The Capital Regional District staff lead an evening canoe trip around Beaver Lake. The tour touches on the roll of Elk and Beaver lakes in local history

Tranquility amid nature at Beaver Lake

Saanich history and ecology merge on the water with CRD canoe tours

Pamela Patterson pulls her paddle out of the water and places it over her lap. The canoe she’s in continues to glide across the colourful rippled surface of Beaver Lake, reflecting the blues, reds and oranges from the sunset above.

“It’s so quiet,” Patterson says in a slow, relaxed tone.

A bald eagle screams above, an army of bullfrogs hiding in the cattail croak in unison, and a raft of wood ducks quack at the side of the canoe.

Beaver Lake isn’t all that quiet, in the purest sense of the word. But for Patterson, being so far removed from the sounds of the Pat Bay Highway or the bustle of urban living, and amid nature is the kind of quiet she enjoys.

“We live in paradise. And being on the water with the canoe, with the quiet and the nature – there’s nothing like it,” she says.

Patterson is one of eight people taking part in a guided evening canoe trip, put on by the Capital Regional District.

The three-hour tour was a leisurely paddle around the lake, with participants intent on spotting some of the wildlife that call Saanich home.

Naturalists Heather Chatwin and Reed Osler were on hand to lead the trip and talk about the lake’s natural and unnatural history.

“If you’ve ever heard about the bullfrog invasion on Vancouver Island, we’re actually at ground zero of that invasion,” Chatwin tells the group, recounting a story about an entrepreneur in the 1970s who unsuccessfully started up a frog business in Victoria, with the hope of selling their legs to restaurants.

“There wasn’t much of a market for frog legs, and the bullfrogs here take five years to mature. So what happened is all these disgruntled people who bought in to the (business) were sad, and they dumped the bullfrogs into this lake.”

While Chatwin talks about the lake’s history – dams separated Beaver from Elk Lake while it was used as Victoria drinking water supply – she shows off a beaver’s tooth, and pulls out a tin can filled with the scent of castoreum (or natural castor oil).

“I’ve learned a lot from the program that the CRD puts on – the history of the area and the wildlife, how it’s all interconnected,” Patterson says.

While she lives in Kelowna now, the Victoria native returns to Vancouver Island regularly, and participates in the canoe trips at least once a year.

“This is such a great opportunity to get out on the lake. You see wildlife when you’re out on the lake that you just don’t see when you’re running around it,” Osler says.

“It’s amazing to get to see all the different creatures – because every time we go out it’s a different experience – and to be constantly learning every single day,” Chatwin adds.

The CRD offers canoe adventures throughout the summer at Elk/Beaver Lake park. For more information, see crd.bc.ca/parks.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

Heather Chatwin, parks naturalist with the Capital Regional District, shows off the impact a beaver could have on a piece of wood, while Evan Wallbridge, 9, looks on. Kyle Slavin/News staff

 

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