3/18/2011

Billings Spit: Trees and Beaches

An unusual bent Douglas-fir on west Billings Beach
Billings Spit, in the coastal town of Sooke, BC, is good place to see nice urban trees in a residential neighbourhood, as well as a good place to take a walk along a scenic stretch of rocky beach. The beaches here often have large drift logs that come and go with the storms, tides, and winds.

Mallards and Widgeons in Seabroom Park, off Kaltasin Road, Billings Spit
Seabroom Park, found at the end of Seabroom Road, is a salt marsh that is often flooded at high tides. This tiny undeveloped park is great for ducks, and to access a nice stretch of beach. If you are wearing your gumboots you could pass through. If not, best to return when it is drier. This beach is on the Sooke Basin side of the spit.


Cedar stump on the tip of Billings Spit
All winter long storms wash great pieces of wood onto Billings Spit beaches. Some are large enough to stay for months, or sometimes years, before moving on. The stump shown above had a complete 30 meter long silvery trunk before log salvagers came for its valuable wood. Eventually the remains moved off the beach, possibly to head out to sea for a while.

There is a view and access to the beach from this small Billings Spit park
There is another small undeveloped park not far from Seabroom. It is at the end of Kaltasin Road. It provides access to the beach on the Sooke Harbour side of the spit, and contains a couple of impressive large diameter Douglas-fir. If you visit, please do the trees a favour and park on the street instead of in the park on their roots.


Near the north end of the beach on the harbour side are several Douglas-fir veterans, including a couple that hang precariously over the beach
The west beach on Billings Spit (harbour side) doubles as a riverbank as this is where the Sooke River enters the ocean. This makes for a dynamic system rich in plant and animal life, and makes excellent habitat for many species of birds, black bear, river otters, a nesting pair of eagles, and impressive salmon runs in the fall. There are also some old trees to be seen on the banks, as well as chunky bits of drift wood littering the beach.

Glenidle Road feels like a tunnel through the trees - the old cedars are great

Even the streets of the Billings Spit area have big trees to be seen. Along Glenidle Road are several old growth Western red-cedars that have grown large fluted trunks. Rumour has it than when the sewer system is extended to Billings Spit these magnificent trees may have to be cut down to make way for the construction. I hope that is wrong. These centuries old trees look like healthy, robust specimens.

Glenidle Road big cedars


Getting There

Billings Spit is about a 10 minute drive from Sooke's town center, and about 35 minutes from Victoria. It is on bus route #61. Often people park on Highway 14, and do a walking loop down through the neighbourhood, incorporating a bit of beachcombing along the way. The best time to visit is at lower tides (consult tide table here).


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