Just north of Cranbrook, BC, Columbia Lake is the headwaters of the mighty Columbia River, which drains more than 1,200 miles to the Pacific Ocean. It is a surprisingly gentle lake, filled with rippled waters that fill a nine-mile gash in the Rocky Mountain Trench.
As Thompson wrote, the salmon "form an immense tomb, for they there die in such numbers as frequently to infect the whole surrounding atmosphere." Fishing was a major activity on the lake's rugged east shore, where bears, wolves and eagles gathered to hunt the dead.
The pristine and unroaded east shore is home to a myriad of animal species including bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk and Canada geese. Bird watching is a popular pastime as is hiking and mountain biking.
Several small provincial parks exist at the north and south ends of the lake. The lake also provides an important migratory stop for waterfowl on the Pacific Flyway.
The shoreline is developed on the west side of the lake, but the largely undeveloped east side remains pristine. A primitive boat launch is located at the town of Canal Flats at the south end, but no other public launches.
The shallow, windy lake is home to many fish species including rainbow trout, kokanee and blue-listed bull trout. It also holds a number of migratory birds such as Canada geese, ducks and great blue herons. However, the salmon runs were eliminated when the Grand Coulee Dam was built 400 miles downstream.