Back in the early 1990s, the diminutive Wright Lake was at the centre of the controversy surrounding the effort to protect the Anstey Arm, Hunakwa Lake area as a provincial park.
The logging company, Federated Co-op, had plans to log there and build a road nearby to access more timber on the peninsula. Shuswap Environmental Action Society (SEAS) worked hard to raise public support for protection by slashing a trail, sponsoring ecological inventories and making presentations to both the government and local groups.
Expeditions into the lake with Shuswap naturalists including famed Mary Lou Tapsen Jones, resulted in a preliminary survey that revealed a rich diversity of plants and birds adjacent to Wright Lake.
In addition to the 14 species of trees, they identified 16 varieties of ferns and 26 varieties of shrubs including nearly every edible type of local berry (thimbleberry; red and black blackberries; black, red and blue huckleberries; and Saskatoon’s).
The variety of flowering plants was the greatest, with 54 species identified including orchids, lilies, pyrolas and the uncommon evergreen violet. Birds that were sighted or heard included Teals, the Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Tanagers and Pine Siskins.
SEAS also contracted a professional ecologist to visit the area and prepare an overall study of Wright Lake ecology.
He determined that it is a shallow, middle age lake that provides resources for a rich diversity of pl want and animal life. Bordered by cattail, sedge and many forms of water loving plants, the lake also has extensive submerged vegetation with clusters of algae and a high accumulation of decomposing organic matter. Eutrophication (the accumulation of water vegetation and organic matter which causes an oxygen deficiency) is slowly filling in the lake.
Extensive logging and road building in this area could cause an increase in nutrients through erosion, which would accelerate eutrophication and cause an early demise of the lake.
Despite some opposition, the provincial government’s Protected Area Strategy was maintained and development through the proposed park area was stalled.
It was not until close to the end of the land use planning process, that the company finally relented and supported park creation, with the road as the bargaining chip.
Permanent park status was finally achieved in 2001 and the company was allowed to build the Beach Bay access road through the edge of the park, between Wright Lake and Beach Bay.
A gate was installed at the insistence of one of the Beach Bay landowners to deter theft, but that did not stop thieves from arriving by boat. The lock on the gate often disappeared, as locals who like to fish and hunt in the area did not appreciate the lack of access. That gate is now open year round; so the public can access the route into Wright Lake and from there, hike into Hunakwa Lake.
Recently, I joined two BC Park rangers and Shuswap Trail Alliance executive director, Phil McIntyre-Paul for a day hike into the park to survey the potential for trail building.
We did a circle tour, entering the park to the north through the young Douglas fir forest and then leaving from the centre of the lake through the mostly hemlock forest back to the road, which at this point is only a few hundred metres away. We also visited the north end of the lake where there are some giant old growth cedar trees and the remains of an old trapper’s cabin.
Although there are numerous areas that would require boardwalks to get above the wetlands, the trails would be fairly easy to build and would provide a great opportunity for nature enthusiasts to explore a truly remarkable area.
Trails here could include the route from the mouth of the creek at Wright Bay to the lake and from the lake up and over the hill to Hunakwa Lake, which could then connect to the trail to Anstey Arm. Boaters could drop hikers off in one arm of the lake and pick them up in the other.
One day, the SEAS vision for utilizing the educational values of this pocket wilderness will hopefully become a reality.