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Autumn Oars: Finding Fall Colours on our Local Waterways

Soak up a spectrum of reds, yellows and oranges this fall, while finding stillness on our local waterways. Our explosion of fall colour can be enjoyed from September through November, with the most impressive showcase taking place throughout October. Whether you prefer to kayak, paddleboard, canoe, or find far-out adventure via pack-raft, our autumn paddling options are sure to offer plenty of epic scenery, plenty of fun, and plenty of crisp, fall memories.

Tip: All of our close-to-town options can be found within a 1-hour driving distance from Kimberley's downtown, while our further-out options may take an hour or more to reach by car.

By Canoe

Close to Town: St. Mary Lake and River

One of our favourite lakes in any season is St. Mary Lake, tucked into the hills of the Purcell Mountains. The shores here offer a spectacular smattering of deciduous trees and shrubs, while the surrounding hillsides are dotted with yellowing Western Larch. After paddling from the St. Mary Lake Regional Park on the east end of the lake, head to the west end of the lake to enjoy a wide and meandering section of the upper St. Mary River. Rapids are minimal through this section, and the paddle upstream will take you past sandy beaches, beaver dams, and a variety of colourful landscapes.

Further Out: Whiteswan Lake

For a further-out canoe destination in the Rocky Mountains, head east to Whiteswan Provincial Park and enjoy a relaxing paddle on Whiteswan or Alces Lakes. You’ll find both deciduous and coniferous trees flanking the shores here, with the impressive Canadian Rockies showcasing their first snow falls towering above. Be sure to visit the Lussier Hot Springs on your way to Whiteswan Lake, or plan for an overnight adventure by paddling to the Cave Creek backcountry sites on the northwest end of the lake.

Explore more: for paddlers looking to add a longer autumn adventure into their outing, drive past Whiteswan Lake and onto the White River FSR to head to the secluded Munroe Lake. After enjoying a paddle there, continue your fall drive and emerge on the Bull River FSR. Heads up that this driving/paddling loop takes place on unpaved backcountry roads that are largely outside of cell service.

By Kayak or SUP

Close to Town: Hahas/Stoney Lake

Known for its warm waters and abundant rainbow trout, Hahas/Stoney Lake is a close-to-town rec site that offers an easy-going and picturesque paddle that all ages will enjoy. Take in swaths of golden aspen from the calm waters here, and try your luck catching dinner against the many local anglers that frequent this quaint lake.

Further Out: The Kootenay River/Bummers Flats

This one is for the kayakers and paddle boarders who want to try their hand at river rowing, without contending with large currents or challenging terrain. The meandering Bummers Flats section of the Kootenay River offers wide and calm waters, and is the perfect place to enjoy a variety of fall colours below an impressive Rocky Mountain backdrop. This area is also popular for wildlife spotting and bird-watching, with herds of elk and birds of prey making regular appearances along the shorelines or high up in the surrounding trees.

By Pack-Raft

Close to Town: Yankee/Turtle Loop at Premier Lake Provincial Park

This 6km trail in Premier Lake Provincial Park is a favourite for family-friendly hiking throughout the year, and offers spectacular views of deciduous foliage in the fall months. If coming here for a backcountry paddle, we recommend doing the hike counter-clockwise to reach Yankee Lake within 45 minutes of hiking, or Canuck Lake following another 10 minutes or less down the path. Bonus points are awarded to any eager adventurer who decides to tackle the long hike up Saddleback Ridge to paddle the smattering of subalpine tarns that lie below the saddle. We hear there’s a large concentration of Alpine Larch tucked into the Rocky Mountains behind the ridge as well.

Further Out: Tanglefoot Lake

Concentrations of Alpine Larch trees are found in subalpine terrain throughout the Rocky Mountains, the Purcells, and the southern Selkirk ranges. These trees tend to turn golden earlier than larch concentrations at lower elevations, so Alpine Larch viewing should be undertaken earlier in the fall season. To find Tanglefoot Lake, weave through picturesque tarns as you climb higher, and watch as the bright-yellow Alpine Larch and colourful shrubbery get more striking as the trail goes on. A backcountry paddle on sparkling Tanglefoot Lake is the cherry on top of an already great hike in.

Heads up: though recent upgrades have been made to the Tanglefoot Lake access road, getting here does require a long drive on rough, backcountry roads. A high-clearance, 4x4 vehicle is recommended.

Paddlers rejoice! Heading out on-foot isn’t the only way to enjoy our high concentrations of golden Western Larch and deciduous shrubs during the autumn months. There are plenty of fall colours to explore from the scenic bends of our rivers and lakes, and no shortage of stillness to discover along our autumn waterways. For those without their own gear, SUP and kayak rentals are available through the Kimberley Adventure Centre at the Kimberley Riverside Campground during their seasonal operations. Looking to add some more foot-powered autumn adventure into your stay here? Check out our fall hiking guide, and plan your perfectly-curated style of trip via our seasonal itineraries.

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