Earth Day tours at Qualicum Beach’s Hamilton Marsh

Hamilton Marsh, near Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Hamilton Marsh

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.

Children at Hamilton Marsh, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, british Columbia

Earth Day activities at Hamilton Marsh encourage children to discover the flora and fauna of the area

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.

Visitors on the dock at Hamilton Marsh, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Visitors can venture out on the dock to take in the marsh

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.

Salmonberry at Hamilton Marsh, Qualicum Beach, Vancoouver Island, British Columbia

There is much simple natural beauty to be discovered at the marsh

Fungii at Hamilton Marsh, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaWhite salmonberry bloom at Hamilton Marsh, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaYou 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.

Trail at Hamilton Marsh, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The trails are on a ‘use at your own risk’ basis

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.

Nesting boxes at Hamilton Marsh, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Nesting boxes help attract a wide variety of birds

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


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.

This entry was posted in DOG-FRIENDLY, EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, INLAND CENTRAL ISLAND, KID FRIENDLY, SPECIAL PLACES and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *