Posted by: Columbia River | May 26, 2009

Arrow Lake

          Columbia River, Arrow Lake, B.C. Revelstoke to Keenleyside Dam



Arrow Lake is a man-made reservoir lake on the Columbia River which connects to the community of Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada. Before Keenleyside Dam went in it was known as Upper and Lower Arrow Lakes. Now the water sits idol just a few miles downstream of Revelstoke stretching all the way to Castlegar. There are no bridges across the lakes, and no road that runs the length of the lakes, but there are three free ferry crossings.

The Arrow Lakes were within the traditional territories of several Indian bands. The lakes first were identified on a map in 1832.The origin of the name was a cultural feature known as Arrow Rock on the east shore of Lower Arrow Lake, a large rock outcrop or overhang above the water, in the face of which was a hole filled with arrows. One early explorer who saw the arrows said they were 30 or 40 feet above the water. According to several versions of the story, an arrow that stuck meant good luck for the shooter, and an arrow that fell meant the opposite. The location was about 25 miles upriver from Castlegar, just north of the Deer Park area. The Arrow Lakes are part of the traditional territory claims of the Sinixt, Okanagan and Ktunaxa peoples, though at the time of contact and during colonization only Sinixt lived along its shores.



We put on the river in Revelstoke in the swift water that leads into the heart of Arrow Lake. The reality quickly came clear that the weather would present problems in arctic conditions. We were simply surviving and due to the time schedule we placed, we were pushing as fast as possible. When the wind wasn’t blowing hard enough to push Paul up river then we had to keep moving. Day one started off great considering the fresh 4 inches of snow and 20 degree temperatures. Once on the river the swift moving water took us deeper into the wilderness of British Columbia. We stopped right at dark and had to break through about 50 feet of ice that extended out from the river right bank. By the time we made it to solid ground our gear was frozen stiff making it tough to get undressed and even getting gear out of the boat was a challenge. The next morning we woke up to more snow and had to break through the ice to get back out onto the river. Day 2 and 3 was more of the same, but with more fog filling the valley. 


Paul was eventually stopped by head wind on the 4th day forcing us to wake at 4am and start paddling to make up time. One night we camped high off the river just north of Nukusp and found the remnants of tracks from an abandoned bulldozer as well as a couple horse shoes left over form the clearing of the lake back in the late 60’s.



On the 6th day Ryan Scott departed the trip in the town of Fauquer, B.C. due to group tensions and ongoing back pain. Paul and Keel pressed on, it took them almost 8 days from the start of the trip to paddle the 140 miles from Revlestoke to Keenleyside. On March 8th Paul and Keel were able to pass through the Locks at Keenleyside and into one of the short sections of ‘free-flowing’ water left on the Columbia Lake System. The weather however was about to get a little colder!


Check out the video


  • Check back next week for Lake Roosevelt and the first dam portage.

  • Responses

    1. Awesome guys! Glad you’re still updating the site. Congrats on what you’ve accomplished. Looking forward to more. Hope you’re all enjoying yourselves before you head back up!

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