Lower elevation forest in this area, known as the Coastal Western Hemlock Zone (CWHZ), is composed mainly of Douglas-fir and western hemlock but also of amabilis fir, grand fir, yellow cedar, western white pine, bigleaf maple, vine maple, western red cedar, mountain ash, and others. In previously logged areas, some second growth can include red alder, lodgepole pine, sitka spruce and black cottonwood. Shrubs here include elderberry, Oregon grape, salmonberry, huckleberry, devils club, sword fern, and skunk cabbage. Forest floors are usually rich in woody debris as well as abundant mosses and lichens (which are also present within the tree canopy). Other plants such as rattlesnake plantain, violets, pacific bleeding heart and trillium are common. This type of forest has the largest biological diversity and abundance of all zones in BC.
A good example of this forest type lies within the Chilliwack River Ecological Reserve located just S of Chilliwack Lake. Here, old growth grand fir, Douglas-fir, Engelmann spruce and Western red cedar reside upon a floodplain. Research has shown that the spruce trees here are hybrids of interior Engelmann spruce and coastal Sitka spruce. The largest known grand fir (71.3 m tall and 6.3 m circumference) in BC is located here and many of the red cedar and Douglas-fir are near record size. The trail through this reserve is shown on the map – this is a must-do walk!
The higher elevation forests (900-1,800 m), called the Mountain Hemlock Zone (MHZ), include mountain hemlock, amabilis fir, and some yellow cedar, red cedar, Western hemlock, Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine and whitebark pine. The composition of the forest will depend largely upon the elevation and soil moisture content within the MHZ. For example, bog forests here tend to attract mountain hemlock and yellow-cedar. Shrubs such as white flowered rhododendron, blueberry, black huckleberry, currants and bearberry are found here. The forest floor supports mosses, lichens, fungi, Indian hellebore, and sometimes wildflowers in openings such as tiger lilies, lupin and columbine.
Most of the old growth within the watershed is contained within the Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park, Liumchen Ecological Reserve and Chilliwack River Ecological Reserve. Some of these forests are >250 years old and compose ~8% of the total forest cover in the watershed. Most of the forest cover here is 60 years old and <140 years old.
Several forest fires have swept through parts of this watershed over the past 100 years. Records show that the largest fires occurred in 1935, 1946, 1958 and 1967. To view additional info and a map of the fires, go to: www.chilliwackwatershedstrategy.caPearly everlasting
Chilliwack Subalpine Meadows & Wetlands
Some meadows and wetland areas can be found within the Skagit Range in higher elevations from below treeline to the alpine. Some examples of this are the extensive meadows and wetlands above Liumchen Lake, meadows just below Mt. Laughington’s ridge, ‘Spoon Lake’ meadows, wetlands within the bowl just NE of Mt. Lindeman, and meadows along the Elk-Thurston ridge. Black alpine sedge ecosystems are significant within the meadows and are often found in association with pink and white mountain-heather, alpine club moss and crow berry. Wildflowers here can include red paintbrush, white marsh-marigold, sweet coltsfoot, Indian hellebore, Sitka valerian, arrow-leaved groundsel, mountain arnica, lupin, and subalpine buttercup.
Rare Plant Species of the Chilliwack River Valley
Several rare plant communities exist within the Chilliwack River drainage. One such rare plant is the cliff paintbrush which is found in the alpine meadows near Mt. Lindeman and Mt. Cheam. Tall bugbane is another rare plant which is thought to occur only within this watershed. Phantom orchid is another species at risk here. Species of special concern include cascade parsley fern (found in alpine meadows near Mt. Lindeman, Slesse Mtn. and Welch Peak), short-fruited smelowskia (near Mt. Cheam and Mt. MacFarlane), alpine anemone (near Mt. McGuire and Church Mtn.), western mannagrass, Kruckeberg’s holly fern and adulterated spleenwort.
Wildlife of the Chilliwack River Valley
Despite the rugged terrain and harsh winter conditions, wildlife abounds within the Chilliwack River watershed due to the diversity of habitats. Studies have shown there to be >40 mammals, >20 reptiles/amphibians and >130 birds. Mammals include mountain goats, black-tailed deer, mule deer, black bear, grizzly bear, Roosevelt elk, bobcat, raccoon, beaver, coyote, mountain lion, salamanders, chipmunks, squirrels, marmots and garter snakes. Birds include bald eagle, osprey, screech owl, great horned owl, great grey owl, common raven, pileated woodpecker, three-toed woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, common flicker, belted kingfisher, black-capped chickadees, wood duck, trumpeter swans, tundra swans, mergansers, Mallard duck, and many more. In the backcountry, commonly viewed animals are black bear, deer, coyote, woodpeckers, bald eagles, chipmunks and squirrels. Blackbears are drawn to alpine meadows throughout the summer – fall months. Lesser viewed animals include mountain goat, mountain lion, elk – grizzly bears are found only in the most remote parts of the E and S boundaries of the watershed.
Some of these are declared rare and endangered species such as the Spotted Owl, Trowbridge Shrew, Pacific Giant Salamander, mountain beaver, Oregon forest snail, Keen’s long-eared bat, long-tailed weasel, red-legged frog, Pacific watershrew and marble murrelet. Species of special concern include painted turtle, shrew mole, Trowbridge’s shrew, tailed frog, Townsend’s big eared bat, black-shinned hummingbird, Hutton’s vireo, green-backed heron, great blue heron and turkey vulture.
To view a map of species at risk within the Chilliwack River drainage, go to: click hereSkunk
Aquatic Wildlife of the Chilliwack River Valley
The Chilliwack River watershed supports a wide variety of fish species such as rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, bull trout (special concern status), Dolly Varden char, Rocky Mountain Whitefish, Cultus pygmy sculpin and Salish sucker (endangered status). White sturgeon are found within the Fraser River nearby. The Cultus pygmy sculpin is found only in Cultus Lake and is considered threatened by some organizations.
Several species of salmon also occur here: chinook spawn in spring to early winter, sockeye spawn summer to early winter, pink salmon spawn fall to early winter, chum salmon spawn fall to early winter, and steelhead spawn winter to spring. All of the species have suffered declines in population, although some are recovering better than others. The sockeye fishery showed signs of a near-total collapse in 2009. Cultus Lake sockeye salmon are considered to be at risk of extinction. Wild coho salmon numbers have declined significantly and large wetlands and off-channel ponds have been constructed within the Chilliwack River valley to aid with recovery. Coho fry are also produced at the Chilliwack River Hatchery in large numbers. Native Chinook salmon are spring run and are found in the upper portions of the drainage in very low numbers. Pink salmon numbers have been healthy in part due to the construction of spawning channels within the upper Chilliwack River. Wild steelhead populations have declined but hatchery production and fishing restrictions have helped to prevent further declines.
The overall health of the Chilliwack River watershed is indicated by the health of the fish populations. The well being of these populations is effected by freshwater habitat conditions, harvest levels, hatchery production, ocean habitat conditions and fishing regulations. Researchers have indicated that much work has been done to aid with recovery however further efforts have been recommended regarding recovery of lost and damaged fish habitat within the watershed.
Educate yourself about hatcheries contribute to well being of the salmon fishery and tour the Chilliwack River Hatchery: click here
For info on fishing regulations, locations, events, licensing, species guide, equipment and tours: www.fishchilliwack.com
Insects of the Chilliwack River Valley
The multitude of ecosystems here supports a wide variety of insects and arthropods. The many low elevation wetlands, lakes, rivers and forests are particularly prolific for insects/arthropods such as butterflies, moths, flies, spiders, bees, beetles, ants and many more. Biting insects vary throughout the region and include mosquitoes, no-see-ums, deer flies, black flies and horseflies.
– The Ecology of the mountain Hemlock Zone. From website: bro51.pdf Taken on Jan 13, 2010. Published by the BC Ministry of Forests, October 1997.
– Ecology of the Coastal Western Hemlock Zone. From the following website: bro31.pdf Taken on Jan 13, 2010. Published 1995 by BC Ministry of Forests.