Southeastern British Columbia is defined by landscape. The high peaks, snow capped mountains and waterways determined how and where people traveled and settled. The rivers and waterways that dissect the mountain ranges are part of the story of how people have interacted with the region. The resulting settlements, determined by access to industrial development for the most part, are also part of the history of hydroelectric development in the region. Without municipally owned or locally available power sources, many of the small and some of the larger communities that exist today may have long since vanished.
As the abundant winter snows melt in the mountains and rush down the steep valley walls, the rivers begin to swell and the landscape begins to change. When explorers first began to venture into the region the rivers were their highways. The rivers were at times challenging the Death Rapids on the Columbia River and the unnavigable Bonnington Falls on the Kootenay, and at times deceiving - Explorer David Thompson spent many years trying to navigate and map the twisted paths of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers. The rivers and lakes have provided both transportation routes and potential for development throughout the history of the area.
View the Stories of the Rivers
With the development of industry in the region, people began to settle permanently in the area. As resources allowed, communities grew, early settlement was based on agriculture and soon some flourished with mines, smelters or mills nearby, others faded as the industries moved and resources became scarce or far away. Other communities fell victim to development and progress and were destroyed in order to make way for large development. The most pervasive loss was seen as communities were torn down and burnt in preparation for flooding behind the large water storage dams of the Columbia River Treaty. Each community is built on a history rich with gain and loss, influenced by the land it resides on.
View the Stories of the Communities