Swan Creek

Swan Creek is an urban salmon stream that was logged, farmed, and ditched in many areas. The creek is part of the Colquitz River Watershed, a small watershed located about 10 kilometres from Elk Lake. Despite many challenges caused by urbanization, the creek is once again fish-bearing thanks to the work of dedicated stewardship groups.

The Challenge

Over the past 150 years the area surrounding Swan Creek has transitioned from a natural wetland, influenced by the presence of beaver and First Nations people, to agricultural land. More recently, it was subdivided into a suburban neighbourhood.

These transitions have caused significant degradation of the creek. The creek bottom was excavated to facilitate drainage and impervious surfaces, such as roads, roofs, and driveways, producing stormwater surges, high flows, pollutant and nutrient inputs, as well as a modified stream channel.

Our Solution

In 2012, we helped establish the Friends of Swan Creek Watershed. We provided access to funding and technical support to help this stewardship group achieve its plans for stream restoration and salmon enhancement.

Improving habitat. Swan Creek was devoid of any rock or gravel when we started. In partnership with the Friends and the District of Saanich, we have begun to rebuild the creek. Now, 20 rock riffles, or crests, oxygenate the water year-round. These structures also cool water in the summer, create pools, and help retain spawning gravel. This work was so successful that in the two months following installation, adult coho were spawning on the new platforms.

To further improve habitat, volunteers have replanted riparian areas with native species, which improves erosion control and provides better canopy cover for healthier fish habitat. We continue to support restoration efforts on Swan Creek and facilitate public education and awareness of issues affecting the watershed.

Engaging students. Robert “Bob” Cox, a retired provincial fisheries biologist, was a driving force in establishing the Friends of Swan Creek Watershed. Sadly, Bob passed away in 2015. To recognize his dedication to Swan Creek, we renamed a footbridge the Bob Cox Bridge and commissioned a plaque honouring Bob’s dedication to Swan Creek.

In 2017, we initiated a bridge signage project with Gr. 5 students from McKenzie Elementary School. Overseen by local artist Carolyn Knight, students created artwork and poetry about the creek, salmon, and other wildlife. The District of Saanich then designed and installed two beautiful signs that now grace the Bob Cox Bridge, behind the Marigold Road CRD pump station.


Building a riffle on Swan Creek

This work was so successful that in the two months following installation, adult coho were spawning on the new platforms.


All this rock was added to Swan Creek