Lakelse Lake Wetlands Park was designated as a park on May 20, 2004, following recommendations from the Kalum Land and Resource Management Plan.
Lakelse Lake Wetlands Park protects a biologically exceptional and provincially significant warm-water wetland complex. Warm water springs in the Lakelse Lake Wetlands drain into Lakelse Lake, the largest warm water lake in northwestern BC. Clearwater and Andalas Creeks have open water throughout the winter. The streams are fed by warm water springs along an escarpment above the creeks.
The bog ecosystem in the Lakelse Lake Wetlands is regionally significant. It contains scattered and stunted lodgepole pine, western red cedar, and western hemlock. In addition to water loving shrubs and herbs, the bogs contain specialized plants such as sundews, tall white bog orchids and bog club-moss. Accumulations of moss and organic material are often greater than 100 cm and water tables are within 20 cm of the surface.
The south end of Lakelse Lake contains the most extensive cover of emergent and submerged aquatic plants remaining in Lakelse Lake. Dominant plants include swamp horsetail in water to 1 m and reeds in water to 4 m in depth. The band of vegetation extends from Schulbuckhand Creek, on the east side of the park, to the outlet of the Lakelse River in the west. The aquatic vegetation has established on shallows built up by sediments from inflowing streams (Schulbuckhand, Clearwater, Andalas, and Ena Creeks). The aquatic vegetation is stabilized by the constant replenishment of sediments and nutrients that are carried in the streams.
The park also contains regionally significant valley bottom old growth stands. Valley bottom old growth in the Kitimat Valley is relatively rare and a special feature. Several small stands are located in the northwest corner, between Andalas and Clearwater Creek and on the southeast boundary of the park.
Mature and old-growth forests commonly found on higher ground in the Lakelse Lake and Lakelse River area are very productive and contain western hemlock, Sitka spruce (largest trees in stand), and western redcedar. Shrub cover is dense and is dominated by devil’s club, salmonberry, and oval-leaf huckleberry. Herbs are well developed, but the moss layer is thin.
Lakelse Lake Wetlands Park contains internationally significant salmon spawning and rearing habitat and critical habitat for over-wintering steelhead. The large reed beds around the southern shoreline of Lakelse Lake and the streams that run through the alluvial fans and wetlands provide prime fish habitat.
Steelhead over-winter in the reed beds. The warm water of Clearwater Creek support a late fall coho run. Lakelse Lake and its tributaries are important to sockeye salmon. Sockeye salmon rear for a year within the lake prior to migrating to the sea the following April. Typically, 500,000 plus sockeye fry rear in the lake with five to 10,000 sockeye returning to the lake every fall. Although, in recent years as few as 1,000 adult spawners have returned. Consequently, Lakelse sockeye salmon are subject to a recovery strategy. The quality of water that drains through the wetlands is critical to the Lakelse River fishery. The water drains into the lake through the wetlands and out the Lakelse River, which drains from the southwest corner of the lake, approximately 0.5 km from the northern boundary of the park.
The wetlands also contain regionally significant waterfowl habitat that is of great importance to migratory and over-wintering waterfowl. Trumpeter swan (a provincially blue-listed species) over-winter and nest in the wetlands. There are reports of more than 100 swans wintering in the wetlands. Swans stay in the area from early winter to spring and breeding occurs in the wetlands. Geese and ducks feed and rest in the wetlands and in the reed beds at the south end of the lake.
Grizzly and black bears use the corridor from Clearwater Lakes along Clearwater Creek to the wetlands. Grizzlies use the east side of the park in the spring (to feed on shrubs) and fall (to feed on salmon). One of the regions highest seasonal (fall) concentrations of grizzlies is found along Clearwater Creek. Grizzly bear density varies with the size of the salmon run.
Historically there was a large seasonal population of grizzly bears in the wetland. Grizzlies were known to stay in the area until December, feeding on the late coho runs in Coldwater Creek. Occasionally, after the late feeding, grizzlies denned in the wetlands because snow accumulations prevented them from getting to their usual denning areas. The Cecil Creek drainage, west of the park, is a crossing zone for grizzlies from four different populations. The grizzly bears breed in this area and cubs are often reared in the wetland.
The wetlands are also an important seasonal habitat for black bear, wolf, beaver and other small furbearers. Some of the black bears in the area are subspecies ursus americanus kermodei, (white phase). Black bear use of the area is very high. The bears forage on Pacific crab-apple and salmon.
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