By Cathy Jenkins, Project Manager, Campus Renewal at Cheakamus Centre
The great numbers of salmon presently spawning on the Cheakamus Centre site are the result of a forty-year effort to restore historic side channel habitat.
The very name, Cheakamus, is rooted in the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) name, Ch'iyákmesh, which means "people of the fish weir." The Cheakamus River was an important salmon fishery within the territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), with many villages along its length.
Since 1981, Squamish Nation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Squamish River Watershed Society and others have been working together with Cheakamus Centre to restore salmon spawning grounds and rearing habitat throughout the 165 ha ecological reserve.
This site map highlights the complexity of the side channel network, which has created extraordinary close-up wildlife viewing and hands-on learning opportunities for the Centre's many students and visitors.
Over 10 kilometres of restored channels provide secure refuges for salmon from the winter floods common on the Cheakamus River and support thousands of chum, coho, pink, chinook and steelhead salmon that return to spawn each season. This biologically rich portion of the watershed known as "Paradise Valley" also provides critically important habitat for overwintering populations of bald eagles that depend on the salmon for a food supply.
Today, Cheakamus Centre has the most restored side-channels in the Squamish Watershed. Situated in the heart of the newly designated Átl'ka7tsem/Howe Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region there is new momentum for sustainable stewardship of this special place.
Achieving a balance between interaction and protection of this vital salmon habitat is a big undertaking for a small number of passionate Cheakamus Centre staff and community volunteers. The Cheakamus Foundation for Environmental Learning is actively pursuing long-lasting, collaborative partnerships to ensure salmon will always have secure refuge at Cheakamus Centre.
To learn more, contact Cathy at email@example.com or visit cheakamuscentre.ca.
Bonus: Check out this video created by BCIT Fish, Wildlife & Recreation students as part of a drone habitat assessment project at Cheakamus Centre.