Swan Lake and the
surrounding lowland area provide a rich habitat for a variety of wildlife.
Swan Lake was formed 12,000 years ago when the last glacier receded.
The underlying bedrock, exaggerated by the scouring action of the
glacier, provided the basin which defined the lake boundary. Today,
the lake is shallow and warm, flourishing with life, and is fed by
a large watershed to the north and east, which includes Blenkinsop
Lake. The water drains westward into the Colquitz River, and meeting
the ocean at Portage inlet.
Bridge across Swan Lake
urban nature sanctuary consists of two ecologically distinct areas
- the marshy lowlands surrounding Swan Lake, and the high, rocky Garry
Oak forested crest of Christmas Hill (11 hectares). A connecting trail
corridor from Swan Lake provides access to Christmas Hill, a 2.5-kilometer
round trip. Spring is the best time of year to enjoy the spectacular
show of Garry Oak meadow wildflowers. White Fawn Lily, Common and
Great Camas, Shootingstar and Satin Flower are abundant. Look for
the elusive Chocolate Lily along the trail. The view of Victoria and
surrounding hills from the glacially-grooved summit of the hill is
As the seasons
change, so do the plants and animals that are here, providing year-round
viewing. During the winter months, the lake and flooded fields provide
resting and feeling areas for a variety of grebes, ducks, and other
waterfowl. In spring and summer, the forests, fields and blooming
hedgerows are filled with nesting birds such as warblers, sparrows,
wrens and finches. A 2.5-km loop trail, featuring two wharves and
a floating walkway, provides good access to the lake.
protruding into Swan Lake
Watch for muskrat
and basking turtles in the summer months, and river otter during
the winter. Bird watching opportunities are excellent year-round,
especially during the spring and fall migration. Great Blue Herons
can almost always be sighted; Cooper"s and Sharp-shinned hawks are
common. During the winter months, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck,
Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Northern Shoveller, Green-winged
Teal and American Wigeon can be seen. During spring and summer,
the lake edge teems with Swallows, and the fields of cat-tails and
marsh grass are alive with calling Marsh Wrens and Red-winged Blackbirds.
A wide variety
of programs and actives is offered to appeal to everybody. These include
bird watches, junior naturalist programs, everything from archaeology
to reptiles that appeal to one's sense of fun and adventure. The Nature
House is the centre for information on the nature sanctuary and
its activities, featuring interactive displays to stimulate your senses,
a classroom, and a library. Visits by individuals, families or groups
are always welcome.
A small gift
shop and information desk provides local and regional bird checklists,
wildlife and trail guides, and information on wildlife viewing opportunities
throughout the region.
house is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday to Friday (year-round),
and from 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm on weekends and most holidays (11:00
am to 4:00 pm during July and August). Admission to the Nature House
is by donation. The parking lot and trails are open from dawn to
dusk. To protect the wildlife, dogs are not permitted in the nature
Sanctuary at any time. Please remember that the trails are for walking
- bicycle riding is not permitted in the Sanctuary.
is managed by a registered non-profit society, and staff and volunteers
offer natural history programs and services to schools, community
groups and the general public. Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary is located
in Saanich, just a few minutes from downtown Victoria - directions
from Downtown Victoria:
Access by car:
Go North on Blanshard Road/Pat Bay Highway (#17); take McKenzie Street
exit (east); right on Rainbow Street; left on Ralph Street; right
on Swan Lake Road; parking lot entrance on left.
Access by bus: Take Pat Bay Highway #70 or Central Saanich
#75 to the McKenzie interchange; walk east one block on McKenzie Road;
right on Rainbow Street; left on Ralph Street; right on Swan Lake
Road; follow road into Nature House. Total walking time: 10 minutes.