Lake Windermere

  • Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere sits in the Columbia River Valley in southeastern British Columbia. You’ll find it nestled between the magnificent Rocky Mountains to the east and the Purcell range to the west, with breathtaking views on every hand. At 17.7 km in length (almost 11 mi.), it is one of the largest lakes and also one of the warmest in the Kootenay region.

But… When is a lake not a lake? When it’s Lake Windermere!

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The truth is that Lake Windermere, beloved by locals and the tens of thousands of visitors who flock to its shores each year, is really a widening of the Columbia River, only a few miles from its headwaters in Columbia Lake. From Lake Windermere, the river flows northwest to Golden, then gradually south into Washington and Oregon in the US. There it empties into the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon, 1,243 mi (2,000 km) later. But, to us, it is indeed a lake, our favorite spot on earth to play. We swim in it, boat on top of it and enjoy great fishing – in summer and, yes, we enjoy it just as much in the wintertime too!

Some interesting trivia

  • Lake Windermere wasn’t always called what it is today. It was first named Lower Columbia Lake.
  • The average depth of the lake is only 15 ft (4 ½ m).
  • Windermere and Invermere were named after regions in Britain.
  • The Lake Windermere area enjoys 2,000 hours of sunshine annually.
The Past
David Thompson Statue

Tens of thousands of years ago, most of the Rocky Mountain Trench, as we know it today lay under about 6,000 feet of ice. As the ice gradually melted, it left behind lakes, rivers and streams in the valleys between the mountain ranges. One of these waterways was the Columbia River.

The earliest recorded humans in the area were the Ktunaxa people whose hunting grounds ranged through several of the northwestern United States and into the Columbia Valley. They were a nomadic tribe, moving wherever they were able to find food and the Columbia River was a major spawning ground for the ocean-going Chinook salmon.

In 1807, explorer/cartographer/fur trapper David Thompson came through, mapping the area and trading with the indigenous people. Next came hundreds of settlers, mostly from Europe, but the Columbia Valley and Lake Windermere were almost unknown to tourism until the Banff-Windermere Highway was completed in 1923.

Learn more Columbia Valley history > > >

Today
Kinsmen Beach | Kinsmen Park | Lake Windermere
Kinsmen Beach | Lake Windermere

Today, the thriving town of Invermere sits at the northwest corner of Lake Windermere and the quaint community of Windermere can be found a very few miles south on the eastern shore of the lake. Being only about a 3 hour drive from Calgary, Lake Windermere is a mecca for tourists, who swell the population to about 3 times its regular size during the summer months. The area is dotted with cottages, campgrounds, parks (including nearby Kootenay National Park), 3 public recreational beaches, at least a dozen golf courses and various other tourist attractions. Many of the visitors have built summer residences near the lake and return year after year.

Bonspiel on the Lake | Invermere BC
Bonspiel on the Lake | Invermere BC

But it’s not just in the summer that Lake Windermere shines. The Lake Windermere Whiteway (the longest of its kind in the world) is a 30+ km maintained track on the ice between Invermere and Windermere every winter. The track forms 4 loops of varying lengths where individuals and families can skate-ski, cross-country ski, snowshoe, ice skate, walk the dog and run or ride a fat bike. Ice fishing huts dot the lake too. Add in a couple of skating rinks for pond hockey and family pleasure skating and you pretty much have every winter ice-related activity covered.

In January, the world-famous Bonspiel-on-the-Lake brings  enthusiastic curling teams from as far away as Washington and Montana to compete for the coveted glass curling stone from the local Bavin Glass. There is an annual ice-fishing derby and a snow golf tournament too.

Gone Fishing

Lake Windermere is a 4-season paradise for fishermen. You can cast your line and come up with such game species as:

  • Northern Pike
  • Kokanee
  • Burbot
  • Brook Trout
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Char
  • Mountain Whitefish

And Lake Windermere is one of the few lakes where bass fishing is allowed in the region. They’re elusive but you can add Largemouth Bass to the list.

Columbia Wetlands
Columbia River Wetlands
Columbia River Wetlands – Photo: Ed Wourds

Lake Windermere is part of the Columbia Wetlands which, at 15,000+ hectares, is one of the longest intact wetlands in North America. It is habitat for at least 300 wildlife species, some of which are endangered, including the peregrine falcon and the American badger. More than 250 species of migratory birds have been recorded in the wetlands. There’s nothing quite so peaceful as paddling a canoe or kayak into the wetlands to explore its immense biodiversity.

Read more about the Columbia Wetlands > > >

Points of Interest

So many of our happiest memories are of times spent at Lake Windermere. We’ve swum, boated, water-skied, fished, picnicked, ice-skated and just soaked up the wonderful Columbia Valley sunshine with family or friends and nearly all of our favorite memories took place at one of the following places:

Windermere

Windermere BC is a beautiful little community just a 5-minute drive south from Invermere on highway 93/95. For such a tiny spot on the map, Windermere has a very large history. [Read more...]

James Chabot Provincial Park

James Chabot Provincial Park is a tiny oasis of green at the northern tip of Lake Windermere, a popular spot for family adventures and several annual events. [Read more...]
Windermere Lake Provincial Park (Photo by BC Parks)

Windermere Lake Provincial Park

Windermere Lake Provincial Park, on the west side of the lake, protects one of the last remaining tracts of native grassland and waterside habitats along the shoreline. [Read more...]
Kinsmen Park (Kinsmen Beach)

Kinsmen Park

Kinsmen Park is a beautiful green space on the shores of Lake WIndermere in Invermere BC, a popular spot for residents & visitors both summer and winter. [Read more...]
Kinsmen Beach | Kinsmen Park | Lake Windermere

Invermere on the Lake

Invermere is the economic centre of the valley, with everything you want in a family vacation. Leave the cares of the world behind. Come visit Invermere. There's something for everyone here! [Read more...]
Columbia River Wetlands

The Columbia River Wetlands

The Columbia Wetlands stretches between Canal Flats and Golden, BC, along the Upper Columbia River between Canal Flats and Golden, BC. Come and explore it with us. [Read more...]
Skate or Ski th Lake Windermere Whiteway

Lake Windermere Whiteway

The Lake Windermere Whiteway is a 30+km groomed track on the frozen surface of the lake, offering famiies recreational adventures for all ages and abilities. [Read more...]

More Points of Interest > > >

Annual Lake Windermere Events

Here are some of the exciting events that occur on Lake Windermere each year. Note that events with past dates have not yet been scheduled for the coming year, but there’s still lots of useful information on their pages.

Lakeside Event| Invermere BC Event
Aug 11, 2018

Lakeside Event

The Lakeside Event is a summer's Tradition. Bring lawn chairs, blankets & refreshments to James Chabot Park to watch the show! After-party with live music!
Kinsmen Fishing Derby
Jan 27, 2018

Kinsmen Fishing Derby

Catch the biggest fish and win big cash prizes in the annual Fishing Derby. Entry fees help Kinsmen Club to serve the community.
Columbia Valley Rockies pond hockey team
Jan 26, 2018

BC Pond Hockey Championships

Columbia Valley Rockies Pond Hockey Championships shaping up to be a fantastic weekend on Lake Windermere. Two divisions with 6-player teams get minimum of 5 games.
Bonspiel on the Lake | Invermere BC
Jan 19, 2018

Bonspiel on the Lake

For over 30 years, the Invermere Curling Club has hosted the annual Bonspiel on the Lake, a unique 3-day curling event on the ice of Lake Windermere.
Jan 19, 2018

Snowflake Festival

Invermere's annual Snowflake Festival is a real family affair with live music, fantastic food, drink, ice skating, fire pit and fireworks as a grand finale.
Snow golf on Lake Windermere
Jan 13, 2018

Snow Golf Tournament

The annual Kinsmen Club of Windermere Valley Snow Golf Tournament is a fundraising event with great prizes to be won and a whole lot of fun for the players.
Summer Splash
Aug 6, 2017

Lake Windermere Summer Splash!

Join the fun at James Chabot Beach! Summer Splash is an annual celebration of Lake Windermere and everything we love about it. Competitions, live music, learning.

More Columbia Valley Events > > >

Windermere Photo Gallery

Enjoy the latest photos from the Windermere Instagram location feed. Click an image to open in Gallery view.

Lake Windermere Ambassadors

Lake Windermere AmbassadorsThe Lake Windermere Ambassadors is a registered society comprised of individuals representing key community sectors including: business, government, First Nations, recreation, second homeowners, full-time residents, youth and non-government organizations. They firmly believe that the lake is:

  • A crucial natural resource that contributes to the health and well-being of the local wildlife and ecosystem
  • A cultural resource
  • A strong contribution to the local economy

This group directs regular lake water quality monitoring and conducts education and stewardship programs in the community. They also also lobby for the implementation of the policies and guidelines of the Lake Windermere Management Plan. Their work has garnered high praise and is used as a model for community-based water stewardship by Living Lakes International, Living Lakes Network Canada and Friends of Kootenay Lake.

The Ambassadors are assisted by an army of eager community volunteers on the occasions of the semi-annual shore cleanups and their ongoing shoreline restoration efforts. And to help us celebrate all the reasons why we love our lake, they throw an annual Summer Splash party for the community. It’s a fun, free event, combining education with water competitions for every age.

To learn more about the work of the Lake Windermere Ambassadors, visit their very informative website at: http://lakeambassadors.ca

Lake Windermere BC | Columbia Valley