Killarney Lake Circuit, Bowen Island

Killarney Lake Circuit, Bowen Island

Trip Report by Caroline Penn

On September 22, 2022, nine members of Nature Vancouver gathered at the Snug Cove Library / Info Centre on Bowen Island at 10am to hike around Killarney Lake. It was a perfect early fall day with a slight breeze. We took the counterclockwise route.

It is not clear whether Killarney Lake was initially man made or natural, but a dam built in the 1920’s increased its size and caused the ghostlike trees that we see today near the far end. Much of Bowen Island was logged in the late 1890’s and the lake is surrounded by second growth forest that is 100-120 years old. There are many old stumps and nurse logs sporting an artistic display of young trees and roots and the classic huckleberry topknot. Mossy maples were just starting to turn color and would make a spectacular hike in a few weeks. The salmon may also be running the fish ladders then as well.

There are invasive plants such as holly throughout the Park.

The trail first hugs the marshy shoreline then climbs up through the forest to a viewpoint over the lake before descending to a boardwalk that traverses the marsh. We stopped here for lunch. Bird sightings from this area included several soaring eagles, a belted kingfisher and a red-breasted sapsucker, with blue herons and wood ducks making their way through the muddy swamp. 

The skunk cabbage looked quite flattened and nibbled away and we wondered what had caused this. The Bowen Island Conservancy President replied to us that it is a combination of light foraging by deer and a natural die back process of the leaf margins that causes them to look this way. It was also a reminder of the significant lack of rain during the last month.

After the marsh, the trail flattens out, and there is a pebbly beach area lookout point. Swimming is not recommended as there are leeches. There are several trail options as one reaches the public parking access where the dam is located. Beavers were at work on trees in this area and we saw at least three beaver dams during the hike.

This hike is around 8 km with elevation gain of at least 150m. At a glance it might seem an easy hike but it is a reminder to all NV hikers to ensure they are comfortable with these deceptive long slopes and undulations and the hike’s length. On this particular day we were exceedingly grateful to James, a Good Samaritan Bowen Islander who interrupted his daily hike around the lake to give a ride to one of our hikers. This enabled us all to make the 3 pm ferry back to Horseshoe Bay.

Thanks to John Martin – our “North Van dad” iNaturalist image maker, and to our pleasant, and caring, hiking companions.

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