In 1892, Nakusp sprang to life as a sternwheeler port on the Upper Arrow Lake, and became a key stop on the Columbia River route connecting Revelstoke, the smelter town of Trail, and beyond.
The port serviced the mines of the Slocan Valley, transferring ores, people, and supplies from trains to barges and sternwheelers. Nakusp rode high on the coattails of the Silvery Slocan mining boom until 1910. Since then, the town has been shaped by agriculture, forestry, and resilient optimism.
Agriculture and Forestry
With mining in decline, Nakusp turned to agriculture and forestry. Fertile land in the Arrow and Slocan lakes area was cleared for growing apples and soft fruits, and the surrounding forests and associated mills provided a solid base of seemingly permanent jobs.
Dramatic change came again in 1968 with the completion of the Hugh Keenleyside Dam. The dam at Castlegar, approximately 160km/100mi downstream, raised the water level of the Arrow Lakes by 24m/80ft. Thousands of hectares/acres of productive farmland were lost, along with numerous First Nations archaeological and burial sites. Thousands of people were forced to relocate, and entire towns were submerged. Built on the elevated flood plain of Kuskanax Creek, the town of Nakusp fared better than most, losing only two streets and some industrial land.
Today, the forestry industry is as much a bust as the Silvery Slocan mining boom. Mills have been relocated or closed, and logging has all but stopped. The people of Nakusp, meanwhile, are resilient and optimistic. A new industrial park is in the works, and the hope is that the quality of life and the raw beauty of Nakusp will bring a new employer.