The predominantly level terrain of the Cranbrook townsite belies the powerful presence of the Purcell Range to the west, and the spectacular Rocky Mountains to the east.
The town is parked in the middle of the 16km/10mi wide Rocky Mountain Trench, on a site that had previously been known as Joseph's Prairie.
Cranbrook: a Rail Corridor
Cranbrook grew up alongside the railway, and the alignment of that rail corridor sets the tone for the layout of the city. Van Horne Street, named for one of the biggest bigwigs of the Canadian Pacific Railway, runs parallel with the railway. The historic Baker Hill district and the downtown core are located east of the tracks.
The area surrounding the city is a mixture of forest, ranch and rangeland, with a disproportionately high number of golf courses greening up the landscape.
The St. Mary's River passes approximately 8km/5mi north of Cranbrook to join the silt-laden Kootenay River at Fort Steele, some 10km/6mi to the east. The Elk River, which rises in the stratospheric heights of the Rocky Mountains, flows into the Kootenay River a little further south. At the southern end of the city, Elizabeth Lake and its wetlands have been preserved as a 46ha/113ac wildlife sanctuary.
Climate & Weather
It's not just the broad valley that will make prairie folk feel at home here; Cranbrook receives more sunshine annually than anywhere else in BC. The warmest month is July, with an average temperature of 26°C/78°F. By contrast, the coolest month is January with an average temperature of -13°C/9°F.
Compared to the rest of the Kootenay Rockies, Cranbrook's climate is relatively arid. The month with the most rainfall is June, at 50mm/2in, but there is not much variation throughout the year.