Chum spotted in the newly restored Kingfisher Creek

Over the years the stream started drying up during summer months, leaving small fish stranded in diminishing pools

Stacey Larsen

A little more than a year after major improvements to the Haig Brown Kingfisher Creek, around 300 chum salmon have been spotted in the stream.

“While I can’t claim we have influenced the number coming back, it is really exciting that they are using the spawning gravel and a lot of the infrastructure that we kind of worked with and restored to get up the creek,” said Cynthia Bendickson, executive director of the Greenways Land Trust.

Late last Summer a group of volunteers went into the area with excavators and chainsaws to re-establish the west branch of the creek just above where it joins the Campbell River, near the Haig Brown Heritage house just west of the Highway 19 bridge.

The project was organized by Greenways Land Trust, which received more than $30,000 in grant funding from the Campbell River Salmon Foundation and Fisheries and Oceans’ Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnership Program. Since that phase of the project was completed the trust was granted three more years of funding to continue the restoration.

This year they began riparian planting in the area and are planning to continue in the Spring.

“What we’ve done in other sections of the creek, the downstream section, is we actually thinned out quite a lot of Alder and replaced it with a more diverse selection of native species,” Bendickson said. “So we will probably be doing that in other sections of the creek as well.”

The trust is also working to improve water flow in the creek during the winter.

Bendickson said control structures further up the creek limit water flow which isn’t supportive of the spawning habitat.

Historically, the creek boasted populations of coho, pink and chum salmon. But by the 1960s, the natural stream had been culverted over its last kilometre.

Roderick Haig-Brown dreamed of restoring what was then known as Kingfisher Brook, but died before the dream was realized.

Bendickson said maintaining his legacy is one of the reasons why this project is so important.

In 1999, the east and west branches of the creek were restored by the Haig-Brown Kingfisher Creek Society with support from the City of Campbell River and Sequoia Springs West Development, but the two man-made channels were only a temporary solution.

Over the years the stream started drying up during summer months, leaving small fish stranded in diminishing pools.

The work last year involved carving a new stream bed, complete with pools, twists and large rocks tucked in strategic spots along the bank. The channel connected to the existing stream above the wetlands to provide for a steady flow of water.