Pre-Settlement History

Panorama of dock with a steam boat in the background.

Records show that the Sinixt were the original inhabitants of the Arrow Lakes area where Nakusp is presently located.  The first European to reach Arrow Lakes is thought to be Finan McDonald, one of David Thompson’s men, who landed just above Revelstoke in August 1811. The first European settlers arrived in the early 1890s.

Nakusp's Beginning

Historical railroad cart on track.

Nakusp’s settlement history begins in 1892 when the town site was put up for sale by the Rand Bros. 25’ lots sold for as much as $300 each. Speculation was that Nakusp would become a mining town.

Because there were no roads or railways to Nakusp in the early days, goods were shipped in and out of town by water transport (paddlewheelers) on the Arrow Lakes. Nakusp was a thriving community on the shipping route from Castlegar to Revelstoke.  


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    Exterior of historical CIBC in Nakusp. There are two men standing in front of the bank posing for the photo.

    1892 The first post office, the first store and the first sawmill opened.

  • 1893 The Nakusp Ledge, the first newspaper, was published on October 5.
  • 1898 The first church opened its doors in Nakusp.
  • 1895 The first school opened with an enrollment of nine students in a one-room schoolhouse.
  • 1905 Communications came with telephone service and Nakusp had a population of approximately 300 residents.
  • 1908 The first hospital opened.
  • 1909 The first bank opened its doors.
  • 1920 Power arrived in Nakusp, and the first volunteer fire brigade was formed.
  • 1964 The Village of Nakusp was incorporated on November 24,  with  Joseph Parent as the first mayor.

Of the early buildings only a few remain in use today. Two of these early buildings that are still in use are the Leland Hotel (built in the 1890s), and the Centennial Building (built as a school in 1912) which now houses the Nakusp Public Library.

Economic Development

Exterior of historical hospital in Nakusp. The structure resembles a house.

The importance of forestry to the local economy was obvious by the mid-20th century, and it became the major economic base of Nakusp. Celgar began operations in 1951 and Nakusp became the centre of a large pole and lumber industry.  Interfor now operates the main forestry operation in Nakusp, and several mills are currently in operation.

The Arrow Lakes Historical Society has extensive archive materials and information available for Nakusp, the Arrow Lakes and Trout Lake regions of British Columbia.

Interesting History: Facilities & Parks