Mitlenatch Island – Jewel of the Salish Sea

Bird sanctuary and provincial park must be treated with care in order to protect its fragile environment

If you are looking for a splendid boating destination try Mitlenatch Island.

But before you set out, remember that you are visiting a protected island. As a Provincial Park, it enjoys special Class A status because hundreds of ground-nesting seabirds use the island as a safe nesting site. Visitor guidelines are designed to provide protection for this critical habitat. Very important to nesting success are that no pets are allowed ashore and visitors stay on the established trails. Binoculars or a spotting scope give a close up view without disturbing the birds.

If you are fishing, stow your rods while in the waters around Mitlenatch. It sits inside a Rockfish Conservation Area. (You can find the roughly square area indicated on charts). Because fin fishing often pulls up rockfish, which do not survive catch and release, fin fishing (including salmon) is also closed in rockfish closure areas.

Mitlenatch Island lies in the middle of the northern end of the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait). As you approach the island you can slowly circumnavigate it and enjoy views of cliff nesting cormorants (both pelagic and double crested) and pigeon guillemots sitting on bright red feet on the rocks above their hidden nests. Above you, glaucous-winged gulls fly high over their nesting colony. The gull colony covers most of Mitlenatch.

While this island is definitely for the birds, there are plenty of sea-going mammals too. From late fall and into summer Steller and California sea lions are often on the small islets that surround the mouth of Camp Bay. Transient killer whales comb the shoreline seeking the plentiful harbor seal. River otter also make Mitlenatch home.

As you travel around the island keep your distance from the shoreline so you don’t disturb the nesting birds – at least 50 metres away and travel dead slow.

After enjoying a look along the shoreline you can stop on the island. There are only two spots you can come ashore without disturbing the nesting birds. (There are no docks or buoys). Small boats and dinghies can come into the middle section of either NW or Camp bay. Secure your boat and make sure it won’t be caught in a rising tide or stuck in a falling one. The welcome signs and start of the trail are visible from the water at the head of both bays. Check out the information signs, make a note of the visitor guidelines and give yourself at least an hour to explore.

As well as birds, Mitlenatch is also known for its beautiful notch meadow. In the spring and early summer there are many species of wildflowers, some of which, such as the prickly pear cactus, are rare. Please stay on the trails to help avoid stepping on the flowers.

Stop by the volunteers’ cabin located in Camp bay. There are brochures available and a Mitlenatch island Stewardship Team (MIST) volunteer can help answer any of your questions about the island. If you wish, a volunteer will take you on a nature walk to the bird blind. MIST volunteers are there as wardens throughout the nesting season (April to September).

MIST is a self-sustaining organization and is grateful for any donation in aid of protecting this special place. Send donations to: MIST volunteer and Treasurer, Ken Graham, 11565 -84th Ave., Delta, BC.

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