Table of Contents

The point of all this yard out back business? All is revealed.

Discussion || Kari Medig

Unless you ask what you're missing, you'll see nothing different.

Conversation || Joel Robison

He'd be among the first to tell you that magic is everywhere. But not everyone makes magic come alive like Joel Robison.

Discussion || Bruce Kirkby

Going further makes you appreciate what you have at home.

Reflections || Nadine Sander-Green

A backyard is something to take care of. Find pride in. A moment of feeling like we are connected to something larger than ourselves.

What has thousands of birds, purifies water and flows towards 15 million people?

Bruce Kirkby

Leaning into the meaning of the yard that never ends.

What has thousands of birds, purifies water and flows towards 15 million people?

Clear waters, quiet wetlands

Conservation || Communicators

The Columbia Wetlands quietly look after our water and wildlife. Wildsight works to look after the wetlands.

Just down the hill from the Kicking Horse® Café, the Columbia River is simply a whisper through the wetlands, still in the infantile stages of its 2000km journey to the Pacific Ocean. 

Sure, it's a place where some play, paddle, and explore. But it's also just a quiet, fairly calm stretch of water, languidly flowing north up through the Rocky Mountain trench.

That's the thing with wetlands. They often don't look like much. Driving along the valley bottom, you can catch a glimpse of the marshy-looking area every now and then. The more committed might pull off on a gravel road and dip their feet in it, if they don't mind a little mud between their toes. Wetlands are just sort of quietly there. Here at the Columbia River headwaters, that quietness is part of its miracle, and part of its problem. Innocuous as it may seem, it's much much more than just another bit of the Columbia Valley backyard. It's more like a giant organ that quietly provides the essence of life for huge amounts of birds and animal species. It's also a river with a gigantic reach, affecting nearly 15 million people throughout the Pacific Northwest. Today, it has plenty of problems, but it also offers plenty of hope. This is a little story about a big river, straight from the Kicking Horse® Coffee backyard

Here, between the Rocky and Purcell Mountain ranges of British Columbia, lies the headwaters of one of the most significant ecological treasures in the world — The Columbia Wetlands. If maps could move, then the green spot saved for the Columbia Wetlands would wriggle and shake. The wetlands teem with colour and life. They're where hundreds of thousands of birds, water creatures, and large mammals eat, rest, hunt and breed. The area is not only alive, it’s the birthplace of life for much of the Pacific Northwest. Internationally regarded as one the last intact wetlands in North America, this biologically diverse expanse is at the headwaters of the Columbia River, the largest river flowing to the Pacific Ocean in North America.

The Columbia Wetlands are one of those rare spots where everything begins — and that’s precisely why nothing much should change. These wetlands are a place of safety and sanctuary, enjoyed by numerous endangered plant and wildlife populations. This area is home to bears, deer, moose, elk, wolves, and cougars. Up to 90% of the elk and 70% of the deer population of the upper Columbia Valley use the wetlands as essential winter range: their home for the cold months.

The Columbia wetlands are one of those rare spots where everything begins. And that's precisely why nothing much should change

The Columbia Wetlands are also the last intact portion of the ‘Pacific flyway.’ Countless migrating birds traverse this ancient route, and after many thousands of kilometres of flight, waterfowl, raptors, shorebirds, and songbirds rest, replenish, and survive in the Columbia Wetlands. These wetlands support over 250 species of birds, including single-day bird-counts of 20,000 migrating waterfowl and 1200 tundra swans! It is also home to the second largest colony of Blue herons in western Canada, more than 300 pairs. Bald eagle and osprey make their nesting grounds here due to the abundant supply of non-sport fish species. It is the primary habitat to many endangered species including the painted turtle, red badger, and short-eared owl. Kokanee salmon, rainbow trout, ling cod, and other fish use the wetlands as their nursery. And the wetlands maintain just the right delicate balance of water temperature and flow that provides critical breeding grounds for the threatened bull trout.

The Columbia Wetlands are essential to people, too. As nature’s water filter, they play a key role in keeping our water clean and pure. The marshy wetlands store excess water, filtering it through their vast network of channels and plant life. They slowly release this filtered water back into the ground water table, and in the process, remove many harmful impurities. The wetlands, along with the Columbia water system, are part of the primary source of water to over 15 million people. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, there’s a good chance each time you turn on the tap, you’re connecting with the Columbia Wetlands.

The Columbia Wetlands are cool. They help the planet chill out! That's right, wetlands are awesome at removing and storing greenhouse gases from the earth’s atmosphere, helping to regulate global cooling. And perhaps most amazing — the wetlands do all this quietly, silently, without asking for help and without getting paid.

Today, despite their internationally recognized significance, the Columbia Wetlands still face threats from urban development, inappropriate recreational disturbance such as improper boating activity, invasive plant species, and other practices largely unacceptable for the source of so much goodness. The area surrounding the Columbia Wetlands has seen recent huge increases in human traffic, tourism, and recreation. As the surrounding area grows, it is increasingly challenging to ensure the Columbia Wetlands remain prized and protected.

And speaking of protection, who's doing that? One of our region's backyard heroes is a little grassroots group called Wildsight ( (check them out!) who work hard to protect many of the valuable and voiceless corners of our backyard. They've done great work alongside biologists, recreationalists, and conservationists to create long-term layers of protection for the Columbia Wetlands and their supporting watersheds in the nearby mountains. Wildsight, along with other community groups, has helped to ensure the Columbia Wetlands are protected as a Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The guiding principle of the WMA is that all activity taking place in or near the Columbia Wetlands must contribute a neutral or positive effect on wildlife, fish, and plant communities.

In a world where wetlands disappear daily, these wetlands are an international treasure. They are an integral part of our future, and we're both humbled and proud to give voice to this silent and valuable story. It's just part of protecting and caring for our backyard. Anyone who cares about their backyard would probably understand.