Hamilton Marsh is a pristine bit of heaven that offers much to those looking for a brief respite from civilization. The marsh is located just a few minutes from Qualicum Beach and is a great place to appreciate the wonders of the natural world at any time of year.
The marsh is the largest between Nanaimo, Port Alberni and Cumberland, and, of 32 area wetlands studied, is the most prolific brood marsh for waterfowl breeding. This beautiful site is 3 kilometres long (almost two miles) and ½ kilometre wide. Miles of forested trails skirt its perimeter, and the beautiful mountain and water views attract outdoors enthusiasts from young to old.
Our first visit was during an Earth Day tour hosted by the Friends of French Creek Conservation Society. The event attracted nature lovers of all ages and offered an intriguing glimpse into the thousands of creatures that inhabit the marsh and the surrounding woodlands – many of them endangered species. This occasion was an especially engaging one for youngsters, who were encouraged to dip nets into the marsh and deposit their found ‘treasures’ into water-filled white tubs where they could easily see and identify the flora and fauna that they had scooped up.
You don’t, however, have to be an avid naturalist in order to enjoy Hamilton Marsh, and you certainly don’t require guides and interpretive tours to take pleasure in the serene beauty of the place. While it is well-used and appreciated by local residents it is far from crowded. After parking your vehicle in the small area provided you can meander along any number of trails or head straight for the small floating dock that extends out into the marsh. Spend some time out there enjoying the splendid scenery and wildlife activity and any cares you may have brought with you will evaporate. Depending on the time of year that you visit you may enjoy watching anything from wood ducks to trumpeter swans, black bears to elk.
The history of Hamilton Marsh dates back to the mid-to-late 1800s when it was originally logged. Logging activities continued sporadically until the mid-1940s. Despite several efforts by various conservation groups to purchase the marsh, it may well be logged again by current owner Island Timberlands, which rejected the most recent purchase offer in 2008. At present, the marshlands are open to the public on a ‘use at your own risk’ basis.
Those planning to use the trail system should be aware that while the trails are easily enough navigated they are not what anyone would call ‘well-groomed.’ Wear sturdy walking shoes and be prepared to deal with the occasional muddy spot if you visit during or following wet weather. Dogs are welcome, but due to wildlife activity should be kept on leash.
Earth Day this year is Sunday, April 23 and members of the Arrowsmith Naturalists will once again be offering guided tours of Hamilton Marsh. The tours run between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Further information on Hamilton Marsh can be found at the website:
Hamilton Marsh is located off Hilliers Road South, about 10 minutes from Qualicum Beach. Take the turnoff for Hilliers Road South off of Highway 4, go 1 ½ kilometres (about 1 mile) and park in the second parking area, which will give you easy access to the trails and the marsh.
GPS co-ordinates are (roughly)
Lat. 49.32081430570934 Long. -124.46316719055176
N 49 19.249 W 124 27.790