Take a Driving Tour Along and Across Kootenay Lake

The history of the Kootenay Lake area is tied to the network of ferries used to crisscross the lake. In many areas, ferries are still used to this day as the only (and, frankly, fun) way to cross the lake.

Prior to the opening of "BOB" (the Big Orange Bridge) in 1957 that connects Nelson to the north shore of Kootenay Lake, sternwheelers were the only option. Elsewhere, including Balfour Bay, Harrop/Procter, and further north at Galena Bay/Shelter Bay and Fauquier/Needles, ferries are still essential for transportation in the region.

Sternwheelers used to rule the lake and river system from here to Portland, Oregon. The oldest intact sternwheeler in the world is sitting in Kaslo. The lovingly restored SS Moyie National Historic Site is a regal reminder of how travel along Kootenay Lake used to be.

Though sternwheelers no longer rule the lake, the ferry system still harkens back to that time. Take a ride on at least one of our ferries during your stay with us and learn a bit about our heritage at Touchstones Nelson: Museum of Art and History. The history of Kootenay Lake and the Columbia River is a long one — full of twists and turns and fascinating stories.

Take some time to learn more about our long and fascinating history and make sure to visit the SS Moyie and cross the lake via a ferry as part of your stay with us. The Kootenay Lake Ferry is the longest free ferry in the world, and very easily one of the most gorgeous routes. Trip Advisor lists this ferry ride as one of the most popular things to do in our area (and not for a lack of things to do)! 

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.