Capt. Robert Sanderson named Halcyon Hot Springs in 1894.

Halcyon days at the hot springs

Halcyon Hot Springs, also called simply Halcyon, was previously known as Arrow Lake hot springs and Sanderson’s hot springs.

Eighty-second in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

Halcyon Hot Springs, or just Halcyon, was previously known as Arrow Lake hot springs and Sanderson’s hot springs, the latter after steamboat captain Robert Waldron Sanderson (1848-1924) who built the original spa there.

The earliest known reference is in the Nelson Tribune of August 10, 1893: “Judge A.M. Wilson of Lardo, S.S. Bailey of the Payne group of claims and Fred Richardson of Nelson have all gone to Sanderson’s hot springs on Upper Arrow lake for recuperation.”

Frederick Laing wrote in the September 1893 edition of Knox College Monthly: “The morning broke clear and after an early breakfast we pulled for Sanderson’s Hot Springs, which are 15 miles distant … Sanderson’s Hot Springs was a stopping place for four days.”

The Tribune wrote on February 3, 1894: “John McMillan, who is putting in the winter at Sanderson’s hot springs on Upper Arrow Lake, writes to a friend at Nelson that Bob Sanderson has his new hotel well underway …”

Beginning October 12, 1893, the Tribune included a travelers guide that mentioned “A train connecting at Robson with the steamer Columbia bound north for Fire Valley, Nakusp, Arrow Lake hot springs …”

A letter in the Nakusp Ledge of April 19, 1894 said: “The Arrow Lake Hot Springs are becoming quite famous for their medicinal properties …”

There are further references to Sanderson’s hot springs through August 1894. According to Milton Parent in Halcyon: The Captain’s Paradise, the hotel opened on September 10.

The first mention of the current name was from an anonymous correspondent in Revelstoke’s Kootenay Mail of November 24, 1894: “At 10 p.m. we arrived at the Halcyon Hot Springs, which is the new name given by Capt. Sanderson to his pleasure and sanitary resort on the Upper Arrow Lake.”

Halcyon is a fabled bird, identified with the kingfisher, that had the power to calm the wind and waves while it nested on the sea during the winter solstice, hence the term “halcyon days.” In Greek myth, Alcyone was the daughter of Aeolus, who drowned herself in grief at the death of her husband Ceyx. She was transformed into a kingfisher. As an adjective, halcyon means peaceful, tranquil, prosperous, or golden.

The Halcyon Hot Springs post office operated from 1898 to 1950.

When James White of the Canadian Geographical Survey inquired about the name’s origin in 1905, he received an unsigned reply, probably from postmaster Harry McIntosh: “1) Stated by parties who were here many years ago that a Scotchman called the place ‘Halcyon’ after a stream called Halcyon in Scotland. Others say it was named Halycon by the early prospectors meaning ‘Pleasant or blissful waters.’ Capt. Sanderson, who is still in the neighborhood, says he called it Halcyon on account of the restful surroundings and the waterfalls. 2) Capt. Sanderson, a Scotchman, now lives near Halcyon.”

Sanderson, born in Kingston, Ont., had an especially diverse career before coming to West Kootenay: he studied mechanical engineering and medicine, ran a music store, supervised logging crews in Minnesota, sailed on the Mississippi and contracted malaria.

When the Canadian Pacific Railway was built across Canada, he got a job supervising bridge construction. By 1888, he was captain of a small catamaran on the Arrow Lakes called the Despatch and two years later became a partner in the Columbia and Kootenay Steam Navigation Co.

Sanderson died at Pingston at age 76 and was buried at Halcyon. His hotel went through several owners before it burned in 1955, taking the life of its last proprietor, Dr. Frederick Burnham. The current resort opened in 1999.

Previous installments in this series





Annable, Apex, and Arrow Park

Annable, revisited


Applegrove, Appleby, and Appledale revisited

Argenta and Arrowhead


Bakers, Birds, and Bosun Landing


Bannock City, Basin City, and Bear Lake City



Bealby Point

Bealby Point (aka Florence Park) revisited

Belford and Blewett

Beaverdell and Billings

Birchbank and Birchdale

Blueberry and Bonnington

Boswell, Bosworth, Boulder Mill, and Broadwater



Brooklyn, Brouse, and Burnt Flat


Camborne, Cariboo City, and Carrolls Landing

Carmi, Cedar Point, Circle City, and Clark’s Camp

Carson, Carstens, and Cascade City

Casino and Champion Creek

Castlegar, Part 1

Castlegar, Part 2

Castlegar, Part 3

Christina Lake

Christina City and Christian Valley

Clubb Landing and Coltern

Cody and Champion Creek revisited

Champion Creek revisited, again


Columbia City, Columbia Gardens, and Columbia Park


Cooper Creek and Corra Linn

Crawford Bay and Comaplix revisited

Crescent Valley and Craigtown


Dawson, Deadwood, and Deanshaven

Deer Park

East Arrow Park and Edgewood


English Cove and English Point



Evans Creek and Evansport

Falls City




Ferguson, revisited


Forslund, Fosthall, and Fairview

Fort Shepherd vs. Fort Sheppard, Part 1

Fort Shepherd vs. Fort Sheppard, Part 2

Fort Sheppard, revisited

Fraser’s Landing and Franklin


Fruitvale and Fraine

Galena Bay



Gilpin and Glade

Gladstone and Gerrard, revisited

Glendevon and Graham Landing

Gloster City

Goldfields and Gold Hill

Grand Forks, Part 1

Grand Forks, Part 2

Granite Siding and Granite City

Gray Creek, Part 1

Gray Creek, Part 2

Green City


Just Posted

Buddhist monument to be dedicated in Slocan cemetery

A new post has been created to mark the site where at least nine Japanese Canadians were cremated

Passenger counts still rising at West Kootenay Regional Airport

Reliability rates also on rise in second quarter.

Andrew Bellerby out as RDCK’s regional fire chief

Bellerby held the job since January 2016

Craft cannabis development planned for Castlegar

Plans are underway for one of the first craft cannabis industrial parks in the province.

Abra Brynne wins Kootenay-Columbia Green Party nomination

Brynne is one of three candidates who will challenge MP Wayne Stetski

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

How much do you know about the moon?

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, see how well you know space

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

Most Read