Highway 23 is a north-south highway that straddles the Trans-Canada Highway in the province's Columbia Country region. Its section north of Revelstoke is known as the Big Bend Highway and was part of the original routing of Highway 1 along the Columbia River. The Big Bend area was well known as there was a gold rush there, beginning in 1864. Travellers used canoes or river steamers until a dirt-surfaced "highway" was built on the east bank around the Big Bend, from Revelstoke to Golden, from 1930 to 1937, opening officially in 1940, and it served as the trans-provincial highway until 1962 when the Rogers Pass route was opened.
Highway 23 was initially opened in 1964, and it was re-aligned through the latter half of the 1960s. Realignment of the highway also occurred in the early 1980s, in anticipation of the creation of the reservoir for the Revelstoke Dam (Revelstoke Lake), which flooded lower parts of the highway.
Highway 23, which is 250 km (155 mi) long, begins in the south at Nakusp, where it meets Highway 6. Highway 23 winds north along the eastern shore of Upper Arrow Lake for 49 km (30 mi) to its junction with Highway 31 at Galena Bay. The Upper Arrow Lakes Ferry continues Highway 23 across Upper Arrow Lake to a location known as Shelter Bay. North of Shelter Bay, Highway 23 follows the west bank of the Columbia River for 49 km (30 mi) to where it meets the Trans-Canada Highway. Highway 23 follows the Trans-Canada east through the city of Revelstoke for 1 km (about ½ mi), finally turning north after leaving Revelstoke.
North of Revelstoke, Highway 23 entirely follows the east bank of Revelstoke Lake for 151 km (94 mi), past the old townsite of Mica Creek to its northern end at the Mica Dam facility.