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Kootenay Lake Camping Gems
By John Bowden
Cover Photo: Sunrise at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park by Michael Dill
Warm weather, quiet waterfront sites, and million dollar views of Kootenay Lake. Oh, and no bugs. Does camping get any better than this?
BC Parks offers three different campgrounds to choose from on Kootenay Lake, each with their unique charm and appeal. Although Kokanee Creek gets the lion’s share of attention (and visitors), the lesser known (and smaller sites) at the north end of Kootenay Lake are truly magical.
Located less than half an hour north of Kaslo, Lost Ledge and Davis Creek campgrounds are well worth the drive. Their smallness (14 and 29 sites respectively) means that you’re more likely to hear the sounds of nature than civilization.
The views are unreal too. The lake seems to go on forever to the south, while the towering peaks of the Purcells rise up to your east, framing the vista like something from a fairy tale. The crystal clear water is equally inviting for a refreshing dip or a paddle.
The site at Davis Creek received a thorough overhaul recently, and features a brand new outhouse (no stink!) and nicely manicured sites and pathways. From Davis Creek and Lost Ledge it’s a short drive (or better yet, bike ride) to Meadow Creek, and jaw-dropping views of glaciers and the wild valley surroundings.
New this year is wifi at campgrounds on Kootenay Lake. Although I have mixed feelings about technology creep at rustic retreats, it’s nice to have some communication in an area that’s otherwise off the grid. It’s also surprisingly affordable ($4 for 24 hours, or $20 for a week).
If you’d rather be closer to Nelson and its heritage charms, Kokanee Creek is a fantastic option. With over 150 spots, it’s by far the largest campground on Kootenay Lake.
The popular site also boasts one of the nicest and largest beaches in the region, drawing in campers and day guests alike. Whether you snooze on the sand, go for a swim, or rent a kayak or SUP from the on-site gear shop, it’s a great way to spend a day.
There’s plenty to do beyond the beach too. The excellent visitor centre offers great interpretive info and programs about the local flora and fauna, while a variety of mellow walking trails are a nice shady option. For adventure seekers, the must-do Kokanee Mountain Zipline is just up the road.
A number of campsites can be reserved online in advance. For those winging it, try to arrive before noon at the campground of your choice to nab one of the non-reserved sites. Regardless of where you stay, it feels like a small price to pay for the stunning views and comfortable amenities.