Communities

Gifts that keep on giving

Kathi Cooperman surveys the west Shuswap from the Blind Bay Lookout

As we approach the solstice and the holiday season, it is appropriate to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in the Shuswap. It is a gift that keeps on giving, to live here, surrounded by clean air, clean water, green trees, and friendly neighbours. Plus we have four seasons to enjoy a wide diversity of recreational pursuits from golfing, swimming and boating to hiking, biking, skiing and snowshoeing.
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The transformative, gateway community of Sicamous

Sicamous from the hang gliding ramp lookout. Photo by Ian Clay

At the eastern gateway to the Shuswap is the municipality of Sicamous, a transformative community that is poised to re-invent itself again. Its unusual name is a derivation of the Secwepemc word “Shick-a-mows” meaning  “squeezed in the middle.” The early surveyor and explorer Walter Moberly first used the written word on his 1866 map of the region to describe the narrows between Shuswap and Mara Lakes.
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Malakwa – Gateway to mountain adventure

Swinging Bridge over the Eagle River

Malakwa is a resourceful community that when faced with challenges, finds a way to continue thriving. Most of us speed by the tiny hamlet of 500 people on the four-lane freeway unaware of its virtues, its possibilities and its rich history. Despite Malakwa’s shuttered sawmill, burnt-out truck stop, public school closure and decrepit community centre, the Community Centre Association has persevered to provide services and help maintain a strong community spirit.

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Living the dream in Seymour Arm

Bughouse Bay & Seymour Arm with Hunakwa Lake in the distance, circa 1995 Photo by Myron Kozak

If any of the 80 full-time residents of the Shuswap’s most remote community of Seymour Arm were asked why they choose to live there, the answer would likely be because they appreciate the peace and quiet. And it was certainly peaceful on September 12th when I drove there to interview a few locals, take some photos and enjoy a hike. Serenity can be elusive however during the summer, when most of the 500 homes and summer cabins are full, campgrounds are packed and boats of all sizes and shapes fill the bay.
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What makes Anglemont so successful?

Angle Mountain above Magna Bay

A hillside community nearly at the end of the paved highway in the North Shuswap, Anglemont is somewhat of an enigma, as despite its isolation it continues to thrive throughout the year. During a recent visit to Anglemont, I hiked the new trail into Evelyn Falls, toured the massive log inn and met with the president of the Community Centre, Fay Begin, to get a sense of what makes the community tick. Looking back on my way home, the fresh snow atop Angle Mountain, named by George Dawson in 1877 for the angle formed by the Seymour Arm of Shuswap Lake, glistened in the sun.
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Lakeside living at its best


In its early days, Magna Bay was a thriving settlement, where the first wave of “back to the land” settlers eked out a living by farming the land and cutting ties and firewood for the CPR. There was an intense rivalry between Celista and Magna Bay then, which likely was a factor behind the decision to build in 1919 what was then the largest school in the region just across from the Magna Bay government wharf. It became the centre for many cultural activities, including theatre productions, until the Celista Hall was built in 1934.

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Celista – North Shuswap’s cultural centre


Since Scotch Creek is deemed the commercial centre of the North Shuswap, then it would be best to describe Celista as the cultural centre. Home to the North Shuswap Elementary School, the North Shuswap Community Hall and St. David’s Church, Celista is where local residents often come for educational and cultural activities. It was once called Fowler’s Landing, as North Shuswap’s first settler, Harry Fowler had a floating workshop and home there.
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Scotch Creek was once part of the gold rush

Satellite image of Scotch Creek from Google

If Scotch Creek, the North Shuswap’s largest community and commercial centre were ever to adopt a theme, a good choice would be the gold rush, which was how the community began. Its very name could refer to one of the early prospectors who arrived there at the same time that Seymour Arm was established in 1866. The first reference to the creek was in the March 1867 Colonist, “Mining on Scotch Creek and Tranquille River will be carried on with vigor this year and with every prospect of the most favorable results. The former has prospected well and ten claims are recorded.” This first gold rush was short-lived as by 1877, the Geological Survey reported how the creek “has yielded heavy gold, but no mining is now going on there.”

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Lee Creek, gateway to the North Shuswap

          This Lee Creek aerial photo shows most of the community with the virtually unexplored and protected Corning Creek Canyon on the right

The North Shuswap, like many other areas of the Shuswap, has seen major changes since settlement, as the economic base has shifted from agriculture to forestry to tourism and retirement. At its gateway is the small community of Lee Creek, which is known best for Roderick Haig-Brown Park and the Adams River salmon run. Since its one-room school closed in 1954, the population of Lee Creek languished until a few small subdivisions were built in the 1970s. Now that Lee Creek is officially a secondary settlement, it may continue to grow as a summer destination primarily with new recreational vehicle lots and homes.

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Quaaout – a community enhanced by tourism


There has always been a significant community on the north side of the Little River, as evidenced by the many kekuli pit house depressions near the outlet of Shuswap Lake just to the east of the Squilax gas station. At one time there may have been many hundreds, if not thousands of Secwepemc people wintering there on what is now sacred ground. However, by the late 1970s, the Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band reserve was looking somewhat threadbare, with high unemployment, very few band members living on the reserve, and its prime recreational lakefront property dominated by leased beach cabins.

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