Urban Oases of Victoria - Colquitz River Park
I had known of the existence of the Colquitz River Park for many years. I had even stopped in at the parking lot off of Interurban Road, but I really had not thought of it much more than the area just below that parking lot. It turns out that it is one of the most beautiful walks in the city and it practically starts at Tillicum Mall and then continues almost all the way to Beaver Lake.
Colquitz River is one of the larger streams that run through the city, the other big one being Bowker Creek. The Colquitz runs from its source at Beaver Lake winding its way through the northern part of the District of Saanich down to Cuthbert Holmes Park and then out into Portage Inlet at the top of the Gorge Waterway. While it is clear that the stream is starting to be cared for all along its way, it still seems as is it needs some more attention to bring it back to full health. I have heard before that it is still salmon bearing, though I find that hard to believe looking at the milky water.
In any event, it is through the use of places like this that people begin to care for them, there are certainly people that have been trying to make Colquitz River healthly. Veins of Life Watershed Society is likely the most notable non-profit in this area and they have done many clean-ups of the river.
So if you are like I was, and a complete new comer to this trail you can start it either at Tillicum Mall, kind of behind the Montana’s Steakhouse along Burnside just where it goes under the Trans-Canada and turns into Interurban, or a little ways up Interurban on the west side of the road where there is a small parking lot. When you come down down the trail and approach either of the two bridges along this part of the stream, you will see that is not just a simple park along the edge of the river. Instead what you will find is not just a park, but an architectural gem. I am not certain who designed the park (The designer was actually Moura Quayle, Thanks to Tricia down in the comments!) however throughout its southern portion it has these little hidden concrete blocks. Some of them are steps across the river and in other instances they are benches overlooking the water. They have a certain Arthur Erickson quality to them, though I would doubt he was involved, the time frame for the completion of this portion in 1981 would put it in line with the same architectural lineage as him. It has a modernist Japanese garden feel to it. While it looks like some of the concrete is needing to be repaired now, it still is quite striking. I also wonder whether anything similar could even be constructed today, as it would certainly have disturbed the creek bed during construction.
Once you are headed north, the path goes under the Mckenzie Overpass across Interurban Road and shortly after crosses Interurban itself and then goes through the edge of Hyacinth Park. This area is dominated by huge willow trees. Once you emerge past the willows you begin to cross the Panama Flats. This area historically was likely a swamp but at some point in the 1800’s it was drained for farm land. The District of Saanich was able to acquire this area as park in the last few years. It would appear that at least a portion of it is still farmed. The farm, with the surrounding hills is quite picturesque, especially on a sunny day like the one I was there was. After you cross the flats you begin a rise up to what is known as Panama Hill. The hill portion has a number of Garry Oaks among other trees and there seems to be quite a maze of trails that come off of the main trail. The path keeps on past this point, crossing Roy Road, but this is as far as I explored on this first venture. What is certain is that there is a lot more of this park for me to still enjoy.
Let me know what I missed! I have heard that there are some archaeological sites near the trail but what else so that I make sure to look next time.