Elk River (British Columbia)

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Elk River
ProvinceBritish Columbia
DistrictKootenay Land District
Physical characteristics
SourceUpper Elk Lake
 • locationRocky Mountains
 • coordinates50°33′N 115°07′W / 50.550°N 115.117°W / 50.550; -115.117[1]
MouthKootenay River
 • location
Lake Koocanusa
 • coordinates
49°10′N 115°13′W / 49.167°N 115.217°W / 49.167; -115.217Coordinates: 49°10′N 115°13′W / 49.167°N 115.217°W / 49.167; -115.217[2]
Length220 km (140 mi)[3]
Basin size4,450 km2 (1,720 sq mi)[3]
 • locationAt Phillips Bridge[4]
 • average75.6 m3/s (2,670 cu ft/s)[4]
 • minimum5.66 m3/s (200 cu ft/s)
 • maximum1,020 m3/s (36,000 cu ft/s)

The Elk River is a 220-kilometre (140 mi) long river,[3] in the southeastern Kootenay district of the Canadian province of British Columbia. Its drainage basin is 4,450 square kilometres (1,720 sq mi) in area.[3] Its mean discharge is approximately 60 cubic metres per second (2,100 cu ft/s), with a maximum recorded discharge of 818 cubic metres per second (28,900 cu ft/s).[5] It is a tributary of the Kootenay River, and falls within the basin of the Columbia River.


The Elk River originates from the Elk Lakes near the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains.[5] It flows through the Elk Valley in a southwesterly direction, joining the Kootenay River in Lake Koocanusa, just north of the British Columbia-Montana border. Its waters ultimately join the Columbia River and flow towards the Pacific Ocean.

The Elk River runs through the communities of Elkford, Sparwood, Hosmer, Fernie, and Elko.


David Thompson travelled along the Elk River in 1811, and called it the Stag River. James Sinclair's second settlement expedition to the Pacific Northwest from the Red River Colony made a difficult crossing from the Kananaskis River valley into the Columbia–Kootenays via the Elk in 1854. The river was labelled Elk River on John Palliser's 1857–58 map and "Stag or Elk River" on Arrowsmith's 1862 map.[2]

Elko Dam[edit]

Elk River south of Elko, 1891

Elko Dam was built by East Kootenay Power Company on the Elk River in 1924. It is a run-of-the-river dam 16 metres (52 ft) tall and 66 metres (217 ft) long. The powerhouse has two Francis turbines producing 12MW of electricity.[6] It is about 16 kilometres (10 mi) upriver from the Elk's confluence with Lake Koocanusa.[5] It is operated by BC Hydro.


The fishing in the Elk River is known to be some of the best fly-fishing in North America, with large, wild cutthroat and bull trout aplenty.

Coal mining impacts[edit]

The Elk River Valley is home to five large open-pit coal mines, supplying a third of the world's steel-making coal. For many years increased selenium, phosphate and nitrate levels have been linked to the continued expansion of the mining. Selenium levels continue to exceed the guidelines for human health.[7] The selenium pollution has heavily impacted the cutthroat trout in the river, which suffer from deformation of their gills.[8]

Since Teck Resources operates the coal mines that are the source of the selenium pollution, the company is working to implement selenium management strategies.[9][8]



  1. ^ "Upper Elk Lake". BC Geographical Names.
  2. ^ a b "Elk River". BC Geographical Names.
  3. ^ a b c d "The Rivers - Stories". Balance of Power. 2007. Archived from the original on November 6, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Archived Hydrometric Data Search". Water Survey of Canada. Archived from the original on February 21, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2008. Search for Station 08NK005 Elk River at Phillips Bridge
  5. ^ a b c "Elko Project Water Use Plan" (PDF). BC Hydro. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 16, 2006. Retrieved September 3, 2008.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-08-27. Retrieved 2011-11-26.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ C. Lussier, V. Veiga and S. Baldwin, "The geochemistry of selenium associated with coal waste in the Elk River Valley, Canada", Environmental Geology 44.8, October 2007, pp. 905-13, abstract.
  8. ^ a b "From Canadian Coal Mines, Toxic Pollution That Knows No Borders". Yale E360 (in American English). Retrieved 2019-04-02.
  9. ^ Your Concerns, Our Response: Selenium Management Archived 2012-03-07 at the Wayback Machine, Teck 2009 Sustainability Report, retrieved 16 February 2011.

External links[edit]