Goldstream Gem

Goldstream Provincial Park on Vancouver Island is nestled at the end of the narrow inlet of Finlayson Arm, encompassing a beautiful estuary that connects the mouth of the river from it’s journey through thick moss, dripping ferns, giant black cottonwoods, and old growth cedar trees.  The river hosts the spawning grounds for thousands of chum, coho, and chinook salmon each year, which also attracts bald eagles and supports a complex and diverse web of wild life that extends deep into the forest itself.  Three to four years previously, these same salmon were born here before traveling to the sea to grow and mature. Their return to spawn and die in their ancestral spawning beds is fascinating and the Freeman King Visitor Centre features special programs to help visitors appreciate this miraculous event.  The 388 hectare park also includes hiking trails that explore the valley floor to the ridges of Mt. Finlayson, with waterfalls along the way, an abandoned gold mine from the gold rush of the mid 19th century, and incredible views.

I have been visiting Goldstream and it’s rushing, cool waters ever since I was a child.  It was a common place for our family to stop, as it is only 17 km from Victoria and lies directly alongside the highway that takes traffic further north up Vancouver Island. Picnicking amoung the vibrant orange of the fall maple leaves mixed with the bright green of the carpeting moss lumbering over the solidity of the ancient cedar trees, or in the cool shade on a summers day, is a familiar memory.  Goldstream has become an annual visit now for our Spring Leaves home schooling group.  Each year we have visited at different times to take in the various appearances of the flora and fauna that cycle in seasonal changes, accentuated by the returning of the salmon.  The programs and park interpreters that have guided our own diverse group of children and adults have been enthusiastic, fun, informative, engaging, and respectful.  We have learned about the salmon’s cycle of life and how they have influenced the culture of the First People’s of this coastline, and watched their red bodies make the journey against the flow of the river, knowing that they will die and then become nourishment for a cascade of life.  This year we signed up for an afternoon of learning about the owls that live their lives within the park and in the southern BC areas.  We learned of the amazing adaptions that owls have developed to make their way through the night, like the silencing effect of their ruffled feather edges and lopsided ears so as to hear sounds from above and below. We also learned how to properly hoot like our local owls, and we meandered along the river looking for potential tree cavities that owls might nest in.  We also noticed all sorts of other things as we looked and observed, like woodpeckers and mushrooms and the beginnings of spring at the tips of the bare brambles.  We had a blue sky that sparkled with sun and rain together, glittering the moss in the branches of the old trees and sending us a rainbow or two.

What we also noticed was flagged markers sticking out of the river bed at intervals.  These turned out to be places for biologists to test for the residue of an oil spill that put 42,000 litres of gasoline into the river last April, 2011.  The spill happened when a Columbia Fuels truck smashed into a rock face beside the highway and rolled, damaging the tanks it was pulling and sending it’s cargo into the nearby park.  Gasoline is more toxic to wildlife than other types of oil- the only positive is that being lighter, it evaporates quickly and breaks up. Crude oil is more persistent and difficult to cleanse from the environment.  However, gasoline travels and kills quickly in water, and most of the newly emerging fry from last winter’s spawn were suffocated instantly.  Just hours before the crash, Goldstream hatchery volunteers and Tsawout First Nations members had released 8,000 coho salmon into the river. Earlier last week the hatchery had released an additional 20,000 salmon.  Thankfully, the numbers of salmon returning six months later to their ancestral homes was encouraging.  The negative effects of this contamination may be more significant in four years from now, when the 2011 hatchlings would have been returning. Of course, contamination beyond the immediate visuals available to us humans is difficult to determine, and expands into those smaller, and often highly dependent upon, micro-organisms.  I am grateful to all those who have been working to help clean, restore, and maintain this beautiful and integral habitat of Vancouver Island rain forest.  I encourage everyone to take the time to drink in the sanctuary of Goldstream, nestled amidst the growing developments of houses and highways.

The Nature House receives NO government funding!!! We Need Your Help!

     RLC Park Services, your Park Facility Operator, believes in the importance of environmental education.

 The Nature House needs park naturalists available to offer nature Programming and operate the Nature House.

Fundraising efforts and partnerships have helped us to this point. BUT…

  • No government support means we need the public to help us in the future.
  • Help us to continue offering low cost programming for school children, and free summer programs for everyone.
  • We thank each and every visitor who considers making a donation or purchases an item from our bookstore. Each one of you is helping to make a future for the Goldstream Nature House.

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