Muir Creek: Potential Old Growth Parkland
Just past Sooke along West Coast Road you will find the magnificent Muir Creek watershed. The lower part of the watershed contains one of the most easily accessible chunks of old growth forest left on South Vancouver Island. Here you will find large diameter (up to 3m/9ft), soaring (up to 76m/250ft) Sitka spruce, Douglas-fir, Western red-cedar, and the B.C. Big Tree Registry-listed second largest Pacific yew. If you are in the south island area, Muir Creek is a big tree highlight not to be missed.
Several of the old trees along the creek are large and tall enough to be eligible for inclusion in the provinces registry. This is not surprising - historically some of the largest trees on Vancouver Island came from this valley. So big and tall were the trees of old that sailing ships in the 1800's would anchor off of Muir Creek in search of the best specimens to use as masts.
A monument in Victoria's Beacon Hill Park, touted as the world's tallest free-standing totem pole, began as a tree growing in the Muir Creek valley. It was carved from a 50m (164ft) Western red-cedar that was cut, then floated down the creek before being pulled by tugboat to Victoria. There it was carved by renowned Kwakwaka'wakw artist Mungo Martin and his team. The pole was raised in 1956, and is 38.8m (128ft) tall.
Although the area has been logged since the 1800's - evidence of this can be seen throughout the forest - many old growth trees have survived the decades of extraction. Especially notable for the oldest trees are the lower reaches of the creek and steep hillsides next to it. Modern industrial logging methods such as helicopter logging now make these trees economical to harvest. They are currently within logging territory.
Originally this was part of the T'Souke Nation traditional territory. They used the Muir Creek area for winter dancing and fish processing. The land was taken from them in the E&N Railway land grab of the 1880's. 2 million acres were given to the railway company as compensation for building a rail line.With one stroke of the pen much of the T'Souke's traditional territory became off limits to the very people that had lived there for generations. Politicians of the time said the land held no value to the native groups. Therefore, there was no compensation for this grievous loss.
Since then much of this land has fallen into the hands of industrial logging interests that have used it to generate billions of dollars in revenue. Successive governments have failed to acknowledge the theft of land originally, and continue to fail to ensure it is being cared for by profit-minded multi-national corporations.
The land here also provides access to the ocean, something that is increasingly difficult to find as the south island becomes more developed. There are fossil beds in the seaside cliffs, and at low tide one can walk for hours on the cobble and sand beach. There are occasional large trees to be seen up on the headland as you hike beside the surf.
Rather than being seen for the ecological gem that it is, the Muir Creek area is viewed by some as nothing more than potential profit. Now that Timber West has gone into the real estate business, residential development of these wild lands is possible. Logging activity of second growth in the watershed has increased dramatically and loaded logging trucks are once again rumbling through downtown Sooke. Will the old growth trees be next?
The Muir Creek Protection Society is working to preserve all that Muir Creek has to offer. A park would protect the area for the bears, cougars, jumping slugs, otters, mink, eagles and salmon that currently reside there. 95% of the west coast of Vancouver Island is private land. A park would protect the old growth trees and provide much needed recreational opportunities for local residents and tourists alike.
With the recent purchase of Sandcut Beach and Jordan River property we will be told there is not money available to secure Muir Creek for future generations and the maintenance of biodiversity. That is obviously not true as we easily came up with billions for that big party back in the winter of 2010. TimberWest, CRD, and other officials have discussed the need for parkland between Sooke and Port Renfrew, and Muir Creek has been identified as a prime location.
It would be an awful shame to loose this amazing area. Check it out for yourself - you know what I say, "See Them, Save Them". Stand beneath a 500 year old Sitka spruce and try to maintain perspective. These ancient tree's massive diameter soars skyward with very little taper until the trunks disappear into the canopy of the forest.
The forest here is of an increasingly rare variety, and this is a excellent opportunity to save it from the saw. Encourage the politicians that work for us, and TimberWest that makes a profit exploiting lands of global significance, to save Muir Creek.
Muir Creek is 14 km past Sooke on West Coast Road/Highway 14. Once you pass the gravel pit on your left the road dips down to one of the only flat coastal areas along this stretch of the Juan de Fuca. This is the Muir Creek estuary.
Parking is available on the south-west side of the bridge, and access to the big trees is on the north-east side of the bridge. Follow the trail upstream on the east bank of the creek, keeping to your left. The trail will take you to the creek, then continues upstream. Either side of the bridge has trails down to the beach.