Trip organized by Bengül Kurtar
Trip report by Deborah Simpson and Angela Bond
On July 6, our group of 40 nature lovers boarded the Ocean Watch II for a tour of Indian Arm, a glacial fjord that extends 20 km north of Burrard Inlet. We set off just past high tide in calm waters; the cloudy and misty weather was positively framed by Captain Mitch as an “authentic west coast experience”. Mitch explained that Indian Arm is the traditional territory of the Tsleil Waututh Nation (TWN), who manage the area collaboratively with the Province of British Columbia and lead many restoration projects in the Indian River watershed. With Kinder Morgan terminals dotting the hillside across Burrard Inlet, we also learned that the Sacred Trust Initiative of the TWN is actively opposing the Trans Mountain tanker and pipeline expansion to protect the land and water of their territory.
The high waters allowed us to get quite close to the steep rock faces. We were able to get a clear view of the red ochre pictographs that are reported to be a few hundreds of years old. As the tide ebbed, we saw the zonation typical of the west coast with horizontal layers of green algae, mussels, yellow rockweed, barnacles, and black lichen along the rocky shore. The razor sharp cut off of the lower tree branches clearly showed the high tide line. Some rock faces also had white cliff middens, or were covered in bright yellow lichen.
Although the area is home to cougars, bears, and deer, none of these large animals made their appearance for us; however, we did see several harbour seals, some with new pups, and ochre sea stars clustered together in the rocks. The birds also seemed to be mostly hiding from us throughout the day but our daily count did include several Canada Geese, at least 7 Bald Eagles, both Pelagic and Double Crested Cormorants, an Osprey, two Belted Kingfisher, and one Loon sp. that was unfortunately too far away to identify to species. The highlight bird was likely the two Pigeon Guillemot that we saw nearing our northern turning point. We also spotted some Northwestern Crows, a couple American Robins, and a Northern Flicker. We learned that there is a large pink salmon run on odd years starting in early July, which we were just a bit too early for.
Mitch shared stories about the development of the area, which started in the early 1900’s with the building of the Wigwam Inn. Now owned by the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, the Inn has quite a colourful past. There are houses on both sides of the fjord, some quite lavish, most without road access. We passed by two old BC Hydro powerhouses, one of which is still in use.
A highlight of the trip was seeing Silver Falls and Granite Falls. We were able to disembark to take a short walk to Granite Falls, and explore the tidal flats there. You could tell from the otter scat on the landing dock it was a favorite landing spot for them as well! On the way to Granite Falls we were treated to several White-Crowned Sparrows singing; a couple of which came in close to see what we were doing. There were also a couple Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Yellow Warbler.
Despite the light rain, adventurers of all types were out hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, wake surfing, and camping. At Camp Jubilee, a children’s summer camp near Thwaytes, the first week of campers were swimming in the cold fjord waters.
This is just a bit of what we experienced on our boat trip. Many thanks to Bengül for organizing the tour, to Mitch for guiding our excursion and answering all our questions, and to the naturalists on board who helped identify the fauna and flora that we saw. So close to the city, yet so far.