Roads & Ferries

All Roads (and Ferries) Lead to Nelson Kootenay Lake

The ferries in our region are free, including the famous Kootenay Lake Ferry, which is the longest free ferry in the world. Take a Google Tour or read Michael A. Cone's 'Connecting The Kootenays' to learn about over a hundred years of ferry service. 

There are many roads that allow you to access this region. Details on how to get here and travel times are all on our Getting Here page.

To see ferry traffic (not fairy traffic, although those have been sighted too) view the ferry landings on the BC Highway Webcams:

Kootenay Lake Ferry Daily Schedule

All times are Pacific Time (PST - Nelson time).  Check the Government Ferry Schedule for possible delays. Times in bold indicate peak ferry travel during the summer. 

Vessel Name
Departure from
Balfour Terminal
Departure from
Kootenay Bay Terminal
  Summer Winter  Summer Winter 
Osprey 2000 6:30 am 6:30 am 7:10 am 7:10 am
Osprey 2000 8:10 am 8:10 am 9:00 am 9:00 am
Osprey 2000 9:50 am 9:50 am 10:40 am 10:40 am
M.V. Balfour 10:40 am   11:30 am  
Osprey 2000 11:30 am 11:30 am 12:20 pm 12:20 pm
M.V. Balfour 12:20 pm   1:10 pm  
Osprey 2000 1:10 pm 1:10 pm 2:00 pm 2:00 pm
M.V. Balfour 2:00 pm   2:50 pm  
Osprey 2000 2:50 pm 2:50 pm 3:40 pm 3:40 pm
M.V. Balfour 3:40 pm   4:30 pm  
Osprey 2000 4:30 pm 4:30 pm 5:20 pm 5:20 pm
M.V. Balfour 5:20 pm   6:10 pm  
Osprey 2000 6:10 pm 6:10 pm 7:00 pm 7:00 pm
Osprey 2000 7:50 pm 7:50 pm 8:40 pm 8:40 pm
Osprey 2000 9:40 pm 9:40 pm 10:20 pm 10:20 pm

Note: The summer service with M.V. Balfour operates from late June through Labour Day weekend.  M.V. Balfour also replaces Osprey 2000 during maintenance. Food services are available on Osprey 2000 only. Check DriveBC for current conditions and events. Check the time zone for Nelson to ensure you are on time. 

Other Ferries on/Around Kootenay Lake

The highway system in British Columbia includes a series of ferries. Webcams, current conditions, and event can be found through DriveBC for the Harrop, Balfour and Kootenay Bay landings.

  • Balfour Bay / Crawford Bay Ferry takes 35 minutes to cross and there are winter and summer crossing schedules.
  • Harrop / Procter Ferry crosses a very narrow stretch of Kootenay Lake where you can drive through lush farmland to visit these quaint communities. Crossing time is 5 minutes. The Harrop/Procter ferry crosses continually around the clock. 
  • Glade Cable Ferry, south of Nelson, takes travellers across a narrow stretch of the lake and into lush farmland. Crossing time is 3 minutes.
  • Needles / Fauquier Ferry lies south of Nakusp and crosses the Lower Arrow Lake. It takes approximately 10 minutes to cross and leaves approximately every hour.
  • Galena Bay Ferry / Upper Arrow Lake Ferry, takes 20 minutes to cross from Galena Bay to Shelter Bay.

International Travel

Nelson and the Kootenay Lake area is a short hop north of the US border, making it an easy trip from Idaho and eastern Washington.

The International Selkirk Loop is a partnership between the regions to encourage cross border tourism.

Crossing an international border requires you to have the proper identification, know their hours of operation, and know the regulations around what you can and can’t bring into each country. Make sure to check the detailed information provided by both governments.


There are three main border crossing points:

Hours of operation vary at each crossing, and change during COVID-19 so please reference the border websites to confirm details close to your date of travel.

Dangerous Goods Travel Restrictions

Transport Canada Safety Regulations restrict the transport of dangerous goods on inland ferries. 

Driving the Roads to and from Kootenay Lake

Driving conditions vary with the season and with the weather. Always check before you head out, especially in inclement weather - is a great resource. There are webcams of the Southern Interior that provide an accurate visual of ferry lineups, highway traffic and closures.

Roads are well maintained and traffic is normally light on our highways. Nelson is located at the cross section of Highways 3 and 6, with Highway 3 leading directly through downtown and continuing on along Kootenay Lake toward Kaslo.


CP Rail runs through Nelson twice daily, transporting cargo, but unfortunately not passengers. The train is a Canadian icon, symbolizing travel across our vast nation, connecting communities, recognizing the past and the years of growth and prosperity that came along with the rail lines. You can find out more about CP Rail on their Community website. Learn things like: How many times do they blow the horn at each crossing?

Amtrak offers a daily train through northwest USA. The closest station is in Sandpoint, 3 hours by car from Nelson. 

The Region

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Read our visitors guide online or order a copy of the official visitor's guide and map for our region.