Castlegar's waterway location, at the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers, has been highly influential to the historic and cultural evolution of the community.
Castlegar was initially used as a trading and fishing area for First Nations people. Soon, fur trading attracted European trappers to the area.
Beginning in 1908, more than 5,000 Doukhobors migrated here. Having fled persecution in Russia, this group of pacifists acquired land on which to live a traditional communal lifestyle. Doukhobor culture is still highly evident in present-day Castlegar.
In 1888, Sproat's Landing, located on the north shore of the Columbia River, was the first proposed townsite for the area. Here, Robert E. Lemon and Fred Hume (the latter was nearby Nelson's first mayor) established a warehouse and store to service sternwheeler traffic that connected with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) mainline at Revelstoke.
However, it was the higher ground at East Robson that saw the first significant commercial development, and the coming together of the local railway network. A railway bridge was built across the Columbia in 1902, spurring the construction of a railway station, a hotel, and other buildings in Castlegar.
Starting in 1908, more than 5,000 Doukhobors immigrated to the area, having fled religious persecution in Russia. This group of pacifists acquired land and embarked on a traditional communal lifestyle.
At its peak, the Doukhobor holding company, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, had properties in excess of 28,000ha/70,000ac. In 1938, defaulting on a loan resulted in the seizure of their entire holdings by the banks. However, many Doukhobor descendents continue to live in the area. Their history is chronicled in the Doukhobor Discovery Centre, across from the Castlegar Regional Airport.
A pulp mill was constructed in the 1950's, bringing new prosperity and new migrants (many from Portugal) to the community.
The City of Castlegar was incorporated on January 1, 1966. In recent years, this largely blue collar community has continued to expand, with new housing and retail developments. People move here for the easy access to the outdoors, relaxed lifestyle and great amenities that the city has to offer.