How Deep is the Lake

A Century at Chilliwack Lake

Curious about the previous inhabitants of the lake community where her family has vacationed for over one hundred years, author Shelley O’Callaghan starts researching and writing about the area. But what begins as a personal journey of one woman’s relationship to the land and her desire to uncover the history of her family’s remote cabin, soon turns into an exploration and questioning of our rights as settlers upon a land that was inhabited long before we came.

O’Callaghan’s research discovers a depth to the history of the Valley that runs as deep as the 1000 metre lake. She discovers her grandfather’s intriguing connection with the First Nation’s chief whose ancestry goes back to the earliest recorded history at the lake, and her grandmother’s attendance at a school where First Nations girls were taught servitude instead of knowledge.

Through the summer of her research, she shares her discoveries with her six grandchildren as they set off on expeditions that make the past come alive. Together they find the headstone of an American scout with the 1858 International Boundary Commission Survey, a 1916 silver mine set up by Chief Sepass, and remnants of the original Indian Trail. They learn about trapper and prospector Charlie Lindeman, who introduced her grandfather to the lake in the early 1920s, and rescued her mother and grandmother from a fire that engulfed the lake in the 1930s.

Together with her grandchildren they consider the impact of the legacy of white settlement in the area–what is received from the past and what is given to the future. And as they reflect on the essence of a “summer cabin,” a place that brings family together and that nourishes the soul with its solitude and beauty, they gain a new perspective on the inevitable nature of change and privilege.

“Only someone with O’Callaghan’s intimate attachment to ‘the lake’ could have written such an appealing history-cum-memoir of this out of the way corner of the province. A charming portrait of family life set against the historical changes that threaten the tranquility and isolation of so many unique wilderness retreats. Highly recommended.”
— Daniel Francis, editorial director, Encyclopedia of British Columbia

Shelley O'Callaghan

Committed to social causes, Shelley O'Callaghan worked as a volunteer teacher for two years with the Canadian University Services Overseas in Zambia where she fostered literacy among adults in the rural communities and encouraged girls to stay in school and finish their education. She is passionate about history, social justice and the environment. O'Callaghan practiced environmental law for twenty-five years and has been recognized as one of Canada's pre-eminent environmental lawyers. She has published numerous articles and has been a frequent speaker at conferences on environmental law. O'Callaghan is a member of the North Shore Writers Association, the Whistler Writing Society and the Canadian Creative Non-Fiction Collective. She attended the 2014 Summer Workshop of the Sage Hill Writing Experience and a writer's workshop with Merilyn Simonds in 2016.

Marketing & Publicity
  • BC regional book tour and launch at Chilliwack Museum & Archives
  • regional and national media mail-outs to BC publications
  • interviews and profiles on CBC and other radio
  • direct promotion with heritage society publications and environmental education centers
  • direct marketing with BC Parks, Chilliwack Lake