Estuary a gem known only to a few avid enthusiasts

It’s the lovely, relaxed kind of quiet that allows you to hear the birds call across the marshland…

It’s quiet on the Chemainus River Estuary.

It’s the lovely, relaxed kind of quiet that allows you to hear the birds call across the marshland and the wind rustle the leaves of the giant maples and oaks dotting the 200-hectare lowland that spills into Stuart Channel north of Crofton.

The kind of quiet that even the click of the cell phone has yet to effectively puncture.

On an Island where nature walks are as ubiquitous as Starbucks in downtown Seattle and Facebook groups race each other to the latest hot hiking spot, the Chemainus estuary remains a relatively low-profile destination.

Google it and you will get the rush of nationwide publicity that accompanied its $3.7-million sale to Ducks Unlimited in 2009. Drive to it and you might think you are in the wrong place.

There are no how-to websites or welcoming signs, just a dirt parking lot near a few misleading “no trespassing” signs and a handful of random pretty photographs online.

But if you walk past the gate down the flat road beyond the parking lot you will soon encounter an ecological treasure trove seldom found so close to civilization, as well as a handful of birdwatchers and dog walkers happy to be in on the secret.

And that just may be the way the folks of Ducks Unlimited like it.

The conservation organization pursued the Class One wetland, among the south coast’s most important, for 20 years before closing the deal to turn it into an ecological preserve.

Despite the fact that the Crofton pulp mill looms to the south, and the fact surrounding agricultural lands have been used to dispose of mill waste, the site itself is considered remarkably free of urban disturbance.

A diversified complex that rolls from 50 hectares of farm fields dotted with 60 hectares of forest, into 100 hectares of wetlands and intertidal flats, the estuary supports a wide variety of birds, mammals and fish.

A key stop on the coastal migration corridor along the Pacific Flyway, averages of 1,000 waterfowl per day have been recorded on site during migration and wintering periods.

The site can be accessed from Swallowfield Road, in between Crofton Corners and the Chemainus River bridge on Chemainus Road.

The intertidal waters where the Chemainus River meets the sea north of Crofton, are an ecological treasure trove.


Ladysmith Chronicle