History and Culture of Paddling Kootenay Lake

History and Culture of Paddling Kootenay Lake

Kootenay Lake is a quiet lake: there are no outright bans on motor boats on the lake, but our lake is not overridden by them. When people go out in their motor boats on Kootenay Lake, it's often destination focused: to a remote beach, float in the main lake, tour along the east shore, or leisurely fishing for the day.

In any case, it's notable that Kootenay Lake is a lake that co-exists peaceably with many craft.


The First Paddlers on Kootenay Lake: the Kootenay or Sturgeon Nosed Canoe

Of course the original craft paddled on Kootenay Lake was the Sturgeon nosed canoe, or yaksumit, used by both the Sinixt and Lower Kootenay Band (Yaqan Nukiy). This canoe is also traditionally known as the "Kootenay Canoe" and was regularly used up until the beginning of the twentieth century. 

The Kootenay canoe is perfectly suited to our lake: it loves both bullrushes and turbulent waters. The willow tree used to create the craft would be felled in spring when the sap was running, according to Nancy Wynecoop, a Sinixt elder, who related her memory of making the boats in the book, "Geography of Memory" by Eileen Delehanty Pearkes.

http://kerrboards.com/Paddling Culture on Kootenay Lake

Why we paddle our kayaks, canoes and SUPs is tough to hone in on, but Bob Hellman of Hellman Canoes nails it: "They have become a way of defining myself, a way of connecting to nature and a way of being in touch with my spirit." 

There's a culture to paddling, especially paddle boarding, that Steve Kerr likens to the surf culture on the coast, or the snowboard culture in the alpine. Mike Kelly, a local and avid skin-on-frame kayak enthusiast, and is fairly obsessed by the exhilaration he feels so close to the lake on his Aleut ikyak (Aleutian Island kayak). Whether it's witnessing a beaver dam being built or getting caught up in a sudden swell, the lake provides a way to be in the moment that rivals the best yoga retreats.

Speaking of yoga retreats: Once SUP paddlers have mastered their craft, the next step, at least on Kootenay Lake, seems to be mastering yoga on the SUP. Steve Kerr relates one memorable occasion, surfing on his SUP, where he became aware of the near-surreal timelessness as he stood on his board, doing yoga, surfing in place where the water created an eddy over a fallen tree. 

As he says, "It's the mellowest thing."

And it can make your heart beat faster, too: It can be fast paced, white water, rushing, wild, windy and raw. Paddling Kootenay Lake, you can "be one the moving water in a way that is so much more exhilarating" than in a boat. 

Perhaps the ultimate reason why people paddle on Kootenay Lake is that it's fun: naked feet and wiggling toes on the board, wind rushing through your hair as you sit in your kayak or canoe, the river is always changing: the nooks and crannies, the infinite features as the current moves and the wind picks up or dies down. Kootenay Lake is not a still lake. 

Come Paddle With Us 

Kootenay Lake has many opportunities to paddle. From Lardeau to Kaslo, Balfour to Nelson, and Kootenay Bay to Koskanook, there are lots of places to rent crafts

Experience Kootenay Lake: consider yourself invited.

Top photo credit: http://www.sturgeon-nose-creations.com/history
Second photo credit: http://kerrboards.com/

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