The Columbia River Wetlands

The Columbia Wetlands stretches between Canal Flats and Golden, BC, peacefully meandering alongside the Upper Columbia River through our beautiful valley. To the east are the Canadian Rockies. To the west is the Purcell Mountain Range.


What is the Columbia Wetlands?

At over 180 km in length, it is one of the longest undisturbed wetland ecosystems in North America and one of the few remaining intact portions of the Pacific Flyway for migrating birds.

On World Environment Day, 2005, the Columbia Wetlands was officially recognized as a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance, meeting every one of the criteria for the designation.

Sanctuary for Wildlife

Protected under the BC Wildlife Act, the area is sanctuary to more than 216 animal species including birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. Over 250 different migrating bird species have been identified in the Columbia Wetlands.  At present,  for instance, it is home to more than 300 pairs of nesting Great Blue Herons. More than 15,000 migrating birds depend upon the wetlands to survive their journeys north and south each year. It is also a feeding ground in winter for elk, deer, wolves, cougars, grizzly bears and other wildlife.


Click to learn more about the wetlands
Click here to learn more about the wetlands

The Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners (CWSP) was formed to ensure that the wetlands is protected for today and into the future. It is comprised of more than 35 member agencies, including various levels of government, non-governmental organizations, industries and individual community members. Together, they assist in the stewardship and management of the fragile ecosystem. Learn more about the CWSP at:

World-renowned wildlife artist and environmentalist, Robert Bateman, describes the wetlands in these terms, “One of the most precious things on a world scale…is the Columbia River Wetlands.”

YouTube Video: Frank Purschwitz
Featured Image: Ed Wourds

Things to Do

One of the most popular activities for visitors to enjoy is paddling the Columbia Wetlands in a canoe or kayak.  Power-driven vessels and the towing of water-skis, surfboards, etc. are forbidden in this protected area.  Visitors can enjoy a wetland experience that is relaxing, peaceful and regenerating. There are hundreds of photographic opportunities too, so be sure to bring your camera along with you.

Note: In 2016, Transport Canada legislated a maximum 20-horsepower limit to boats on the river between Canal Flats and Donald (this excludes both Columbia Lake and Lake Windermere).

If you plan your visit to the Columbia Valley in early May, you can take in the annual ‘Wings Over the Rockies’ festival. The festival is attended by hundreds of locals and visitors from around the country and the world. They come to learn about the relationship of habitats, flora and fauna in the Columbia Wetlands. There are bird-watching field trips, films, presentations and more over the nine days of the festival.

Explore the Columbia River Wetlands