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British Columbia The Story of Canal Flats

Canal Flats today has a population of 753, not counting the local dogs and can lay claim to being one of British Columbia's newest municipalities and quite possibly one of the dullest. However, it has a very interesting past, dating back to the early nineteenth century.The area was born McGillivray's Portage, so named in 1808 by mapmaker David Thompson. In 1883 and an English sportsman (read remittance man) named William Adolphe Baillie-Grohman dreamed of building a canal across McGillivray's Portage from Columbia Lake to the Kootenay River. He envisioned being able to connect the Columbia River system with the Kootenay, allowing water traffic from the valley access to the Creston area.

He had been given consideration for a grant of 48,000 acres of alluvial flat and planned to join the two great rivers in order to reclaim flooded lands. Columbia Lake was at the time only 11 feet lower than the Kootenay River, so the engineering problems surrounding the plan were not insurmountable. Baillie-Grohman planned his canal to be 45 feet wide and 6700 feet long to connect the two rivers across the gravel flat that lay between them. The outcome of the feat would be to drain the sloughs in the Creston Valley.The government of the time thought the plan feasible and granted Baillie-Grohman concession in both valleys and the Kootenay Valley Co. was formed.

But when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) heard about the plans it feared the action would flood its main line along the Columbia River to the north.The government then required a lock be constructed and for this additional work Baillie-Grohman was to receive an additional 30,000 acres in the Upper Kootenay Valley. The CPR then appealed to Ottawa, which in turn asked Victoria, the seat of BC's provincial government, where it got the right to interfere with an international river course.A long battle was raged until finally a compromise was worked out: the BC government would allow the canal to be built, with a lock. At 100 feet long by 30 feet wide, the lock was completed in 1888, but by this time the weary Baillie-Grohman had given up his dream and retired to England.

A year later the government voted to close the canal.Only two boats ever went through the canal. The Gwendoline transited the canal in 1894, going from Columbia Lake to the Kootenay River and the North Star in 1902, headed to Golden from Montana.

The North Star was too big, however and the captain of the steamer, Francis Armstrong, had to blast the side of the canal to get this boat through. The remains of the canal can still be seen today.During all this a small community had sprung up, named Grohman.

It consisted of a sawmill, a warehouse, a post office and a licensed hotel. Eventually the community grew and was called Canal Flat, with the "s" added several years later, apparently, according to locals, because it was mistakenly added to a highway sign and "it just stuck".Today the town is primarily supported by a large forestry product mill. The "flats" as the locals call it, several restaurants, a pub, various stores, a post office and a great nine hole golf course. The town also serves as a gateway to several world class backcountry parks, including Whiteswan, Top of the World and Premier Lake provincial parks.

It is also the entrance to Kootenay River Road, which leads backcountry explorers into a vast Rocky Mountain wilderness area, renowned for whitewater paddling, hunting, fishing and camping. Canal Flats is the southern gateway to the Purcell Mountain wilderness area, with Whitetail Lake and Blue Lake relatively short drives from the town. Although no one has as yet developed it for the tourist trade, there is also the Ram Creek Hot Springs just south of town.

.Michael Russell.Your Independent guide to Canada Vacation.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Michael_Russell.


By: Michael Russell

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