When the Canadian Pacific Railway bridged the Rocky Mountains in the mid-1880′s, a wave of explorers, prospectors, and settlers followed the rails into the newly opened mountain ranges. The first town site of Revelstoke was founded in anticipation of the railroad’s imminent arrival as construction crews raced to complete Canada’s transcontinental line through the Selkirk Mountains. To frustrate land speculators, the CPR established a passenger stop and maintenance facility for its steam trains at a competing site nearby, though the two sites eventually grew together into one community.
For generations, Revelstoke’s fate was directly linked to the railroads as they challenged nearby Rodger’s Pass over the Canadian Rockies. It served as the major maintenance and supply base on the western side of that gruelling mountain pass, and as a stopover for passengers and trains along that majestic route. It was a rough and tumble town to begin with, though the CPR had great ambitions for the community and named it to honour an English investment banker, Lord Revelstoke, who intervened during uncertain times to help complete the railroad’s financing, thus ensuring completion of Canada’s first transcontinental railroad. Indeed, the ceremonial “last spike” was driven at nearby Craigellachie, from where the delegation returned to Revelstoke to celebrate their nation-building accomplishment.
The railroad also brought many prospectors and miners into the region who were perhaps inspired by a gold-rush bonanza that had occurred nearby on the Columbia River in the 1860′s. Forestry was also important, as both the railroads and mines needed a steady supply of timbers to maintain tracks and tunnels. As the Kootenay region (to the south) began to rapidly develop in the 1890′s, Revelstoke became an important hub connecting passengers and freight with the CPR route southward through the Arrow Lakes system to Castlegar, Nelson, and the famous Silvery Slocan.
The isolation of the community began to change in the early-1960′s upon completion of the Trans-Canada Highway through Revelstoke, which brought increasing numbers of tourists and travellers into the area. Industrial developments, hydroelectric installations, and mining also grew in importance, and in recent years tourism development, ski resorts, and backcountry adventurism have boomed. Revelstoke is now a major tourist destination anchored by Revelstoke National Park and an abundance of wilderness adventure opportunities. The community typically receives very high snowfalls during the winter, making skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling a major industry in the area. Heli-skiing and snowcat-skiing allow enthusiasts to reach beyond the community, to the major peaks surrounding the town for their bonanza of powdery snow.
Today, Revelstoke is a charming city of nearly 7,000 year-round residents. Both the Trans-Canada Highway and the CPR east-west mainline pass through the community, crossing the Columbia River on bridges near the centre of town. The spectacular location is set upon the north bank of the Columbia River near it’s confluence with the Illecillewaet River, near the northern end of Upper Arrow Lake, and captures the imagination of many residents and visitors.
Mount Revelstoke National Park
Revelstoke Railway Museum
Mount Revelstoke Resort
Craigellachie National Historic Site