Love exploring former and abandoned towns? BC has a handful you can visit, and one happens to lie underneath Koocanusa Lake, believe it or not. Sandwiched between BC’s mountain resort communities of Fernie and Cranbrook is the underwater ‘ghost town’ of Waldo (now adjacent to Koocanusa Village) – bringing a whole new meaning to “Where’s Waldo.” If you’re ready for a glimpse into frontier and pioneer life in BC, read on!
A once prosperous lumber village in East Kootenays, Waldo was located on the eastern shores of Kootenay Lake. Records from BC Archives tell us that the town dates back to the late 19th century and early 20th century, and its lumber was used to help construct the Great Northern Railway between Minnesota and Seattle.
Textual records from the BC Department of Public Works and the Teachers’ Bureau Records indicate that there was a school and police force – and a 1985 interview of two former residents reveals the presence of families in the area.
Jack and Marguerite Aye lived in the Kootenay River Valley from the 1900s to the 1960s, though all of that changed with the creation of the Libby Dam.
In the 1960s and 70s, the U.S. government constructed The Libby Dam in Montana, thus creating Lake Koocanusa (a combination of “Kootenay,” “Canada,” and “USA”). And since the waters of the reservoir would completely cover the town of Waldo, residents were then forced to relocate to Baynes Lake and elsewhere.
So while present-day recreational opportunities do exist on the lake and the nearby Waldo Cove Regional Park, the area is also worth exploring if you enjoy a good ghost story or two.
And if you’d rather squeeze in one last beach day at the lake’s sandy beaches and turquoise waters, we don’t blame you a bit. Though it’s always good to know an area’s history before visiting!
Happy adventuring, spooky season lovers.
Where: Lake Koocanusa, BC