Columbia Wetlands

“One of the most precious things on a world scale…is the Columbia River Wetlands.” Robert Bateman

The Columbia Wetlands are one of the world’s living treasures, with 216 animal species, including hundreds of thousands of birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. Nestled between British Columbia’s Rocky and Purcell mountain ranges, they are the source of the largest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean in North America—the mighty Columbia. It is here in our own wild backyard that everything begins.

With more than 300 pairs, the Columbia Wetlands sustain the second largest concentration of great blue heron residents in Western Canada. Migrating waterfowl—15,000 each spring and autumn—depend on these wetlands in order to survive their long journeys. Songbirds, shorebirds, kokanee salmon, ling cod and trout also rely on this unique and rich ecosystem. It provides essential winter range for hundreds of elk and deer. Moose, wolf, cougar, coyote, river otter and grizzly bears are just some of the larger mammals that call this place home.

It is ours to treasure, ours to protect.

CW6_Pat Morrow
Pat Morrow


In 1996, Columbia Valley local residents and government agencies came together, agreeing that the stretch of the Columbia River and wetlands from Donald in the north to Fairmont in the south should be protected for wildlife. A Wildlife Management Area was established, protecting wildlife under the BC Wildlife Act throughout the entire 180-kilometre stretch. Recreational and historical uses — fishing, hunting and trapping — would continue, but under an innovative philosophy that places wildlife and habitat values first.

On June 5, 2005, World Environment Day, the Columbia Wetlands received much deserved international recognition as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. The largest wetland of its kind in British Columbia and protected under the BC Wildlife Act, the Columbia Wetlands qualified under all eight Ramsar Criteria and comprise a regionally unparalleled diversity of 16 habitats, sheltering around 216 species.

Over the past 20 years, Wildsight and the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations have been co-applicants for federal boating regulations on the Columbia Wetlands and River through the Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area (CWWMA).

On June 28, 2008, a package of amendments to the boating regulations was published in Part I of the Canada Gazette, containing proposed amendments to the Regulations which would control the navigation of vessels in the Columbia River and Wetlands between Fairmont Hot Springs and Donald Station (north-west of Golden), BC in order to protect environmental values.

Two of these regulations became law, August 19, 2009:

  1. A year-round prohibition on the operation of power-driven vessels in the wetlands of the Columbia River.
  2. A year-round prohibition on towing persons on water skis, surfboards or other similar equipment in the main channel of the Columbia River at any time.


Many species in the wetlands, such as the great blue heron, are extremely sensitive to noise and disturbance. But, boating on the main channel of the upper Columbia has been largely unregulated. Until now…

From now until May 2, 2016, you have an opportunity to support the third and final part of the boating regulation, limiting boats to 20 hp on the upper Columbia River, between Fairmont Hot Springs and Donald (excluding Lake Windermere). Take a moment to personalize our pre-made form and voice your support for this important regulation.

Your support will make sure that this long-awaited regulation is adopted – and will help protect this wild river into the future.

Take one minute to voice your support now.

You can find more details about the proposed regulation here in the Canada Gazette.

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