Forests, Salmon and Us: Finding the connections

by Wild Ambassador Kate MacMillan

This past Saturday, I was fortunate enough to take a fantastic group on an interpretive hike into Cypress Provincial Park. We hiked the Brothers Creek Loop in West Vancouver, which included hiking to Lost Lake at the top. Along the way, we discussed the salmon cycle, their connection to coastal forests, what is affecting them, and how we can help. This excursion's goal was for the group to feel fascination and affection towards salmon and the forests, because once you care about something, you'll want to protect it.

We first stopped just off Taylor way to get our first glimpse of Brothers Creek. We took a moment to talk about the first stage of the salmon cycle and were able to see what makes a “good stream” for salmon eggs. This portion of Brothers Creek is maintained by the West Vancouver Streamkeepers built baffles in the culverts to help slow and pool the water in 1998. These baffles make it easier for the salmon to swim up stream, and pools prevent eggs from washing downstream. We then piled into cars and continued to the trail head.

The first section of the hike focused West Vancouver around the 1900s. There are remnants of the logging industry on this hike, which shaped the surrounding forests. There is an old skid road which a 38-ton locomotive, called the Walking Dudley was used to transport wood on. Also, there are foundations of an old mill from 1912.

Our next stop was at a 43m tall Douglas fir. It made all the other trees we saw so far look like toothpicks. This tree is a dead snag, but it helps to show what this forest looked like 100 years ago. This was a great area to talk about how the salmon help these trees grow to such size by providing an important nutrient for the soil - nitrogen.

As we got closer to the top, we passed great examples of nurse logs and the complicated root systems of trees. We hiked into Cypress Provincial Park and stopped at Lost Lake. This was our halfway point, and a great spot to compare the two different forests we just hiked through. The previously logged forest had trees which were similar in age, which caused there to be only one canopy level at the very top. Since we were at the forest floor, it felt quite dark in that forest. As we hiked closer and entered the park, the forest felt sunny and green. Trees were all at different stages in their cycle, which meant there was multiple canopy levels for light to pour to the forest floor.

We crossed the Brothers Creek bridge after a quick lunch and headed down. On the way, we passed some waterfalls and completed the important salmon cycle.

There are many examples of how the salmon help the forest, and how in return the forest help the salmon. This hike helped reveal that we need to remember the big picture and all the connections. When we have parks, they help protect these connections. It's not just the salmon we need to protect, but the ocean, rivers and streams they use. And also the forests that help keep the streams healthy.

I want to thank those who came out to this activity. Keep an eye out for more events in our BC parks put on by CPAWS by checking the events page.

Kate MacMillan is one of CPAWS-BC's Wild Ambassadors. You can sign up to be one too! Click here for more details.