Where the old growth is

Forests that have been a staple in our ecosystems are getting smaller and smaller. But, they’re not all gone, even in the heavily logged Fraser Valley.

By Grace Kennedy | June 10, 2021 |2:59 pm

Old-growth forests are disappearing. Whether it’s through logging or development, the forests that have been a staple in our ecosystems are getting smaller and smaller. But, they’re not all gone, even in the heavily logged Fraser Valley.

A map assembled by the Prince George-based advocacy group Conservation North combines provincial, federal, and industry data to show the location of BC’s remaining primary forests and the extent of logging in once heavily-forested regions. The term “primary forests” is often synonymous with “old-growth forests,” although the trees in such stands can be of any age so long as they have been undisturbed by human activity. Such forests form the backbone of vibrant woodland ecosystems.

(Conservation North’s map, it should be noted, is not 100% accurate. For example, it shows the land for Matsqui Institution as a low-productivity primary forest, even though there are very few trees left on the property. That is because the map only shows industrially disturbed lands if they fit certain criteria—which means some publicly owned properties may be classified as forest when they’re not.)

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In the Fraser Valley, there may be more primary forests left than you might expect. These are some of the ones residents can visit, and take in the beauty of undisturbed nature.

Sumas Mountain

Sumas Mountain is a significant landmark in the Abbotsford area and also home to the city’s largest section of primary forest. Sumas Mountain Regional Park is largely responsible for that, although the area surrounding the park has been impacted by logging and parts of the forest are less than 15 years old. However, some parts (see page 5 here) can be more than 200 years old, and the Chadsey Lake hike gives visitors an opportunity to explore the forest.

Harrison Lake

This one may be a surprise. Most of the forest along Harrison Lake’s shores has been significantly impacted by logging and other activity, but some of the shoreline, particularly along the Harrison River, is still considered primary forest. Sasquatch Provincial Park, located to the east of Harrison Lake, is where you are more likely to find undisturbed trees. The park includes both Deer and Hicks Lake, and the forest extends down to the East Sector Lands in Harrison Hot Springs.

CRV forest map
Provincial parks contain much of the most-accessible primary forest in the Fraser Valley. • 📸 Michal Urbanek/Shutterstock

Chilliwack and the Skagit Valley

The largest contiguous sections of primary forest in the Fraser Valley are in the east. Cultus Lake is surrounded by these forests and includes the famous Seven Sisters Trail, which leads to a grove of old-growth Douglas fir trees. Chilliwack Lake is also part of the primary forest; the nearby hike up to Lindeman Lake starts in impacted forests, but ends surrounded by undisturbed trees. Head further east into the mountains, and technically out of the Fraser Valley, primary forests really take hold. Skagit Valley Provincial Park is almost entirely untouched forest, and has a number of trails through its parkland.

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If you can’t get enough big trees, there are more ways to find them. The Big Tree Registry has a list of the province’s largest trees—and a number are found here in the Fraser Valley. A number of Black Cottonwood trees can be found in Chilliwack, as well as on Indigenous land near Deroche. Bigleaf maple and paper birch trees can also be found in Chilliwack, and a significant subalpine larch can be found on Mount Frosty in Manning Park. (Visit the larch tree in fall to see its needles turn gold.)

Grace Kennedy

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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