The Frozen Lake

There are lots of memories and stories of the West Arm of Kootenay Lake freezing over in the winter time. In 1965 the building of Duncan Dam began. Its purpose was flood control and after its completion in 1967 the lake never frozes over completely again.

A group of skaters on the frozen West Arm at Willow Point-February 14, 1927 - Mags Watkins collection

A group of skaters on the frozen West Arm at Willow Point-February 14, 1927 – Mags Watkins collection

Memories . . .

“Skating on the West Arm was popular with young and old. On years when the lake did not freeze (which was seldom) . . . ”

page 21, West Arm Echos, by Eric Denny


“. . . this storm (in 1947) may have been a harbinger of things to come because that fall it turned bitter cold and the lake froze solid. For a short period one could skate to Nelson, but after it snowed a few times the wind formed dunes on the lake which were not large but were packed hard and difficult to skate through.

What hockey games we had at Willow Point;  the loggers and other lads, with time to play, would choose up teams and replay the Stanley Cup many times over.  Kids and old geezers, with vintage skates and equipment, what fun!

Two consequences were unfortunate. One, feral dogs and coyotes would chase deer onto the ice and kill or maim them just for the sport of it.  The other, ice punctured the hull of the Nelson ferry and she sank at the North Shore landing.  A small craft was pressed into service for passengers only.  And of course the damage to lake structures as the ice broke-up.”

Jack Page, 2014

“In those years, before the dams were made on the Kootenay River, the lake would usually freeze during the winter. we would take our skates to school and go skating during noon hour. One time a bunch of the kids decided to just keep skating and not return to school. We younger and more cowardly ones headed back when we heard the bell ringing. Of course we were a bit late but didn’t get too much of a lecture because no one had a watch.”

page 25, Lizzy, by Audrey Peterson (nee: Heddle)