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Hot Springs A British Columbia Circle Drive

If you like soaking in Hot Springs and you like Mountain scenery, this is a tour you should try to make because it serendipitously combines the two. It's in the Kootenay region of B.C. where there is a number of luxurious, relaxing, mineral-rich hot springs.You can start your tour from any point along the route, but for purposes of this article we'll start in Cranbrook.

Cranbrook is about 30 miles north of the US border and directly above the state line between Montana and Idaho. It is well served by several major highway routes, in addition to a local airport, where rental cars are plentiful. Cranbrook was once a thriving railway town and is now the regional centre of the East Kootenay region. There is a reconstruction of an 1890s fort called Fort Steele where the NorthWest Mounted Police were once stationed.

Now it is an outdoor museum and stages summer theatre for visitors.Driving north along Highway 95A you'll come to Kimberley, once a very busy mining town, but has now become a four-season resort instead. The downtown centre has been modeled to resemble a town square in Bavaria and is called the Platzl.

Well worth a short stop.Heading north on Hwy 93/95 you'll come to the first Hot Springs in Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park, located along the Lussier River. They are only accessible in good weather via a forest service road. However, just a few miles farther along, are the Fairmont Hot Springs and these pools are odorless, a rarity among mineral rich springs.

They are located in the midst of a large resort development, skiing in the winter and golfing in the summer, but the springs are open to the general public.Up the road a bit and you'll pass through the village of Lake Windermere and the turnoff for Invermere and the Panorama Mountain Winter Resort. But this is a Hot Springs tour so you press on to the next town, Radium Hot Springs. These were the first commercially developed Hot Springs in the entire area and still one of the best. You can soak in the springs while gazing at the red cliffs of Sinclair Canyon and if you look sharp you may spot some Bighorn Sheep that have long been resident in the area. They've grown unafraid of humans, so look - but don't approach.

As you continue on Hwy 95 north to Golden, you'll see the Columbia river basin on your left; this is North America's largest wetland. At Golden you join Hwy 1, the Transcanada Highway and travel west through Glacier National Park. At the park's western edge, is the Canyon Hot Springs natural mineral hot pool, a welcome place to relieve the aches of travelling.Continuing to drive west, you enter Mt. Revelstoke National Park and come to the city of Revelstoke.

This was a major rail division point in the days of the steam locomotives and there is a very good Railway Museum here. This is an alpine city and there are plenty of very interesting walks, one of them takes you along some of the over 60 restored period buildings. For the children there is also the Enchanted Forest's Wild Land Interpretive Walk about five miles out of town, another five will take you to the unique ghost town of Three Valley Gap and nearby, the waterfall at Crazy Creek Falls.

Back on your quest for Hot springs, you now travel south from Revelstoke on Hwy 23, take a short ride on the cable-operated Galina ferry, then on to Halcyon Hot Springs. A short dip here and down the road a short distance you come to the town of Nakusp, with - what else - the Nakusp Hot Springs. Nakusp is a nice little town situated on the shores of the Upper Arrow Lakes. These lakes were once serviced by sternwheelers and the Nakusp Museum can tell you all about them. There is also a nice evening stroll along the Waterfront Japanese Gardens, particularly just at dusk with the lights dancing on the water. Nakusp and the Arrow Lakes are in a deep valley, so nightfall comes early in this mountainous area.

Further south on Hwy 23, you'll come to New Denver and Silverton. This area was once the centre of extensive silver mining; now only a few small privately owned operations with at most 5-6 men are still working the drifts. Sandon, a true mining ghost town with a fascinating history is well worth the side trip.

From New Denver you take Hwy 31A across a stretch of forested wilderness to Kaslo whose natural harbor once bustled with the activity of orebarges, steamships and sternwheelers that were traversing the 120 mile long Kootenay Lake from north to south. Here you will find the SS Moyie, still well preserved and billed as the oldest surviving sternwheeler in the world. It was launched in 1898 in the heyday of sternwheelers throughout southeastern B.C.; there seems to have been a steamboat of some description on every body of water deep enough to float one.From Kaslo it's a short trip west on Hwy 31 to Ainsworth Hot Springs.

This unique hot springs has a horseshoe shaped cave; you get an opportunity to remember which is the stalactites and which are the stalagmites. There is also a main pool that overlooks Kootenay Lake. Ainsworth has built a resort around the Hot Springs and is a convenient place to stay for a night or a week.

It also has a very decent restaurant.Leaving Ainsworth, you take the Kootenay Lake Ferry across to Crawford Bay and then travel south on Hwy 3A to Creston. The area along the highway adjacent to Crawford is home to many self-employed artisans, you'll see their signs everywhere.

Some of the articles produced here are of quite high quality.Creston is well known for its orchards and of course its brewery which produces the famous Kokanee Gold beer. If you like birding there is a bird and waterfowl refuge for more that 250 bird species.

You can take the boardwalk trail or visit the Interpretive Centre.From Creston you travel back east on Hwy 3 and return to Cranbrook, your original jumping off point. You have seen some of the Kootenay Region's best scenery and not to forget, you've dipped your toes (or soaked) in seven Hot Springs.

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Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Canada Vacation.

By: Michael Russell



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