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Detailed Map   note - this may take some time to load!!
General Information
Brief History
Access and Facilities
Recreation
Viewing Highlights

There is a series of wildlife management area brochures.



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   General Information

The abundance and diversity of natural habitats and species found within the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Wildlife Management Area (PQBWMA) are outstanding. The 1,029 ha (2542 ac) PQBWMA consists of about 830 ha of intertidal habitats (beaches, mudflats and estuaries) and 43 ha of uplands. The management area was officially established on April 2, 1993. It stretches 17 km along the foreshore from just west of the Little Qualicum River estuary to Madrona Point, and includes the public foreshore areas of Qualicum Beach and Parksville.

The intertidal habitats provide critical staging grounds for the internationally important Brant sea goose. These habitats are vital to over 60 waterfowl species. The estuaries and foreshore zones also provide vital rearing habitat to all 5 Pacific salmon species as well as Steelhead and Coastal Cutthroat Trout. Millions of Pacific Herring spawn each spring, attracting marine mammals which come to feed in these productive foreshore waters.

Two large rivers (Little Qualicum and Englishman) and six creeks (Grandon, French, Morningstar, Carey, Craig and Beach) drain into PQBWMA. The expansive sandflat intertidal zone of Parksville Bay and Craig Bay is a result of long shore currents depositing fine sand particles in these protected bays. These deposits are a relatively uncommon feature along the east coast of Vancouver Island.

For additional information on this management area contact the Regional BC Environment office in Nanaimo [(250) 751-3100; 2080 Labieux Road, Nanaimo, B.C. V9T 6J9].

Management Area Boundaries

    The boundaries of the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Wildlife Management Area are very intricate. Generally, the area consists of most of the intertidal foreshore. The northern boundary is marked by the low tide line. The high tide line marks the land boundary. However, there are many private in-holdings along the shoreline and at estuaries which are not part of the management area.

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   Brief History

Prior to European settlement in the 1860s, this region was inhabited by the Coast Salish. The discovery of many middens indicates that seasonal native encampments were common. The first European contact was likely by Captain Vancouver who explored this coastal area in 1792.

The first permanent European settler was John Hirst who settled on the southeastern bank of the Englishman River in 1873. Parksville became an official settlement in 1889, and in 1920 the Nanaimo Railway (E & N) connected the area to Nanaimo. Man began altering the natural environment of the management area back in the early 1870's when 65 ha of the west half of the Englishman River were dyked and then farmed.

The Englishman River estuary has been the subject of several development proposals, including a golf course, condominiums and a campground. To help ensure that the significant habitat values of this special area were maintained, a series of individual land acquisitions and reserve designations were undertaken.

In 1981, a 16.2 ha reserve for wildlife conservation was established over unsurveyed Crown land. During the period from 1981 to 1984, The Nature Trust of British Columbia (TNT) purchased 4 adjacent parcels totalling about 11.6 ha. These parcels were subsequently leased to the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (MELP) for management purposes.

Another key acquisition was the 1992 purchase of 64 ha of the Parksville Flats by the Pacific Estuary Conservation Program. This program is a partnership between several government and non-government agencies and groups, including TNT, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Wildlife Habitat Canada, the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, MELP, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service. This last acquisition led to the designation of the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Wildlife Management Area in 1993. Over the past several years, a wide range of management activities has been undertaken including the return of wetlands to tidal circulation and the development of wildlife viewing platforms.

Brant Wildlife Festival

    This annual event was first held in 1991 to celebrate the migrating Brant sea goose. This three day weekend event also focuses on the return of spring and the flood of migratory birds as they travel along the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. Visitors may see 20,000 Brant (the "talkative little sea goose") and 250 other species in a variety of habitats. Festival highlights include the Big Day Birding Competition, workshops, photography exhibitions, dinner/auction, special guests and the very popular Wildlife Carving Competition. More information is available in the festival and special events section.

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   Access and Facilities

All access to the area is by foot. No motorized vehicles are permitted within the management area. Much of the area can be accessed off the Old Island Highway (Highway 19A), especially in Qualicum Beach where much of the waterfront east of the highway has been acquired by the town for public use. There is a viewing platform and interpretive sign at the Brant Viewing Pull-Out located about 1 km north of Qualicum Beach.

The management area can be accessed from several beach locations, including through the municipal park adjacent to Parksville Bay off Corfield Street, through Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park and via the Mine Road dyke at the junction of Plummer Road and Shorewood Drive.

The Englishman River estuary can be accessed from trails on both sides. There is a viewing tower and interpretive kiosk on the west side and a viewing platform on the east side. To access the west side trails turn on to Shelly Road from Island Highway 0.6 km west of the orange bridge over the Englishman River. Continue straight to the end of the road. Park here and walk out to the viewing tower.

To access the east side of the Englishman River estuary turn on to Plummer Road, located 0.3 km east of the orange bridge and 0.4 km west of the entrance to Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. Continue 1.2 km to Shorewood Drive. Park here and walk the short distance out to the viewing platform.



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   Recreation

Popular activities include walking, nature appreciation, wildlife viewing, beach combing, clam digging, swimming, fishing, scuba diving, sailing, kayaking, boating and wind surfing. The Brant Wildlife Festival in early April attracts thousands of people and demonstrates the rapidly growing interest in tourism-related wildlife viewing and nature appreciation.

To prevent harassment of wildlife, dogs and other pets must be kept on a leash within the management area. Wildlife harassment can affect the health and reproduction of various species and damage critical habitat. In this area, for example, it can interfere with the essential resting and refuelling activities of Brant geese on their long distance migration from South America to Alaska. Pet owners should be aware that if they allow their pets to chase wildlife they can be charged under the Wildlife Act.

There are 17 km of coastline within the management area. For more information on recreational shellfish openings and harvesting regulations contact Fisheries and Oceans Canada at (250) 754-0230 or (250) 954-1354.



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   Viewing Highlights

PQBWMA is an excellent area to observe a wide range of wildlife species throughout the year. At least 252 bird species plus mammals, amphibians and reptiles live, breed or migrate through this coastal area.

The following are some of the viewing highlights.

  • Trumpeter Swans - Seen regularly from November to April, but not in large numbers.

  • Waterbirds - The largest concentrations of waterbirds occur from October to April, especially during the migration periods. The most common species are scoters, scaup, goldeneye and wigeon.

  • Brant - Migrating Brant arrive in early March and depart as late as May. Peak numbers usually occur in the first 2 weeks of April. The Brant Wildlife Festival is usually held during this peak period.

  • Bald Eagles - Large numbers of eagles come to feed on spawning salmon. One of the best viewing locations is along the lower reaches of the Little Qualicum River. A number of eagles reside throughout the year.

  • Shorebirds - The migration periods are best for viewing shorebirds, especially yellowlegs, Dunlin, Black Turnstone and Western Sandpiper.

  • Gulls - Many gull species can be observed along the foreshore areas, with some of the largest concentrations visible during the Pacific Herring spawn in March.

  • Songbirds - In the upland areas flycatchers, warblers, tanagers, grosbeaks, swallows, chickadees and sparrows are found.

  • Marine Mammals - The foreshore areas are used by many marine mammals. Killer Whales are occasionally seen from March to October, and California Sea Lions from November to March. Harbour Seals are very common year round. Northern Sea Lion and Harbour Porpoise may also be viewed.

  • Herring - Most of the intertidal foreshore within the management area provides excellent spawning grounds for Pacific Herring. In early March spawning occurs in the intertidal eel grass, algae and rocky areas. The annual spawn attracts much attention as thousands of gulls and waterfowl congregate in a feeding frenzy that is joined by sea lions and seals.

  • Salmon - All 5 species of Pacific salmon have been recorded in the Englishman River and Little Qualicum River systems. Chum, Coho and Chinook Salmon occur in significant numbers. Chum Salmon spawn from October to December, and primarily use the lower stream reaches within the management area. Pink Salmon runs are a remnant of former years, and Sockeye Salmon occur only as stragglers.

  • Invertebrates - When the tide goes out many marine invertebrates can be observed on the sandflats, including large beds of sand dollars.