Columbia Lake, the origin of the Columbia River is nestled against the Rocky Mountains and only metres away from the Kootenay River. Columbia Lake rises from the earth, clean and clear and full of promise for the 2044-kilometre (1232 miles) journey to the Pacific Ocean. The river drops less than 65 metres over the 180 kilometres from its source at Columbia Lake to the head of Kinbasket Reservoir. As the river begins, it meanders north through the Rocky Mountain Trench, creating an internationally significant wetland of marshes, ponds and back channels that provide rest and shelter for migrating birds.
The history of human activity in the area dates back 5-7,000 years according to known archeological data. Ktunaxa and Shuswap First People settling would have been sustained with the fisheries that saw andronomous fish ( meaning fish that swam from the Pacific Ocean) throughout the river system.
In 1807 the Canadian explorer and mapmaker, David Thompson, was the first recorded European to arrive in the valley. The fur trade and placer mining soon arrived, followed by railway construction, forestry and larger scale mining in the later half of the 19th century.
The main hydro development on the river prior to the Columbia River Treaty consisted of an ill-fated canal built with the hope of diverting the Kootenay River into the Columbia River to drain the rich soil of the Creston Flats and eliminate the seasonal flooding, and the dredging of the river to allow for sternwheelers to travel along its length. Once the railway was built, the dredging of the river ceased and the wetlands returned.