Pilot Bay is a quaint community that wraps itself along Kootenay Lake’s shoreline near Kootenay Bay. Home to year round and many seasonal and shoulder season residents, it boasts some of the most delightful hiking trails and scenic vistas in the area, not the least of which is the Pilot Bay Lighthouse.
The Pilot Bay Lighthouse is a white, wood frame, three-storey tower with a tapered form located on the northern part of the Pilot Peninsula that extends into Kootenay Lake near the community of Crawford Bay in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia. The historic place consists of the southern part of the Pilot Peninsula held within Pilot Bay Provincial Park, including the lighthouse, surrounding clearing and forest, and associated hiking trail.
The town is located west of Crawford Bay on the east side of Kootenay Lake, opposite the entrance to West Arm Provincial Park. In the early 1890s, the Hendryx interests built a smelter on the east side of Kootenay Lake to treat the ores from their Blue Bell lead-silver mine at Riondel. By 1895 the Pilot Bay Smelter was in operation with 200 men employed. A town emerged around the smelter called Pilot Bay. Pilot Bay had a population of 1,000 and had 4 hotels, 3 stores and some other businesses. Mines which shipped their ore to the smelter include the Blue Bell, Ainsworth Mines, and Slocan Mines. In 1896 the Hall Mines Smelter in Nelson had started and become too much competition for Pilot Bay. This resulted in the closure of Pilot Bay Smelter in 1896. The Pilot Bay Smelter reopened in 1905 but was eventually closed permanently. Today all that is left of that town is the ruins of the smelter and remnants of the town.
When James White of the Geographic Survey of Canada inquired about how Pilot Bay on Kootenay Lake got its name, he received an intriguing reply from J.W. Cockle of the Kaslo Board of Trade, dated Aug. 26, 1905: “This is a later corruption of Pirates Bay, by which name it was known to the earlier settlers. The derivation of the name Pirates is from the Kootenay Indians who called it Yakhsoumah, or Thief’s Bay. In early days the Kootenays and Colville Indians were at war. The Colvilles in one of their raids succeeded in stealing (whilst the Kootenays slept) all of their canoes. These they towed or paddled down the lake for a distance of 30 miles and cached them in the secure refuge of what was subsequently called Thief’s Bay.”
The Pilot Bay Provincial Park offers camping, hiking, fishing, boating and beaching opportunities.