First Nations people occupied the valley originally, and their descendants maintain strong connections here today. They had the whole area to themselves until the 1890’s. Then silver was found, and the area boomed for about 25 years. Around 1900, the population of individual towns like Slocan City and Sandon were around 5,000 each. And during World War II, 12,000 Japanese-Canadians were interned in Lemon Creek, Sandon, Slocan City, New Denver and Rosebery.
Today, only about 5,600 people live within the 1,275 square miles (330,000 hectares) of the Slocan Valley. That’s less than 4 people per square mile! People escaping the American and Canadian systems, “back-to-the-landers”, seniors in retirement, the children of interned Japanese, loggers and miners, entrepreneurs and adventurers all share in the piece of paradise which is the Slocan Valley.
From the southern entrance to the Slocan Valley at the junction of Highways 3A and 6, to the northern end just south of Nakusp, you will come across the following major communities. “Major” is a relative term here. Don’t expect office towers and 5 star hotels. And between these major centres, there are many small places with names like Appledale, Vallican, and Rosebery.
Crescent Valley is just off Highway 3A and the first place to stop. A regional school, restaurants, gas station, health food store and a handful of tourism businesses thrive here.
23 km north is Winlaw, population 400. Home to many artisans, there are restaurants, lodging and a general store with fuel.
The Village of Slocan (once known as Slocan City) population 336 is just off Highway 6, about 19 km north of Winlaw. Slocan Village was the smallest incorporated city in the British Commonwealth, perhaps in the world. A small sawmill still operates here, and you can find food, rooms, gas and other services.
Silverton, population 252, is 27 km north of Slocan Village. Now home to a museum, art galleries, B&B’s and small shops, it sits on the east shore of Slocan Lake. New Denver, population 600, is only 8 km north of Silverton. New Denver was once the regional capital of the Valley, and the site of an internment camp which housed 2,000 Japanese Canadian during the Second World War. A museum, tourist services and old heritage buildings survive today.
11 km east of New Denver is the entrance to Sandon, population about 10. Yes, ten. Maybe! Who knows for sure? In a narrow valley surrounded by the remnants of mining on the steep sides of the enveloping mountains, Sandon is now a ghost town and historical site visited by 60,000 people a year. Sandon at its peak had over 5,000 residents. Millionaires rubbed shoulders with con men. Ladies of the evening emptied the pockets of miners, and drinkers could choose from 29 hotels and 28 saloons. The first community in BC with electricity, Sandon was known as the Monte Carlo of North America. But floods, fires and depleted mines spelled the end of its greatness.
For detailed demographics and statistics, please visit the Rural Development Institute website