Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sidney Spit

Come with me today on another one of "My Top Ten Most Enjoyable Hikes.." to the Spit on Sidney Island... which is part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada.

Ever since we learned about Sidney Spit we have been waiting for a perfect day to make the trip to this little island to explore and spend a day hiking around.

As we left the dock at the end of Beacon Ave in Sidney it didn't seem like it would take very long to get to Sidney Island... it's only about 5 km. which is 3 miles... but our skipper told us it would take 20 minutes.

The Sidney Spit Ferry can carry about 35 passengers.  We are now about halfway between the Spit and the dock in downtown Sidney where we departed.

What a day. Not a cloud in the sky! Wikipedia told us the highest point on this island was 252 feet... but we didn't find any place that high on our hiking around.

Originally named Sallas Island, in 1859 the Hudson Bay Company changed it to Sidney Island. In 1902 George L. Courtenay bought the island for $25,000 with plans to host hunting parties.  He stocked the island with pheasants from China and fallow deer from Europe.

He also established the Sidney Island Tile and Brick Company on the north end of the island.  It was here they discovered a good source of clay that made good bricks. The depression in the centre of the photo was the site of the later clay pit... # 2 on the plan below.

The company employed up to 70 men and produced 55,000 bricks a year. This site plan shows the activity and buildings... with numbers 1 and 2 being the early and later clay pits.

This was the source of the bricks used to build the Empress Hotel, Hotel Vancouver and the CPR Depot. Some of the ruins of the factory can be found near the campground.  Bricks sold for $8. per thousand, including delivery... which sounds very reasonable to me.

In 1925 the Province of BC received title to the land by foreclosure on the brick company to collect unpaid taxes.  The Todd family began buying land on Sidney Island between 1924 - 1968, until they owned 90% of the island.  During World War II the island was reserved for military purposes.

Sidney Marine Park was established July 1961... and 107 hectares were purchased and added to the Park.  The total area of the park is 177 hectares (437 acres.).  The rest of the island was developed by Sallish Forest Products into 111 bare land strata lots on 288 hectares... with 1500 hectares of common property.

The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is the 40th of 43 National Parks in Canada... and Sidney Spit is just one of the more than 30 Gulf Islands locations. Other parks are located on Saturna, the Penders, Mayne, Galiano, etc... to check them out click on this link.  Each location has its own unique qualities, but there is only one with a spit this long.

This great photo was taken from the air when the tide was out... we had a picnic at the very end of the spit at low tide.

It looks totally different when the tide is up.  We were warned to not get caught out at the end of the spit when the tide was rising... as you will get wet coming back!

There were lots of boats moored near the spit... 21 buoys are available here.

I was the first off the ferry so I could catch photos of the people coming off... Shirley was right behind me.

This government dock is where we arrived... and it was our good fortune to come in when the tide was out.

You can see by the steepness of the ramp that the tide is out... lots of room for the wharf to rise as the tide comes back in.

Some of our group that arrived with us are quickly making their way out to the spit.  We wanted to do the hike to the end of the spit and back before the tide came back in.

But we were busy taking pictures along the way.  I was fascinated by the way this algae gets caught when the tide goes out... and drys like a bed sheet draped over the rocks.  Interesting, eh?

What is with all these short posts?

Apparently a row of posts was installed in the centre of the spit in the 1960's thinking it would help to encourage the sand to accumulate on the spit.  At least it deterred boaters from taking a short-cut in high tide.

Wet sand, dry sand, small rocks.

We saw the ferry from Anacortes come on the way to Sidney... and then again on it's return.

Lots of driftwood collects in the middle of the spit.

There are people who harvest kelp and sell it as a health food.  They say it contains all the nutrients your body needs. But I have lived this long without it... so my body doesn't know what it is missing... and it is not going to find out any time soon.

No end of sea gulls...

For sure the sea gulls have enjoyed the endless hours of sitting on these posts.

This proud gull posed for me with Mt. Baker in the background... not knowing he would get posted on my blog.

We were starting to look for a picnic spot as we approached the end of the spit...

Maybe someone else built a picnic table here... but the tide has a way of changing the layout.

There is lots of driftwood around... so we picked out a couple of logs near the beacon light and spread out our picnic.  It was delightful! What a great place for a picnic.

It was fun to watch the boats passing by... with Mt Baker in the distance.

The sunshine lights up this beacon...  works totally off a solar panel.

You will see the native Dune Grass in many of the photos at Sidney Spit.  This grass helps to stabilize the dunes and hold the sand from blowing away.

I love how the Dune Grass and the darker vegetation behind give a natural contrast.  Good design is seldom an accident... done by an excellent Landscape Architect.

Very near to the point of the spit this young man was getting started on building a sand castle.

We did not see a lot of colourful flowers blooming on the Spit on this visit...

...except for this Yellow Sand-verbena which was asking me to take a few pictures of it.  It looks like a succulent. So far the deer have not eaten it... but we have learned the hard way that when the deer get hungry they will eat almost anything.

The Yellow Sand-verbena is on the species at risk list. It provides critical habitat for the endangered Sand-verbena Moth, for which it is the only known host plant for egg deposition.  The larva feed on the leaves and flowers throughout the summer and adults feed on the flower nectar.

It was fun to see how close I could get to this blue heron...

Oooops!  I got a little too close.  So he decided to show me his six foot wingspan.

What a gorgeous bird... and they apparently nest here on Sidney Island.

It didn't seem as far coming back as it was going out.

Shirley saw a couple walk past these canoes and leave a bag of treasures... they probably came over from near Sidney, which would be a good paddle over and back in a day.

There were several places where we saw lots of shells.

Some a little chipped and broken...

Some in absolutely pristine condition... like this Nuttall's Cockle Shirley asked me to shoot for her.

I was quite amazed to stumble upon this group of clams... busy at work with their siphons extended.

I've never seen any this big before.

The water around around the spit was fairly shallow, with some sand  bars... and these boys are enjoying playing around in the water.

There are several good walking trails here and we took a stroll down towards the campground.

This Canada Goose was by herself basking in the sunshine.

We saw several campers set up and enjoying the day.  There are 26 campsites.

What a great viewing platform/jetty going out into the lagoon... with a telescope for bird watching.

Looking back off the jetty we see some campsites and a gazebo for group dining or hanging out.

This Purple Martin Quartet was giving us some 'special music' as we approached for a closer look.

It sounded to me like a love song.

There was lots of activity as these Martins fly around and come back to their homestead.

From the viewing jetty we are looking at Eagle Island in the lagoon... where a lot of birds find privacy for nesting.

I just finished this watercolour painting of the Lagoon.  You can see Eagle Island inside the lagoon.

As we were about to head back to the town of Sidney we took a few shots of the Spit from this bluff.

You can see how high the water has come up since we walked out to the point... and I think it may still come up a little more.  The couple coming back are just barely getting back on dry land.

What a delightful day!

"Take nothing but pictures.  Leave nothing but footprints."

"In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks." -John Muir


  1. Nice pictures Sherwin. We cruise by Sidney Spit at least half a dozen times every year but we have yet to stop there, or even anchor there. What I want to know is this: how do you know that gull wasn't taking advantage of YOU? Maybe he was just posing for you so he could get his picture on the interweb?

    1. Bob, I don't know that for sure. You may well be absolutely right. People take advantage of me all the time... and now you have me thinking so do the birds.