Just minutes from downtown Victoria, Swan Lake Christmas Hill Sanctuary acts as a natural habitat for birds and small animals as well as having a breathtaking view from the hill top. The Sanctuary incorporates two unique areas; Christmas Hill and Swan Lake.
- Christmas Hill – The rock face of Christmas Hill which has been glacially molded lies in distinct difference from the lowlands of the lake. Spring on the hill invites a profusion of wildflowers and the hilltop affords panoramic views.
- Swan Lake – The lake provides a safe haven for a variety of birds and smaller animals such as; mink, muskrat, and river otter. The water from the lake drains into the Colquitz River which then flows into the Pacific Ocean via Portage Inlet.
The Nature House of the Sanctuary is their information centre with great interpretive displays, a reading room, and even has a live ‘Bee House’. They are open year-round (Monday to Friday) from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and on weekends from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. (They are closed on statutory holidays) The House is wheelchair accessible and admission is by donation.
The Library is a great spot to visit and has something of interest for both adults and children. The library has a welcoming atmosphere with a terrific view, free Wi-Fi, as well as a number of fabulous coffee table books one can browse through.
The gift shop, like the library, is also located in the Nature House. While not particularly large, they have lovely handmade, one-of-a-kind quality items at very reasonable prices.
Bird watching is extremely popular at the Sanctuary twelve months of the year although the spring and fall migrations, with Mallards being the most common resident, tends to attract the most visitors. Spotting the difference (during migration) between a drake and a hen can be tricky but if you look closely, the male (drake) keeps his pale, yellow-green beak compared to the female’s mottled orange and black beak.
Along with the Sanctuary’s resident Red-tailed Hawk, there are a wide variety of birds some of which can be seen all year round and others only at certain times of the year. A sample guide of which birds to watch for and when includes:
- All Year – Anna’s hummingbird, Spotted Towhee, Bushtits, Great Blue Herons
- November to April – Golden-Crowned Sparrow
- November to February – Barred Owls
There are also a number of ‘visiting’ birds such as: Hooded Merganser, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, and more which can be seen in the winter months. In spring and summer Tree & Violet Green Swallows, Marsh Wrens and Red-winged Blackbirds can be spotted along the lake edge.
There are a number of great hiking trails from easy strolls to more strenuous trails that all offer great views and things to see. For those who enjoy a more relaxed walk, the lake trail is the perfect spot which has a floating boardwalk taking you to the centre of the wetland area. If you are up to more of a hike, the hill trails offer a beautiful view of the city. Before heading out, it’s a good idea to download their trail map.
Swan Lake Christmas Hill Sanctuary is more than just a great place to explore nature; it is also a valuable learning centre for local schools. They offer a number of different pre-school and school-age programs. If you are interested in your school or class getting involved, visit their website for more information on school programs.
The Sanctuary offers ideal venues for weddings, corporate meetings, and other social events. Check out their Facility Rentals page for all the information you need to book your next event.
Whether you are looking for a great place for a nature hike, a stroll along the lake, or the perfect spot to hold you next event, Swan Lake Christmas Hill Sanctuary is one well worth considering. If you need more information you can always contact them by phone at: 250.479.0211 or by email at: [email protected].