Adjacent to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, in the Bilston Creek Watershed, lies Witty's Lagoon Regional Park, a harmonious blend of protected natural environments. The park offers yet another perspective of the coastline and a surprising variety of wildlife habitats.
Find a sturdy piece of driftwood and shelter from the constant breeze, which even in summer has a fresh edge to it. From this vantage point, you can look across the strait to the towering heights of the Olympic Mountains in Washington and its signature glaciated formation, Hurricane Ridge. The shallow beach makes for a pleasant warm-water swim after the tide rises over sun-heated rocks.
The first settlers in what is now Witty's Lagoon Regional Park, were the Northern Straits Salish People.
When Fort Victoria was established in 1843, members of the Ka-Kyaakan band were the sole inhabitants of the area north of the spit. They reef-netted salmon, gathered camas bulbs, berries and shellfish, and crafted baskets, canoes and clothing. Shell middens reveal traces of their early habitation, including their village site at the edge of the lagoon.
Within its 56-hectare, a network of trails winds through a mixed Douglas-fir forest and around the lagoon. Running through the forest is Bilston Creek, its edges laced with delicate Lady Fern. Listen for the Orange-crowned Warblers, Dark-eyed Juncos or the rattle call of the Belted Kingfisher flying high over the creek. The creek tumbles toward "Sitting Lady Falls" which spills over volcanic rock into the lagoon.
Beach trail passes a salt marsh, lined with gnarly Garry oak and arbutus trees, and beyond leads onto a sandy beach, perfects for swimming, sunbathing and beachcombing.
Driftwood-strewn beach at Witty's Lagoon
A short trail leads to a small beach at Tower Point where the ocean has hollowed tide pools in the granite outcropping. A rich variety of marine life shelter in the pools and stand revealed at low tide. Bring your rubber boots.
You'll also be rewarded with good views from here of aptly named Haystock Islands, where long, thick strands of grass grow in the shape of old stooks. Farther out in the strait are the Race Rocks, Canada's most southerly point on the west coast. Hurricane Ridge predominates on the distant southern horizon. At low tide you can wade across from the point to the long stretch of beach that fronts the lagoon; otherwise, approach the beach from the Sitting Lady Falls entrance on the road just south of Tower Point.
A short walk past the falls brings you to an intertidal backwater, where the waters of Metchosin Creek mingle with the Pacific, and then to the beach cluttered with driftwood, excellent for building shelters from the cold wind while you bird-watch.
The park is a favourite spot for local birdwatchers, as it is a natural resting place for migrating birds, such as osprey, before they attempt the 21-km crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Peninsula.
Migratory birds rest at Witty's Lagoon before crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca
The quiet backwater lagoon, surrounded by Garry oak and arbutus, is popular with seals, too. In spring, the meadows above the lagoon contain a brilliant array of wildflowers, including camas lilies, saxifrage, and nodding onions.
The nature information centre has numerous displays on the lagoon's natural and cultural history and enhances understanding of the plant and wildlife found in the park. Interpretive programs are held throughout the year.
Facilities at the park entrance include parking, toilets and the Nature Information Centre. A viewpoint and a picnic area are provided off the Lagoon Trail at the edge of Witty's lagoon.
Witty's Lagoon is located on Metchosin Road in Metchosin, 18 km from Victoria, off the Old Island Highway (1A) and Sooke Road.
A short distance west of Witty's Lagoon is Devonian Regional Park, a small parcel of farmland that now acts as a wildlife sanctuary, tucked into the gently rolling landscape. Despite the absence of marshland, many of the migratory birds seen at Witty's Lagoon also use Devonian Park as a staging area, including sandpipers, turnstones, and surfbirds, all of whom work the cobble beach for all it's worth.