Experience the Columbia Valley Bird Trail
Did you know that Radium Hot Springs is on the BC Bird Trail? Explore the Columbia Valley Bird Trail nested safely between the towering peaks of the Canadian Rockies and Purcell Mountains.
Situated along the Upper Columbia River, the wetlands surrounding the cozy communities of the Columbia Valley are renowned for their birdlife. BC residents visiting the area get the opportunity to see some eastern and prairie birds that aren’t really found elsewhere in the province, and it’s a unique area for observing familiar coastal birds, but in their breeding plumage. The mountains themselves have many birds who use the Pacific Flyway, with alpine species gathering at the higher elevations.
Radium Hot Springs is home to the world-famous Columbia Wetlands, one of the largest unbroken freshwater wetlands in the world. The Columbia Wetlands stretch 150 kilometers from Canal Flats to Golden. The Village of Radium is the perfect spot to explore and the beautiful habitat home to birds, bears, fish, insects, and other wildlife!
The Columbia River is a BC Heritage River that begins in Canal Flats and travels 800 kilometers to the Pacific Ocean. There are plenty of ways to experience birdwatching and nature in Radium Hot Springs.
Species to Spot
There is over 267 documented species of birds in the Columbia Valley. Head out on your birdwatching excursion with this checklist of where to go, and what species you may spot in the area!
Birding on the Trails
Experience the Columbia Valley Bird Trail from the trail!
Old Coach Trail: Explore this local favourite trail, winding for 9 kilometers above the wetlands. The Old Coach Trail is the quickest way to get a bird’s eye view of the Columbia Wetlands! A biking and hiking trail that offers spectacular views of the Columbia River Wetlands and the Purcell Mountains with excellent opportunities to see birds and other wildlife through binoculars.
Lower Bugaboo Falls: 3 kilometer trail found near Brisco, BC. This short trail will take hikers up the Bugaboo Creek to a beautiful waterfall in the forest. One steep section is located halfway through the trail, but overall is an easy hike.
Wilmer Wetlands Hiking Trail: A relatively flat 3.7 kilometer circuit that loops along the edge of the Columbia River Wetlands, but also includes a steeper hiking portion with breathtaking views of the Rocky and Purcell Mountains. Bring binoculars and keep an eye out for resident birds and migratory visitors, such as hawks, waterfowl, and herons.
Markin-MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail: The Markin-MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail is a multi-use, non-motorized, paved recreation trail that joins the communities of Invermere and Fairmont. Segment 4 has parking, scenic benches, and a pond with interpretive signage that boasts many birds and other wildlife such as frogs and dragonflies. Walk, run, or take your bike and explore the trail further for views of Lake Windermere and make sure to stop at the Greywolf Pond to read the interpretive signage and watch for birds.
Hoodoos Restoration Trail: This short but relatively steep 3 kilometer trail provides beautiful views of the local farmland, Columbia Valley, and Dutch Creek – a perfect place for elevated birding.
Learn more about hiking and biking trails in the Village of Radium.
Paddle the Wetlands, Rivers, and Lakes
Paddle the waters of the Columbia Valley. Paddle the Columbia Wetlands, Columbia River, and nearby lakes to immerse yourself in the habitat of hundreds of species of birds.
The most popular paddle trip is Invermere to Radium Hot Springs. The trip leads paddlers down the gentle current of the Columbia River, flowing north to Radium. It is an excellent opportunity for birdwatching, sightseeing, and relaxing. Plan to spend 3-5 hours on the water for this trip, depending on the current, and pack food, water, sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses along with your life jacket.
Learn more about the trip, check out local tour operators for a guided experience or gear rental.
Scenic Drives & Sightseeing
Head north to the town of Golden and take in the views while following the Columbia Wetlands.
Highway 95: Heading North towards Golden is the perfect place to spot wildlife like deer, elk, bald eagles, bears, and moose. Drive with extra caution at dawn and dusk as that is when wildlife is generally most active! Pull off at viewpoints and rest areas along the way in Brisco, Spillimacheen, and Harrogate. Pack a picnic lunch or pick up a bagged lunch along the drive and stretch your legs at a short hike such as Lower Bugaboo Falls.
South from Radium Hot Springs lies the towns of Invermere, Fairmont Hot Springs, and Canal Flats. Exploring the southern end of the Columbia Valley Bird Trail, find birdwatching gems along trails, parks, and nature areas.
Lake Dorothy: Located at the edge of Kinsmen Park in Invermere, this small lake close to town offers accessible opportunities to see a variety of shorebirds, waterfowl, herons, and osprey.
Westside Road: Take a scenic drive down Westside Road running between Fairmont Hot Springs and Invermere. There is also the paved Westside Legacy Trail, 25 kilometers running alongside the road perfect for hiking and biking. Along the way, you’ll pass by the Greywolf Pond, a great spot for birdwatching.
James Chabot Provincial Park: Located on the banks of Windermere Lake, this Provincial Park offers a wide sand beach for lakeshore recreation. Check out the interpretive boardwalk trail for birdwatching opportunities and read all about the wetlands and the animals that call it home.
Festivals & Events
The annual Wings over the Rockies Festival takes place in May with over 100 events through the Columbia Valley. Activities throughout the festival include guided interpretive tours, and a dinner hosted with the keynote speaker. The wildlife and birds are celebrated through the year at several events and festivals; keep an eye on the Travel Columbia Valley events page to keep an eye on what is going on.
The Columbia River Wetlands are home to may sensitive species of birds, fish, and animals. It is important to follow the principles of leave no trace when visiting the wetlands, including:
– Pack out any garbage that you pack in
– Give all wildlife including fish, birds, bighorn sheep, and bears, plenty of space. A good rule of thumb is 30 meters away.
– Refrain from playing loud music in the wetland areas as to not disturb the wildlife.
Have a look at the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners for more information.