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Salmon Arm is a small city with a population of 16,000 on the shores of Shuswap Lake in B.C. Its name comes from its location on Shuswap Lake; the lake is in the shape of a huge letter "H", and the four arms of the lake are the Anstey Arm, Seymour Arm, Shuswap Arm, and Salmon Arm. The city of Salmon Arm is located on the far end of the lake's Salmon Arm, approximately halfway between Vancouver and Calgary on the Trans-Canada Highway . The lake is surrounded by heavily-treed hills and low mountains, a sharp contrast to the bare desert-like hills surrounding Okanagan Lake, near Kelowna .
For those wishing to make a leisurely two-day drive between Vancouver and Banff or Calgary, Salmon Arm makes an excellent place to stop for the night without leaving the main Trans-Canada/Coquihalla Highway route. There are many amenities: accommodations range from a resort hotel to budget motels, B&Bs, and campgrounds. There are also many restaurants, from fine dining in Minos Greek House and Forster's Restaurant (in the Prestige Inn) to family-oriented restaurants and the usual fast-food chains.
Recreation opportunities focus on cottaging and boating, especially houseboating. Since the lake is quite shallow at Salmon Arm, there is a long wharf (Promenade Pier) to make the city accessible to boaters. At the end of the wharf, there is a public dock, houseboat rentals, personal watercraft rentals, and a small food concession with hamburgers and ice cream cones. Many people enjoy strolling to the end of the pier to enjoy the view of the lake and the cool breezes. Often Twin Anchor Houseboats, which has a private marina at the wharf for its fleet, has one or two houseboats available for viewing by curious members of the public. Cruisin' the Shuswap has several daily lake cruises from the public wharf, weather and numbers permitting. Rotary Park, at the foot of the pier, hosts weekly free concerts in the summer.
Also near the wharf, and extending along the shoreline for about three kilometers, is the Nature Bay natural area. This marshy area is a nesting place for the Western Grebe (a more primitive relation of the Common Loon) and usually Osprey, Great Blue Herons, and Bald Eagles can also be observed. Birders will be happy to note that Western Grebe sightings are virtually guaranteed. Paths and boardwalks provide walking access. The annual Western Grebe Festival in May celebrates this unique bird and its unusual courtship dance.
In August, Salmon Arm holds the annual Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival at the fair grounds, with several stages doing shows in the daytime and into the late evening. Camping is available on the festival grounds.
Shuswap Lake cottagers and houseboaters find Salmon Arm to be an excellent base for resupply and local recreational opportunities. Although the majority of the houseboat fleet is based in nearby Sicamous (with the exception of Twin Anchors' Salmon Arm marina), Salmon Arm is the best place for shopping on the Shuswap, with three major grocery stores (Askew's, Safeway, and Overwaitea), two indoor malls (Picadilly Place Mall and Centenoka Park Mall), a laundromat with wash & fold service, and Canadian Tire.
Houseboat access to Salmon Arm can be challenging; it is important to be familiar with how to use the navigational aids in the lake and range markers on the shore which mark the dredged channel leading in to the public wharf. Overnight moorage with access to electricity is available at the public wharf on a first-come first-served basis for $10 per night, through the office at Sea-Dog rentals. Space is limited, but the wharf is well-protected by a large breakwater and pilings. There is a gas dock, and a small dinghy dock is located close to the shore, adjacent to the boat ramp. Long-term pay parking for boaters and houseboaters is available in two lots — one is near the public wharf, and the second is opposite the Prestige Inn.
Cottagers enjoy Salmon Arm's recreational amenities, such as golfing (18-hole or par 3), water slides, first-run movies, farmers' & crafters' market, and swimming at the nearby Canoe public beach or the indoor pool at the SASCU Recreation Centre. Visitors are allowed to shower at the rec centre for a small charge, about $2 per person, rather than being required to pay the full admission fee for the pool. Movie rentals are available to visitors through two different outlets. There is a small skateboard park in Salmon Arm.
There are many campgrounds in the Salmon Arm and Shuswap Lake area. RVers who are just passing through the city will find that they are welcome to "boondock" for the night in a special section of the Picadilly Place Mall parking lot, near the Zellers store; this section can easily be identified by the free black water dump station there. Unfortunately, this station is sometimes out of service; a sewage dump with potable water is also available at the Husky Station on the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway just east of the Centenoka Park Mall. A small fee is charged, which may be waived if you also bought gas. Propane is available at the Super Save Gas station on the north side of the Trans-Canada Highway, just east of the A&W.