and flowing down to Washington and Oregon states in the U.S before draining in the Pacific Ocean.
Morning on Columbia Lake
Map of Columbia Lake, from the Nature Conservancy website
Columbia Lake is a perfect destination spot for many Calgarians seeking to leave the city and heading to vacation properties around the lake. It has gleaming pristine turquoise and blue waters that are only overshadowed by the majestic surrounding mountains. The lake is very shallow, often only around 15 feet (or 5 m) in depth in many spots so it warms up to temperatures of 18C (or 65F) in the summertime which is unheard of in this area. There is also an abundance of wind in the area, providing an excellent place for wind surfing and kite sailing. The lake also acts as a paddling haven for kayakers and canoeists. There are a variety of other activities that are popular at this lake, including sport fishing (there are burbot, whitefish, kokanee and trout that are prevalent in these waters), water sports (like water skiing, SUP), mountain biking, bird watching (bald eagles can often be seen soaring over the bluffs riding the updrafts) and hiking. One of the major lines of the Canadian National Railway also passes by the lake, and avid trainspotters can sit and listen to the roar of the rails as the trains pass by the south part of the lake in this beautiful setting.
On the north east corner of the lake is a provincial park called Columbia Lake Provincial Park, a 250 hectare park that is one of only a few public access points to the water. There are no day-use facilities in the park, but the park boasts an “undeveloped” lakeside setting that provides good recreation opportunities without “high volumes of people”. The park is situated right at the basin where the lake turns into the river and contains untouched marshland perfect for wildlife spotting.
Aerial view of Columbia Lake from the north, including Columbia River (middle)and the Fairmont Hot Springs (right side)
The area is also known for its hot springs. In fact, just a few minutes drive north on Hwy 93/95 from Columbia Lake is the community of Fairmont that is home to Canada’s largest source of hot springs. Here, the Fairmont Hot Springs resort provides access to the hot springs (with several pools, including hot pools and cold plunge pools!), where over 1.5 gallons of natural mineral hot springs flow through each day! If you aren’t staying at the resort, you can still access the hot springs for a small daily fee. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind at the hot springs spa, or splash in the water if you have children! The town of Fairmont is a cute little town and a great place to pick up groceries or small items that you may have forgotten at home.
If you’re looking for accommodation in the area, there are a variety of options ranging from hostels to luxury resorts. A simple Google search will yield options for any budget. Many home owners also rent out their vacation properties using rental-by-owner websites. We recommend finding accommodations that offer access to the many water sports on the lake such as those that may provide kayaks or canoes, or even access to a boat for wake boarding or water skiing. The lake and the associated water sports are definitely the key attraction for any visit to Columbia Lake.
View of Columbia Lake from the air
Railway that runs beside Columbia Lake (with view of Rocky Mountains)
Western Canada is one of the most breathtaking places in the world that we have visited. Majestic mountains, beautiful freshwater lakes, untouched nature and fresh, clean air make for the most amazing travel experiences. Columbia Lake is no exception. Its warm waters and pristine landscapes make for a hidden gem just waiting to be explored. We hope you will have the opportunity to experience this amazing part of the world in your travels!
As always, we wish you safe and Happy Travels, from the Road Warrior!
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