The History of Koocanusa

In 1961 an international treaty between Canada and the United States was signed to coordinate flood control and maximize electrical energy production throughout the Columbia Basin.

In 1972, the Kootenay River was transformed into Lake Koocanusa, a 150 kilometre long body of water, following completion of the Libby Dam located approximately 80 km south of the United States border.

A contest to name the Lake was won by a Libby, Montana resident. The name was derived from “Koo” from Kootenay, “Can” from Canada and “USA”.

In the late 70’s an accidental release of approximately 100 kokanee salmon entered the water system and thrived, due in part, to the lack of natural predators. Shortly afterwards, anglers were pulling in many thousands of these tasty land locked salmon.

It is interesting to note that the original “big” plan was to create a much larger body of water that would have flooded an immense area of the Columbia Valley. Common sense prevailed and we are now blessed with this amazing and useful water system known as Lake Koocanusa.

Koocanusa, as a reservoir, rises each March to June in a refresh that can see as much as 4 million acre feet of water enter the system from the mountains through the many tributary streams entering the lake.

This all means a wonderfully clean and warm (heats as it rises) lake each year.

The water retreats starting slowly in mid summer to late fall when water is held for power production in the winter. All this time the lake remains an ever changing, enchanting and marvellous place to be.

Lake Koocanusa has emerged as a great recreational haven.

sunshine houseboat owners
Koocanusa Map

Our History

Sunshine Houseboat Vacations Ltd. was founded in 1999 by Brant and Dianne Cullum, residents of Cranbrook, BC. The couple had a vision to offer houseboat charters on Lake Koocanusa stemming from some thoughtful insight during family camping trips to the lake.

Resourceful entrepreneurs, Brant and Dianne understood the importance of having a competitive advantage and they knew that the area rivalled any other location.

To begin, four original Three Bouys’ Suncruiser craft were purchased in Sicamous and transported to Lake Koocanusa. Each of the boats were named after one of their daughters: Jessica, Krista, Alissa and Britt. The first marina was established on a small piece of land located opposite the Elk River. This location helped the company establish its personality.

As word spread about the area, charter bookings grew and brand new state of the art houseboats were added to the fleet. To accommodate growth a new location was secured and Sunshine moved to Gold Bay in the spring of 2006.

In 2022 Sunshine will operate the fleet from their full service marina located on 4 hectares of land and 3 hectares of water.

Sunshine is a thriving and growing tourism business on Lake Koocanusa.

See what our customers think:

There were 19 of us on the houseboat, 8 of them being our grandkids between the ages of 3 and 8yr. Every one of us would say it rated 10/10. I always thought that house-boating was more for adults and partying but not so, we had a marvellous time and hope to do it again.

I absolutely LOVE Sunshine Houseboats! The service this year was amazing! We got unloaded and loaded in a very timely manner and efficiently. The boat was clean, the water is beautiful and it is the best vacation ever! I come ever year and already have my boat booked for next year! Look forward to seeing you again!

I grew up in the East Kootenays and never knew there was a houseboat company on the lake, in fact didn’t even realize all the potential Lake Koocanusa had until our houseboat trip. Rock Cliff Islands was a tremendous experience – cliff jumping – AAAaahhhh!! SPLASH!!

Contact us today to start your adventure.