Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cold As Ice

While technically no longer part of the Vancouver waterfront, Lost Lagoon was once a shallow cove at the end of Coal Harbour until the causeway through Stanley Park was completed in 1916 and turned it into a salt water lake (and a truly lost lagoon). Later in 1929 the pipes carrying salt water from Burrard Inlet were closed off and the lake was filled instead with fresh water and stocked with trout for the local fly fishing association.  In 1936 the lake was temporarily drained so a fountain for the City's Golden Jubilee could be installed, and then in 1938 it was made into a bird sanctuary. Up until the 1960's you could still rent row-boats in Lost Lagoon and enjoy a few hours on the water but this eventually came to an end and the lagoon was strictly set aside for the animals.

Inside the Stanley Park Nature House
The old boat house at Lost Lagoon has now been re-purposed as the Stanley Park Nature House, an informative little place staffed by volunteers of the Stanley Park Ecology Society and filled with all sorts of interpretive displays, photos, and creatures that are very safe to pet.  You can learn about all the various plants and animals who make the Park their home, identify the various birds, and go on discovery walks. You can also become a volunteer and help out with some of their programs like clearing away invasive weeds.

Small beaver suitable for petting

Lost Lagoon photo by Junie Quiroga
Besides the non-native swans and turtles and the migrating ducks and geese who dominate the area, there are a some furry mammals frequenting the place who could be mistaken for seals if lighting conditions were bad and you had too much to drink.  I'm referring of course to the river otters who use the Lagoon as a halfway house between Coal Harbour and 2nd Beach, and the beavers who've actually built a sizeable lodge at one end of the Lagoon.  Usually nocturnal, and very leery of any human contact, both the beavers and the river otters tend to keep to themselves, unlike the birds who love to pose for pictures.

River otters on the boulders by 2nd Beach photo by Junie Quiroga
Canada goose and red-eared slider turtles photo by Junie Quiroga
For most of the year, the birds enjoy a pleasant routine of mating with one another, swimming, showing off their offspring when they hatch, getting free handouts from tourists and kindly old ladies ignoring the signs to not feed the wildlife, and posing for all the bird watchers wanting to take their picture.  All in all a pretty good gig considering they get to live rent free in one of the more expensive and desirable parts of the City.  But come winter, when all good birds should be heading south, the ones left behind have to make do with conditions a little less pleasant.

Mother Goose & her goslings photo by Junie Quiroga

Ice on Lost Lagoon photos by Junie Quiroga

Killer Whales trapped in ice off coast of Inukjuak, Quebec January 2013
Because it's fresh water, ice occasionally forms on Lost Lagoon when there's a winter cold snap and then the creatures are kept busy either maintaining an open swimming hole or cleaning the ice so they have a nice skating surface. At least they aren't in the life or death situation a pod of east coast killer whales found themselves in at the same time last week with their pitiful attempt to keep a breathing hole open. Once again the old saying "West is best, East is least" makes Vancouver the envy of the country.

January 1993 skating on Lost Lagoon

Every 20 years or so the elements do combine for enough snow in the City to make life interesting for a few days and skating on Lost Lagoon a special treat.  It takes quite a few very cold days for the ice to thicken enough for skating, and thankfully it never lasts, but there is something special about a cold, sunny day outside on a frozen pond.  The West End feels like a real old fashioned neighbourhood with everyone laughing and playing together.

Beaver logging in Beaver Lake

A little further into the Park is the other freshwater lake called Beaver Lake, for reasons that are quickly apparent to anyone walking in the area.  Unlike Lost Lagoon which is in no danger of ever disappearing, Beaver Lake is following the demise of all forest ponds that slowly but surely fill in with rotting vegetation which, in this case, is aggravated by yet another introduced species, the water lily, that has taken the place over.  While a hungry moose would quickly help turn things around, the beavers in the meantime are doing their best to destroy all of the surrounding vegetation.  In spite of efforts to slow their logging operation by wrapping the base of trees with protective wire, the beavers have managed to build themselves quite a monster party lodge in the middle of the lake that, by all reports, is quite cozy when things freeze over.

Monster beaver party lodge in Beaver Lake photo by Junie Quiroga

Great Canadian beaver on display at the Nature House in Lost Lagoon
There is, however, one other body of fresh water in the Park that has nobody skating on it when it freezes, no lodge built in the middle for throwing parties, and nobody swimming in it either, and that's the 2nd Beach pool.  Lively all summer long, with the best sunset and ocean views, now it sits empty, deserted and cold as ice.  Oh well, only five months to go.

2nd Beach pool covered with ice photos by Junie Quiroga

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic story. Very informative. Loved it.