By Brian Lawrence
No matter how many times you visit the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area (CVWMA), there is always something new to see — and with an area of over 7,000 hectares (17,000 acres) that is home to 300 bird, 60 mammal, 17 fish, six reptile and six amphibian species, how could there not be?
Hands-On Experience At The Discovery Centre
Located in the Corn Creek Marsh area of the CVWMA in West Creston, the Kootenay-Columbia Discovery Centre (KCDC) is an environmental education centre open to the public throughout most of the year. The Discovery Centre's onsite naturalists offer informative tours while interactive displays and programs make learning fun.
“We have lots of displays and information, and lots of hands-on activities,” says KCDC senior manager Carla Ahern.
A cool new addition to the centre is the Micro Eye Discovery, a video-microscope that then displays high-definition images from the microscope on a large flatscreen TV. Items such as bones and feathers found around the wetlands are highly popular with this one!
Fun is definitely a focus, and a few free and informative Family Fun Days are on the calendar each summer, with Butterfly Day scheduled to close the 2022 season. The centre also offers scavenger hunts, and themed backpacks that help out with, for example, birdwatching.
“The backpack is full of different things to get you learning about the wetlands,” Carla says.
The Discovery Centre is also the place to book a naturalist-guided canoe tour of the surrounding Corn Creek wetlands, providing a unique understanding of this habitat. I loved doing this on a couple of school field trips — we even got to sample a bulrush on one! (It was crunchy, I think, but that’s about all I remember, so I guess it wasn’t awful...)
“You get out directly into the ponds and channels,” Carla says. “When paddling on the water, there’s a better chance of seeing turtles. You see osprey hover and diving for fish.”
With a history dating back to the 1960s, the CVWMA has been designated a wetland of international importance under the UNESCO Ramsar Convention. It’s a migration corridor for tundra swans and greater white-fronted geese, and has one of two known breeding populations of the northern leopard frog in B.C.
“We are a very large wetland,” says Carla. “We lie along the Pacific flyway, so we’re a stopover for migrating bird species. It provides a huge amount of biodiversity.”
Wander Among Wildlife
The CVWMA also has dozens of kilometres of trails like the aptly named Elk Amble, Wood Duck Walk or Songbird Stroll that meander along the top of dikes that create the marshlands, waterways and other habitats. With year-round access for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and crosscountry skiing, they offer a peaceful way to see the many kinds of wildlife that make the area such a unique place, with walking times of 20 minutes to four hours.
From the parking area at the KCDC, trails cross a wooden bridge or boardwalk, and lead to longer sections that follow the contour of Corn Creek, with cottonwood trees lining the riverbank. Along the way, the viewing towers provide an excellent elevated perch to check out the landscape — and possibly plan the route you want to take next.
On the other side of Highway 3, the Summit Creek area boasts cottonwood trees and open meadows along a dike trail that stretches 10 kilometres north to the end of Leach Lake. The fields often teem with foraging deer and elk, and American white pelicans make their home there from May to October.
More to Explore
At the north end of the CVWMA near Wynndel, Duck Lake is part of an area that includes the Kootenay River, nesting areas, ponds and channels. It’s the only part of the CVWMA where the public can access the dikes by vehicle, allowing a close-up look at migrating waterfowl. And when accessed by boat, the large-mouth bass fishing is second to none!
The CVWMA is also a great place to start a hiking adventure! A parking lot on West Creston Road just south of Highway 3 is a launchpad for Balancing Rock Trail, which leads to, you guessed it, a giant boulder resting on a plateau overlooking the Creston Valley and CVWMA.
A short distance beyond that is a small swamp — like something out of a fairy tale in the summer when the skunk cabbage is in full leaf — with a wooden boardwalk that forks to either the Mount Creston Trail or to the Fern Forest Trail. The journey up Mount Creston is a challenging uphill climb, while Fern Forest descends a bit more gently to Summit Creek, where hikers can pass under Highway 3 and loop back to the parking lot.
As you've probably guessed there is a lot more to see and do in and around the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area that we couldn't possibly include!
However, if you are Interested in learning more about this vast protected habitat or the unique programs, events and tours at the Discovery Centre then check out the CVWMA or Discovery Centre's website here. Alternatively for more information on hiking, canoeing, or fishing in or around the area, be sure to check out the recreation section of our website.
Finally be sure to have a look through the rest of our Get Inspired blog section for more trip inspiration or ideas for things to do when you get here. We're sure you'll find more than enough material to write your your own bucket list!
Freelance writer Brian Lawrence is a former editor and publisher of the Creston Valley Advance. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking and trail running, and acting in and directing productions with Creston's Footlighters Theatre Society.