Castlegar, BC: Heritage and Culture of the Russian Doukhobors

Super Natural British Columbia, Canada.There's really nothing like it! Having lived in the West Kootenay area between 2 small towns for years - Trail, with its Italian heritage, and Castlegar, with its Russian Doukhobor heritage - the West Kootenay area provides a wealth of culture for visitors of all ages.

The Russian Doukbobors migrated to Castlegar in the early 1900s, prior to and just after the establishment of a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) station in the town. By 1913, there were approximately 5,000 Doukhobors in the West Kootenay area, many of whom settled into Castlegar and its surrounding lands. After the Great Depression ended in 1939, the Doukhobor population in Castlegar had grown to 10,000 residents.

Zuckerburg Island Heritage Park
One of the coolest ways to experience the Doukhobor culture in Castlegar is by visiting Zuckerburg Island Heritage Park along the confluence of the Kootenay and the Columbia Rivers. This one-of-a-kind nature experience includes a suspension bridge, a 1930s Russian Orthodox chapel house, sculptures and a cemetery, along with 2 hectares of forested paths to explore at your leisure. Zuckerburg Island Heritage Park is open seasonally from May to September. But if you're visiting the area in October, there's always a popular, and some say scary, haunted house on Zukerburg Island!

Doukhobor Discovery Centre
Another great way to experience more of the local Russian culture is by visiting the Doukhobor Discovery Centre across from the West Kootenay Regional Airport. Here you can wander around to view some of the early 1900s carriages, and then check out more than 1,600 items tracing the history of this vibrant way of life in the centres museum. It's a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the traditional Doukhobor culture. The Doukhobor Discovery Centre is open seasonally from May through September.

Linotype Wapiti by Carl Sean McMahon
Beyond learning about the heritage and culture of the Russian Doukhobors, Castlegar is also home to the Kootenay Gallery of Art, the Castlegar Station Museum (the old CPR railway station mention above), and to the super popular Sculpturewalk, which has gained Castlegar the nickname of being the Sculpture Capital of Canada. And don't miss summertime fun at Millennium Park with its swimming ponds and a concession stand.

For more information on the beautiful city of Castlegar and its proud Russian heritage - where Russian language classes are still provided in local schools today - visit Castlegar.ca. And one of my personal favourites when visiting Castlegar? Kelly's Doukhobor Borscht. Got to have it, and it's gluten free!! It's just like having to visit the 'world famous' Colander Restaurant in neighbouring Trail, BC, don't miss out!!



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