This 300-hectare sanctuary attracts feathered fowl and curious visitors in almost equal measure. Bald eagles, Siberian swans, blue herons and 264 other species roost here, and there are plenty of opportunities for viewing. Undoubtedly the most spectacular sight is when up to 80,000 snow geese drop by in the fall en route to Wrangel Island, off Siberia’s eastern coast.
October is the best time to catch the early arrival of these birds, when they move around the area in huge, surging flocks of up to 20,000 in search of tasty marsh plants. In contrast, springtime brings millions of Western Sandpipers to the site, as well as beady-eyed hawks, eagles, cormorants, ospreys and other fish-eating wildlife (including seals). All are hungrily following the migratory salmon – a roiling aquatic buffet – to the Fraser River’s mouth. The sanctuary has an observation tower, plenty of wooden hides, 3km of winding paths and a smattering of picnic tables, but keep in mind that there is very little activity here in summer: October to April is the best time to visit. This is not a park, so dress as if you’re heading out on a soft hike and bring some bottled water along to keep you hydrated, plus sunscreen if necessary.
A 40-minute drive from Vancouver, the sanctuary is 13km west of Ladner in the Municipality of Delta. From downtown Vancouver, take Hwy 99 south through Richmond and the George Massy Tunnel and follow the signs toward Ladner. From Ladner, follow Ladner Trunk Rd west to 47A Ave and on to River Rd. Follow River Rd for 3km and cross the bridge to Westham Island. Follow the main road to where it ends in front of some large black gates. The driveway to the left leads to the sanctuary’s parking lot.