Duncan’s Somenos Marsh Conservation Area is wildlife heaven

Wooden boardwalk and viewing platform over wetlands at Somenos Marsh Wildlife Preservation Area near Duncan, Vancouver Island

Sturdy boardwalks take visitors out over the wetlands to view hundreds of varieties of birds

We tripped across another not-so-hidden gem recently when we were looking for a quiet spot to enjoy a picnic lunch on the way to ‘somewhere else’.  The Somenos Marsh Conservation Area is located just a little north of the city of Duncan.

Tree swallow at Somenos Marsh Wildlife Preservation Area near Duncan on Vancouver Island

A tree swallow surveys his domain from the top of one of the many nesting boxes

The 500-acre (202 hectares) conservation area has resisted the invasion of development thanks to the efforts of the members of the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society, which was incorporated as a charitable society in 1989.   Located on the Pacific Flyway, the marshlands serve as resting and feeding spots for about 200 species of winged creatures.  It is such a popular spot among the feathered set that the area is now designated  as an international globally significant important bird area (IBA).

Gravel walking trail at Somenos Marsh near Duncan, Vancouver Island

One of the well maintained gravel trails at the site

What you will see when visiting varies depending on the time of year you stop by.  Species include everything from Trumpeter Swans to rare Red Throated Loons and Tundra Swans to Blue Herons.  There is also other wildlife at the marsh, including beaver, river otter, muskrat and raccoons.

Entry way to outdoor classroom at Somenos Marsh near Duncan, Vancouver IslandWe saw very few people during our visit, but enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the gravel pathways and the wooden boardwalks. Secure viewing platforms offered great views in several directions, and we managed to find a bench on one where we enjoyed our lunch before moving on.

Interpretive sign about Ospreys at Somenos Marsh near Duncan on Vancouver Island

Interpretive signs help visitors understand the species at the marsh and the importance of wetlands

One of the best things about this beautiful spot is that it is wheelchair accessible, thus making an outing well within reach of visitors with varying degrees of mobility.

Picnic table at Somenos Marsh near Duncan on Vancouver Island

Picnic tables for those who want to enjoy an al fresco meal

There is also an outdoor classroom at the marsh, and a variety of nesting boxes and nesting platforms constructed by society members.  A series of very well-executed interpretive signs adds to the experience and the learning curve of visitors. The place is a bird watcher’s nirvana.

Although we perched on a bench to enjoy our lunch there are also picnic tables available, so it’s possible to make a day of it to enjoy this little bit of wildlife heaven.  And the really great thing about it is that it is very easily found and accessed, just off of Highway 1.

            Further information on Somenos Marsh Conservation Area can be found at the website:


 Somenos Marsh is located just east of Highway 1, north of Duncan and south of the B.C. Forest Discovery Centre.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 48.789589  Long. -123.710403

N 48 47.375  W 123 42.624


About Shirley

More years ago than I like to remember, I completed the Journalism program at Vancouver Community College and launched straight into a career as a newspaper reporter (thanks to my journalism professor Nick Russell and an opening at the venerable daily Alberni Valley Times.) My work as a news reporter/feature writer/columnist and ultimately, newspaper and magazine editor, took me to many interesting places and introduced me to hundreds of interesting characters over the years. I loved every minute of it, but burnout caught up with me while I was trying to juggle the simultaneous editing of five trade magazines, and for 27 years I abandoned my keyboard (on a professional basis, at least) and followed my heart in a variety of other careers.
In 2010 I returned to the journalistic fold, thanks to the encouragement (nay – nagging!) of my husband. I feel no regret – only great joy to be back at the keyboard, and to be spending time interviewing interesting folks and discovering great places.

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