Diving into a Conversation about Kootenay Lake

Diving into a Conversation about Kootenay Lake

Kootenay Lake is renowned as being a hub for a vast array of water activities including paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, and fishing, but did you know that it is also a sought after diving destination? Resident diver, Bruce Morrison, has been diving since 2008 and is familiar with the local nuances of plunging below the surface of Kootenay Lake. Follow along as we interview Bruce and he tells us about his adventures in the cool, magical waters of Kootenay Lake.

Shipwrecks & Their ‘Lost’ Cargo

There are numerous shipwrecks located in the depths of Kootenay Lake. Due to the lake being fresh water, as opposed to salt water, wooden structures including ships, rail cars and barges stay intact and are preserved for many years. One example is at Procter Point, home to six boxcars after a barge ran into a storm in 1901. The prudent captain of the Valhalla, pushed the barge to shore to try to save the cargo. However, the cars came off in the water sinking to depths as low as 80 feet. The Tale of the Five Foot Sturgeon There are also some intriguing creatures lurking underwater. Bruce shared his experience of coming face to face with a five foot sturgeon near Procter Point. He revealed how the sturgeon passed within five feet of him and had no concern nor fear of him, it swam by completely unphased. Bruce expressed how he feels fortunate to have spotted sturgeon in their natural environment on multiple occasions. It can be incredibly startling seeing a huge sturgeon appear out of the gloom and swimming directly towards him. However, he is able to appreciate what a unique encounter he has just had… once his heart rate normalises.

Being Bold & Braving the Cold

Diving enthusiasts don their scuba gear all year round in Kootenay Lake. Bruce’s preferred months for diving are from October to April. These are the chilliest months to dive, however, this is when visibility is at its best. With water temperatures getting as low as 3.8°C you need to have the correct gear if you want to get down and deep. Although not essential, a drysuit is the practical option when diving at these frigid temperatures. In the summer, the lake can warm up to around 20°C but the trade off is impaired visibility which is due to millfoil growth and stream runoff.

One Man's Trash is Another Man's Gold

Bruce’s favourite diving spot is the close and convenient SS Ymir wreck located east of the Big Orange Bridge (B.O.B) in Nelson, toward the RCMP station. There is also a unique GeoCache near the site… but there’s a catch. The GeoCache is located down in approximately 52 feet of water. This often drives the serious GeoCachers crazy, because it’s so close to them, yet so inaccessible without scuba gear and training. One day, Bruce pulled out a piece of wood that was covered in muck and was shocked to discover that it was a well rusted Winchester Rifle from the late 50s. You never know what treasures you might find beneath the surface of the lake.

Be Prepared & Have the Correct Gear

If you’re considering diving in Kootenay Lake, be prepared with the correct training and equipment for cold water diving. There are a few excellent guides to help with finding the ideal spots to dive. These include ‘Historic Shipwrecks of the West Kootenay District’ by the Underwater Archaeological Society of BC edited by our own local marine historian, John Pollack. Another useful guide is the ‘Diving BC Lakes and Rivers’ by William Hall. This book features approximately 15 dive sites on Kootenay Lake. Stay safe and have fun.

If you're looking for more ideas of what to do on Kootenay Lake; check out our Lake & River page. Or, if you have worked up an appetite and ready for a cold drink then head over to our Eat & Drink page. There is no shortage of fun to be had in our region. #FindingAwesome

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