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The Kootenays are a region of dramatic glacier-carved valleys overseen by the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. This region is studded by numerous lakes, including the largest inland lake in the province, 156 km (97 mi) long Kootenay Lake. The eastern perimeter of the Kootenay Region is delineated by the rugged, ragged mountains of the Rockies, similar to those seen in Banff National Park. To the west of the Rockies are the much rounder and older Purcell Mountains. The Purcells differentiate the eastern portion of the Kootenays from the western Kootenay Lake country. The West Kootenay feature the southern extension of the interior rain forest, whereas the East Kootenay experiences the rainshadow effect created by the Purcell Mountains, which makes for a dry grassland country.

The Kootenay Region is a recreationalist's dream. Backcountry trekkers are drawn to the Kootenays for its high mountains, alpine lakes, grasslands, and high country meadows full of wildflowers. Other visitors come for the fishing, horseback riding, downhill or crosscountry skiing, and wildlife viewing opportunities. Mountain climbers come to tackle such peaks as Mount Findlay and Hamill Peak, which are both over 3,600 m (12,000 ft).

Many of the Kootenay valley bottoms have been flooded by reservoirs, like the Mica and the Arrow Lakes country. But in the eastern Kootenays, where the Kootenay River still runs wild, is found some of the most important winter ranges for wildlife in North America supporting exceptional populations of elk, deer, and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. The Kootenay also provide important habitat for grizzly and black bear, mountain goat, cougar, wolverine, grey wolf, lynx, mountain and woodland caribou, and moose.

The forests at lower elevations in the Kootenay region are predominately interior cedar-hemlock in the wetter West Kootenay, and dry interior Douglas fir, ponderosa pine and bunchgrass in the East Kootenay. At higher altitudes Engelmann spruce sub-alpine fir forests grow. Thirty rare or endangered plant species, including alpine butterweed and Lyall's phacelia are found in the Kootenay Region. Many of these wildflowers and plants are not found anywhere else in BC.

The Kootenays are named after the First Nations people who originally inhabited this area, the Kutenai people.

"The region features some of the most important winter ranges for wildlife in North America. Exceptional populations of elk, deer, and Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep are found in the region."

We invite you to explore the following parks:

Glacier National Park

Height of the Rockies Provincial Park

Kootenay National Park

Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Park

Valhalla Provincial Park

Yoho National Park

Goat Range Provincial Park

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park

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