This past Saturday I did something I haven’t done in a very long time. I decided to walk along the lower stretch of the Goldstream River. I normally avoid visiting this area of Goldstream Provincial Park. The constant din of traffic rushing back and forth on the highway just a stone’s throw away intrudes too deeply on the otherwise peaceful setting. But for some reason, the noise didn’t get to me this time. Instead, I found myself entranced by the photographic opportunities that presented themselves at every turn in the trail.
Annual Fall Salmon Run
Goldstream Provincial Park straddles the Trans-Canada Highway #1 just before it begins the climb up and over Malahat Summit. This location puts it only 16 kms northwest of Victoria. Each October, the day use parking lot and trails overflow with visitors. They line the river’s edge to watch one of the region’s natural spectacles: the annual run of returning Chum salmon. As many as 30,000 salmon return each year, making the Goldstream a world-class salmon spawning stream.
Being well into winter, the Goldstream River spilled over its banks in many places, swollen by frequent periods of rain. I didn’t see many remains of the last fall’s salmon run. Perhaps much had been swept down stream and into the estuary.
Why do American Dippers Dip?
While photographing a section of the river, an American Dipper flew from the other side and landed a few metres in front of me. Even if I hadn’t recognized what it was by colour and markings, there was no mistaking two distinctive behaviours. It constantly bobs up and down or what some call dipping. Hence, the name of the bird. As to why American Dippers dip repeatedly, no one knows for certain. It could be an advantage in hunting for its prey, typically aquatic insects. Or, it could be a form of communication. The other unique adaptation is this bird’s ability to swim under water, even in swift and turbulent currents.
While observing the American Dipper at close range was a highlight, the real show-stoppers lay everywhere around me.
Use without Abuse?
The 2017 BC Provincial Park statistics haven’t been released yet; however, if the trend of the past few years holds, around 100,000 people will have visited Goldstream Provincial Park in the past year. That’s a lot of people for such a small park, especially given their use is concentrated on three areas: day use, public campground and the group campground. Of the three areas, the first suffered the most from the concentrated use, especially it’s trees.
Fortunately, BC Parks has wakened to the damage being done to tree roots. Fences, yellow ribbon and signs have been put in place to encourage visitors to stay on trails and to let degraded areas recover.
As I left the park, I felt very grateful for what I had experienced. For the past 2.5 hours, I had been almost completely absorbed in the beauty of the place. So much so, that I hadn’t really noticed how hard it was raining or how loud the traffic was. Pure magic it was.