Castlegar (population 8,992) is the second largest community in the West Kootenays and lies at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers in the southwestern corner of the Kootenay Rockies at the foot of the Selkirk Mountain Range.
Discovery of gold, in 1855, at the mouth of the Pend D’Oreille River, ten miles south of Trail, signaled a new era for the region. Construction of the Dewdney Trail, and the 1865 Big Bend Gold Rush (north of Revelstoke), led to the arrival of various boats to move cargo and prospectors up the Columbia River via the Arrow Lakes.
An early logger in the area discovered traces of iron, including large amounts on Ironclad Mountain and on the north fork of Champion Creek. The town site, originally named Monte Carlo, was later renamed Waterloo. Robson’s founding was linked to the completion of the CPR in 1885, and to the discovery of galena on Toad Mountain in 1886.
Edward Mahon came to BC from Castlegar, Ireland in 1890 and purchased 320 acres on the west side of the Columbia River for a townsite and named the town, while naming the town’s streets for various metals.
In 1890, the CPR began constructing a rail link to Nelson to replace the trail railway built by L. Macquarrie in 1888. A major development affecting the fortunes of East and West Robson, and beginning the history of Castlegar, was the decision to build a rail bridge across the Columbia linking the rails of the Columbia & Kootenay, and the Columbia & Western railway lines, which was finished in 1902.
The Doukhobor settlement period lasted from 1908 to 1913, with about 5,000 Doukhobors arriving in the Kootenays. Their communal holding company, The Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, flourished until 1938 when the banks seized their 70,000 acres of property.
In 1921, the road between Castlegar and Trail opened, and was improved in the late 1930s. Castlegar became a village in 1946. Growth accelerated with a new regional airport at Castlegar in 1950, and when the Kinnaird Bridge was built over the Columbia River and a $65M pulp mill was built in the community. Castlegar was incorporated in 1966, and in 1967, CP Airlines began jet service into Castlegar Airport.
By 1970, the completion of the Columbia River Treaty dam marked the beginning of a recession and a sharp reduction in the growth of Castlegar. In 1978 the Castlegar-Salmo Highway opened, and the airport was expanded to handle the increase in traffic. The Robson Bridge was built in 1993 to replace the Robson Ferry.
Zuckerberg Island Heritage Park
901 7 Ave, Castlegar, BC V1N 3J9
Open May through June: Wednesday to Sunday, seven days per week,10am to 5pm.
Admission by donation
Today, a walk over a suspension bridge, providing excellent views of the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers, will lead you to this historic island. Here you can visit the architecture and artistry of Zuckerberg House, cemetery site, the famous “Stump Woman” sculpture and more. There are over 5.5 acres of wooded pathways, picnic tables and benches perfect for a whole family (dog friendly) getaway.
The City of Castlegar is affectionately known as the “Sculpture Capital of Canada”, largely due to its annual Sculpturewalk – an annual outdoor exhibit of original sculptures by local and international artists.
Up to 30 pieces are displayed throughout Castlegar’s downtown core, from May to October each year. Chosen via public ballot, the winning sculpture is purchased by the City of Castlegar for the growing permanent collection. Other works are available for private sale or lease.
Brilliant Suspension Bridge
1839 Brilliant Road, Castlegar BC
The Brilliant Suspension Bridge is the main attraction of the Brilliant Bridge Regional Park, which is part of the Trans Canada Trail, and includes an observation platform for visitors. The Brilliant Suspension Bridge was built by the local Doukhobor community in 1913 and was used until 1966, when a new bridge was constructed. Public outcry saved the historic bridge from demolition in the 1970’s, and after two decades the bridge was declared a National Historic Site of Canada in 1995.