Wet & Wild: The Amazing Truth about Whistler’s Wetlands 

Wetland dreams

Last night I dreamt that I was floating down the river in a canoe with the boy of my dreams. It was nearly dusk and the sky was ablaze with alpenglow. Tall, thick bunches of cattails and bulrushes along the banks sheltered us from the world as we drifted through the wetlands in the happy bliss that only fresh couples enjoy. Dream Boy put his arm around me as we floated gently around a bend in the river when all of a sudden – CRASH! Then SPLASH!

What did the happy couple say when their canoe tipped over a beaver lodge in the River of Golden Dreams? DAM!

But enough about my soggy wetland dreams… Did you know that the River of Golden Dreams wetland corridor is the largest of its kind in the Whistler Valley? Stretching from the north end of Alta Lake along the entire course of the River of Golden Dreams to the south end of Green Lake, this valley-bottom corridor is comprised of various types of wetland complexes, including treed floodplain swamp, shrub stream swamp, sedge stream fen, sedge spring fen, treed slope bog, shrub stream fen, sedge floodplain fen, and shrub floodplain fen. Did I mention the shrub steam swamps?

Many of you are probably familiar with the Rainbow Park Wetlands. These are the wetlands traversed by the popular mountain bike trail A River Runs Through It. The dominant landform of these wetlands is the Twenty One Mile Creek alluvial fan, and you can find some magnificent giant trees within the old growth coniferous wetland forest (sitka spruce, western red cedar, Douglas fir, amabilis fir, and western hemlock).

The Golden Dreams Conservation area is another important area of wetland complexes within this valley bottom corridor. Many shrub floodplain fens form a continuous hydrologically linked wetland unit, providing high value as rearing habitat for juvenile salmonids and other fish and wildlife. This wetland complex, with a high degree of flood detention storage, has a history of absorbing the deposition of eroded and transported sediments during periods of flooding, and they will serve as settling pond in the event of future major flood events, reducing the sediment load entering Green Lake.

Wetlands are critical to the health of the entire River of Golden Dreams watershed. Wetlands absorb floodwaters during periods of heavy rainfall and snowmelt, reducing flood risks along streams and rivers, and they slowly release water to stream systems in drier periods, which helps to maintain base flows in streams and rivers. Wetlands recharge groundwater aquifers and wetland vegetation works to filter out pollutants in the water.

Wildlife habitat is the most important function of the River of Golden Dreams wetland corridor. This wetland corridor is home to an incredible variety of species, ranging from furry and charismatic mega-fauna like black bears and black tail deer to creepy critters like tree frogs and salamanders, and literally over a hundred species of birds. The complex is located on a migratory flyway serving a number of significant or sensitive bird species, including bald eagles, trumpeter swans and sandhill cranes. Rainbow trout and kokanee salmon depend on the ponds of the wetland complexes for rearing in their younger life stages.

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