Baikie Island sits in the middle of the Campbell River Estuary

Baikie Island sits in the middle of the Campbell River Estuary

Campbell River Estuary

Campbell River Estuary, British Columbia (Photo by Tim Ennis/NCC)

Campbell River Estuary, British Columbia (Photo by Tim Ennis/NCC)

Once an industrial mud pit, the Campbell River Estuary has undergone a dramatic transformation back into an area of rich diversity and beauty. These days, looking down into the shallow river water swirling lazily past the rocky shore, it is easy to spot dozens of finger-length Chinook fry milling about the weeds and algae. At the end of the twentieth century, such a sight would have been rare, despite the Campbell River's acclaimed status as on of British Columbia's most prolific salmon spawning rivers.

Thanks to key partnerships and a caring community, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has begun the transformation of a lifeless shoreline into a thriving hub of nature.

Reclaiming nature's bounty - the Baikie Island Nature Reserve

In 1999, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), the City of Campbell River and the Tula Foundation joined forces to purchase a small island in the centre of the estuary, known as Baikie Island, and a portion of the adjacent foreshore. After extensive surveying and planning, restoration crews set to work ripping up concrete, excavating more than 38,000 cubic metres of fill and regrading the shoreline to its natural contours, digging two new backchannels, and replanting native vegetation in marsh and riparian areas.

These restoration efforts have been highly successful, and today the Baikie Island Reserve is a world-renowned example of how swiftly a landscape can be shepherded back to health. The buzz of saws has been replaced with the songs of marsh wrens. Eagles and black bears frequent the property. Fish fry fill the marshes and streams.

This video was made in partnership with the Vancouver Aquarium.

Expanding the restoration

NCC's success with the Baikie Island Reserve was only the first step in the greater project of reclaiming all of the Campbell River Estuary. Seeing another opportunity to add to its conservation and ecosystem restoration efforts, NCC, the City of Campbell River and the Tula Foundation purchased another piece of the Campbell River Estuary in the fall of 2007.

At the time of purchase, this two-acre (0.8-hectare) waterfront property that had been the site of a cedar shake mill bore little resemblance to the rest of the estuary that has been nurtured back to health. Still, the land was ecologically important due to its proximity to Baikie Island and its influence on the intertidal area at the head of the estuary. Working with the local community and engaged supporters, NCC restored the original marsh shoreline, including "daylighting" (uncovering) a fish-bearing stream that lay buried under the rubble of industry.

Partners in Conservation

NCC undertook this restoration project in collaboration with the City of Campbell River, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Discovery Coast Greenways Land Trust and the local community.

Many people and organizations contributed to the conservation and restoration of the Campbell River Estuary, including:

  • BC Hydro – Bridge Coastal
  • Restoration & Regreening
  • BC Wildlife Federation
  • Campbell River Girl Guides
  • Campbell River Rotary Clubs
  • Canadian Forest Service Forest 20/20 Program
  • Carol Robins & Shadie Stables
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Campbell River Ward
  • Community Works Fund
  • Greenways Land Trust
  • Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation
  • Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (on behalf of its program partners: BC Hydro, the Province of BC and Fisheries & Oceans Canada)
  • Haig-Brown Institute
  • Irv Penner Consulting
  • Jim Dobinson
  • Katimavik
  • Pacific Salmon Foundation
  • Pacific Wood Waste
  • Raven Industries
  • Return to the River contributors
  • School District 72
  • Shelter Point Excavating
  • TD Canada Trust Friends of the Environment
  • The Lodge at Gold River
  • The Tula Foundation
  • The W. Garfield Weston Foundation
  • Tree Canada
  • Uplands Excavating
  • US Fish & Wildlife
  • Van Tine & Associates
  • VIHA Work Crew
  • Wacor Excavating
  • Weyerhauser
  • Walmart Regreening
  • and many local community volunteers.

4 comments

  • Tom March 04, 2015 - 3:40
    Unbelievable! What an amazing before and after picture. I have some memories of the area as a child, a noisy, industrial scene. It is so inspiring to see how beautiful the area has become. And I'm glad there are restrictions on the kinds of use permitted. Some places aren't just recreation areas for anything and everything. An estuary is so rich and complex ecologically, it needs special treatment.

  • Cathy December 20, 2013 - 12:21
    Thank you. Estuaries are so important to the coastal ecosystem! 80% of coastal wildlife depend on them for one reason or another. Again, thank you!

  • Nature Conservancy of Canada June 27, 2013 - 3:57
    Dog owners are welcome to visit the Bakie Island Nature Reserve but must keep their pets on a leash. This is to help protect the sensitive ecology of the area. For more information please contact the City of Campbell River, as the nature reserve is now owned and managed by the Parks Department.

  • Meg June 26, 2012 - 10:56
    Dog owners in this area are very concerned that while all non dog owners may walk freely in this area they cannot. We are restricted to the point that enjoying B.C. is almost impossible. Any suggestions?

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