Hamilton MarshNear Qualicum
Hamilton Marsh, located near Qualicum Beach, is a peaty marsh, an oddity for this usually dry portion of eastern Vancouver Island. It is home to over 120 species of birds, numerous amphibians, several mammals, and is one of the most important habitats on the island for native species of dragonflies. Owned exclusively by Island Timberlands, a Nanaimo based logging company owned by the multinational holdings company Brookfield Asset Management, the area is under threat of logging and development and despite many offers from local conservation groups, Ducks Unlimited, and the Regional District of Nanaimo to buy the land at market value, Island Timberlands has yet to sell.
Location and AccessCoordinates: 49°19’01”N 124°27’40”W
Hamilton Marsh is located 5 km south of Qualicum Beach, in south-central Vancouver Island and measures about 0.5 km wide and 3 km long. It is bordered by the VIA railway tracks on the west side and by highway 4 on the east. Access is easy via Hilliers Road South and a parking lot occurs at one of the trailheads where visitors can park their cars and walk into the marsh. There are only two trails and a limited portion of the entire marsh can be accessed, with a total walking distance of about three kilometres.
Hamilton Marsh is one of the larger wetlands on the east coast of Vancouver Island, measuring about 37 hectares in size, with a surrounding “area of interest” of 390 hectares. The area consists of several wetland types: marsh, fen, and shallow water, and Hamilton Creek, on the north side of the marsh, exits the area with year-round flow. The marsh and surrounding areas are approximately three kilometres long and half a km wide, and there are road or rail borders on all sides.
Though there is a creek exiting the marsh, there is no clearly defined point of inflow. Environmental surveys show most of the water seeping in from the wet areas south of the marsh, and collecting the lowest lying portion of the wetland. This is significant amount of seepage, as the inflow must match the outflow if a body of water is to remain of constant volume. In addition to the creek outflowing, a dairy farm nearby draws water from the wetland into a lagoon for use on the farm.
Life in the Marsh:
Like any wetland, Hamilton Marsh is home to an incredible diversity of life. Other than the tropical rainforest, more habitats for occupation co-exist in a wetland than in any other terrestrial ecosystem. They are also critically important for their watershed and surrounding area. Marshes act as reservoirs in dry spells, sponges during heavy rains, settling ponds for sediment, filters for some toxins and pollutants, and as carbon-deposits for CO2.
Hamilton Marsh is home to over 120 species of birds, including the blue-listed northern pygmy owl, American bittern, western screech owl, band-tailed pigeon, and great blue heron. Sandhill cranes have also been spotted in the marsh, and many more species nest in the woods surrounding the marsh or feed on the surface of the water before moving on during their migration. The marsh also supports a limited population of fish, with both coho salmon and cutthroat trout juveniles recorded as present every year, as well as a group of resident stickleback.
Special Thanks to:
CERI PEACEY and DAN BUFFET
From the Friends of French Creek Conservation Society and Ducks Unlimited