Until the 1860s, when the Dewdney Trail opened east/west access to the area, only the Ktunaxa First Nation knew the waterways and sloughs that drained into what's now known as Kootenay Lake.
These rich wetlands would have been a great source of food for those that fished, hunted, and gathered in this valley.
The first European settlers arrived in 1883 to a place that looked very different from today's Creston Valley. In those days, the annual freshet flooded the entire valley, receding only as river levels dropped over the course of the summer. Getting around involved canoes, rowboats, and later the sternwheelers that plied the waterways between Bonners Ferry (Idaho) and Kaslo.
In 1883, the inventive and boldly entrepreneurial William Adolf Baillie-Grohman conceived of a scheme that would change the face of the valley by draining the Creston Flats to create huge tracts of fertile farmland.
His ambitious three-pronged plan involved lowering the level of Kootenay Lake by dynamiting the bed of the Kootenay River west of Nelson, diverting water from the Kootenay River into the Columbia at Canal Flats, and building dykes to contain the Kootenay River at Creston.
He negotiated a deal with the Government of British Columbia, which was to grant him title to a huge amount of land in return for the proposed land reclamation. The blasting effort was a complete failure, the canal water diversion was not permitted by the Federal Government, and his early dyking system was swept away by the first freshet. Today, dykes protect more than 10,000ha/25,000ac of reclaimed farmland. No doubt Baillie-Grohman, the determined dreamer, would feel vindicated.
Farms and Orchards
For more than 90 years, the Creston Fall Fair has been a fixture on family calendars throughout the valley. Creston's modern history is one of farming, fruit growing, dairies and, more recently, vineyards. Today, Creston Valley is becoming increasingly important fixture on the locally grown food scene.