The area’s first nonnative residents, the Doukhobors, arrived in 1908. These pacifist Russian immigrants planted orchards, built sawmills, and even operated a jam factory while living in segregated villages along the valley floor. Many of their descendants still live in the area.
Today, mining, transportation, and hydroelectric-power production sustain the local economy and a population of 7,400.
Castlegar Visitor Centre (off Columbia Ave. at 1995 6th Ave., 250/365-6313) is open daily 9 a.m.–6 p.m. in summer, Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. the rest of the year.
Castlegar’s major attraction is the Doukhobor Heritage Centre (east side of the river along Hwy. 3A, 250/365-5327, daily 9 a.m.–6 p.m., adult $8, student $5). Admission includes a guided tour, led by Doukhobor descendants, through the main building and the simply furnished brick dwellings and outbuildings. Along the way you’ll see some of the sect’s artifacts, including handwoven clothing, crocheted bedspreads and shawls, a barn full of antique farming implements, and carved wooden spoons and ladles.
Zuckerberg Island, at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers, is connected to the mainland by a 150-meter (490-foot) suspension bridge. On this tree-covered two-hectare (five-acre) island a short walking trail passes a full-scale model of a ckukuli (native winter pit house), as well as a Hiroshima memorial, Russian orthodox chapel house, cemetery, and log house. To get there, turn off Highway 22 at 9th Street, turn left on 7th Avenue, then immediately right.
While you’re in a Russian frame of mind, visit Verigin’s Tomb, the final resting place of Peter Verigin, the spiritual leader who led the Doukhobors to the Kootenays. To get there from the north side of the Kootenay River, head west toward Robson and take Terrace Road to the right. The tomb sits on a high bluff, surrounded by manicured gardens.
Accommodations and Food
The comfortable and reasonably priced Cozy Pines Motel (2118 Crestview Cres., 250/365-5613, $70 s, $75 d) offers spotless rooms with kitchenettes and Internet access. Immediately south of the Highway 3 and Highway 22 intersection is the Sandman Hotel (1944 Columbia Ave., 250/365-8444 or 800/726-3626, www.sandman.ca, $125 s, $135 d), with an indoor pool and 24-hour restaurant.
Campers looking for hookups should head to Kootenay River Kampground (651 Rosedale Rd., 250/365-5604 or 877/318-0008, www.kootenayriverrv.com, unserviced sites $15, hookups $20–25), beside the river north of the airport. The setting at Syringa Provincial Park ($19), on the banks of Lower Arrow Lake, north out of town toward Nelson then west off Highway 3A, is much nicer, but facilities are limited.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition