Winter, 2007

In the fall of 2004, the Desolation Sound Salmon Enhancement Society received a $6,050 grant from the Pacific Salmon Foundation to build new gravel beds near a Chum spawning channel and replace 140 feet of boardwalk at Lagoon Creek.

Logging debris clogging Refuge Lagoon mouth was removed and bagged gravel, supplied by Community Advisor Grant McBain, was barged to the mouth of Lagoon Creek. Saltstream Engineering moved a skidder and tractor onsite at the September high tides and off-loaded the gravel. With the help of Scott and Delia, it was spread behind the dam for spawning beds. The Chum who have returned for several years used this new gravel for spawning which freed the lagoon creeks for Coho.

Old boardwalk and flume remnants were pulled down and placed in a burn pile. Cedar lumber cut by Rob at Doctor Bay was boated round and carried onsite and a new boardwalk was constructed by Scott and Delia during the winter of 2005/06. Additional financial support for boardwalk construction came from The Refuge Cove Store and The Refuge Cove Land and Housing Co-op.

Grant McBain felt we could further improve salmon access and the Chum spawning situation by modifying the existing flume channel and adding more gravel. The Pacific Salmon Foundation supplied a $8,000 grant for further work at the lagoon mouth, for Coho smolt rearing, and a survey report on stream enhancement and stocking possibilities at Unwin Creek and Lakes in Tenedos Bay on the mainland.

In spring 2006, Grant, Delia and Judith Williams walked the Lagoon Creek area to survey for the riffle system that would modify the flow from Refuge Lagoon to the sea. We were again unfortunately unable to receive eyed eggs from McBain’s Sakinaw Lake Coho run and so, for the third year, have not been able to restock our system. We have asked permission to raise our own brood stock at the Doctor Bay facility since a private donor has offered help. Permission is so far elusive.

In September 2006 the metal material left from the old dam and flume was moved away from the creek by machine and by Grant McBain, Glynne, Reinhold, Scott and Delia. Reinhold erected a signpost to identify the creek as a DSSES project. Metal debris was piled for removal should the conjunction of tide, skidder and appropriate vessel ever occur. Rocks and gravel were arranged in a riffle pattern according to Grant’s design to both modify stream flow and provide more Chum spawning territory. Scott and Delia noted that Chum used the new gravel areas and Coho, as well as Chum, appear to have used every creek we brought back into usage. If further stocking of the system could occur, clearly we could produce more smolt exiting and adult salmon returning to the system. The habitat does seem to produce enough food for fry since the instigation of Scott and Delia’s unique system of moving starfish that interfere with growth on their oyster farm to help fertilize and revive vitality along the creeks.

The fish were very late returning in 2006 due to dry conditions. Coho and Chum were seen in small numbers.  Bright blue backed smolt and adults were found and photographed in the system but no one is sure of their identity. Our monitoring system is incomplete since a falling local winter population makes us dependent on Scott and Delia’s work schedule and the weather.

The Unwin Lake Survey

Despite the unusually stormy 2006/07 conditions for trips across Desolation Sound in a small boat, Scott and Delia completed a Unwin Lakes survey. Our interest in this complex is partially fueled by textual information Judith Williams discovered during research for the recently published Clam Gardens: Aboriginal Mariculture on Canada’s West Coast. During her clam surveys of Prideaux Haven, Tenedos Bay and Unwin Creek, Williams found relevant textual and First Nations oral history. Of considerable interest to salmon enhancement was a notation in the journals of Archibald Menzies, the surgeon/botanist who traveled on the Discovery with Captain George Vancouver. On the 26th of June, 1792, Vancouver, in the company of two Spanish ships, anchored the Discovery and Chatham at Kinghorn Island at the entrance of what he later named Desolation Sound. On June 27th, rising wind caused his anchors to drag and Vancouver moved his ships to Teakerne Arm. While this was being undertaken Menzies set out in a small boat with Peter Puget and sailors to survey the mainland shore and they spent a night and day exploring Malaspina Inlet south. Menzies describes the following day.

“On our way back next morning we found another small branch of this arm leading to the North ward which we traced about 4 miles until it became so narrow & shallow watered [Theodosia Inlet?] that it was not thought worth while to put off time in following it further, we therefore put back and breakfasted on a small island about the middle of it [that was] wooded with pines, after which we returned out to the great arm [Desolation Sound proper [and proceeded along shore to the North Eastward passing a large island [Mink Island?] in mid-channel, where the Arm is at least a league wide. We soon rounded out a deep Bay, on the West side of which we saw a great number of fish stages erected from the ground in a slanting manner, for the purpose of exposing the fish fastened to them to the most advantageous aspect for drying. These stages occupied a considerable space along shore and at a little distance appeared like the skeleton of a considerable Village; they were made of thin Lathes ingeniously fastened together with Withes of the roots of pine trees and from the pains and labour bestowed on them it was natural to infer that Fish must be plenty here at some time of the year, and that a considerable number of Natives rendezvous for the purpose of catching and drying them for winter sustenance, but, as we observed no huts or places of shelter for their convenience, it is probable they make but a short stay.

After quitting this Bay we followed the same shore which trended North Eastward and soon after passed by a narrow Channel on the inside of a cluster of steep rocky islands wooded with pines, but did not proceed above a league when at the farther end of these islands we came to a small Cove in the bottom of which the picturesque ruins of a deserted village placed on the summit of an elevated projecting rock excited our curiosity and induced us to land close to it to view its structure. [behind Roffey Island in Prideaux Haven]

This rock was inaccessible on every side except a narrow pass from the land by means of steps which admitted only one person to ascend at a time and which seemed to be well guarded in case of attack for right over it a large maple tree diffused its spreading branches in such an advantageous manner as to afford an easy and ready access from the summit of the rock to a concealed place amongst its branches, where a small party could watch unobserved and defend the pass with ease. We found the top of the rock nearly level and wholly occupied with the skeletons of houses – irregularly arranged and very crowded; in some places the space was enlarged by strong scaffolds projecting over the rock and supporting houses apparently well secured. These also acted as a defense by increasing the natural strength of the place and rendering it still more secure and inaccessible.”

Menzies text from “The Journal of Archibald Menzies, Journal of Vancouver’s Voyage April to October 1792”. Ed C.F. Necombe, Victoria, BC, 1923 (Archives of BC, Memoir v)

Routed from this height of land by attacking fleas, Menzies named it Flea Village and it is now listed in archeological records as a fortification. Sliammon elder Norm Gallagher, who surveyed all this area with Provincial Parks officials in the summer of 2005, stated it was more of a settled village than just a seasonal encampment. The fort is fronted by a classic clam garden and flanked by several canoe slides. A year round creek flows down the south side of the fort. Royal Engineer Robert Homfray recorded seeing natives, in 1862, with house boards bridging two canoes, ferrying fish down the channel just north which is now called Homfray Channel. Menzies’ journal makes no mention of seeing any more “fish stages”, as the survey proceeds north and east, until they are 2/3rds up Toba Inlet, despite passing the well documented Spring Salmon run at Forbes Bay [ Ahpokum – meaning having maggots i.e. on spawned out salmon].  

During the clam gardens research, Williams discovered, behind Copplestone Island just below Flea Village, a perfectly preserved, heart-shaped, rock base to a fish weir in conjunction with clam gardens and flats. In Clam Gardens she suggests the entire area from Roffey Island to Tenedos Bay, and including Mink Island, was a well protected food complex.

The DSSES report suggests that the Unwin Lakes system, now essentially moribund, can be brought back into salmon production. The lake situation is excellent; however the survey indicates that the upper section of Unwin Creek was moved to facilitate logging. This has made the stream too steep for successful salmon ascent. A return to the original creek bed would eliminate the problem. We are now negotiating with DFO and Parks to seek permission to proceed.

For a complete illustrated Unwin Lake Survey see the projects page at the DSSES web site.

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