Kanaka Creek is a tributary on the north side of the Fraser River, with its confluence 2.5 km upstream from Haney in Maple Ridge. The creek drains an area of 47.6 square kilometers. A linear park containing land on both sides of the creek for 12 kms in length was proposed in the 1966 GVRD Regional Parks Plan. Land acquisition started in 1972 and to date 187 parcels have been acquired at a cost of over $12 million. 12 lots remain to be acquired to complete the park. The park contains 413 hectares basically from the top of bank on one side to the top of bank on the other side of Kanaka Creek, from its mouth to its headwaters north of Dewdney Trunk Road.
Kanaka Watershed Canyon Region
Here, the slope is severe as sandstone and shale cliffs rise abruptly from the streambank, providing yet a different ecological habitat. Here the rocky substrate and overhanging cliffs provide a very humid environment in which a wide variety of ferns and mosses thrive. This is the region where the mosses hang from the black shale cliffs and in long strands from the large trees in the forest surrounding the canyon. Small coal seams are visible and fossils are abundant. Above the cliff and canyon area the Creek again resembles a mountain stream habitat, except that only resident fish appear above the waterfalls.
Forest Core Area
The area above Dewdney Trunk Road again provides a different habitat, as the slope, soil and vegetation change to that of a more typical Douglas Fir coastal forest. The soil in this area is much more conducive to forest growth, and has been logged in recent history. What happens now is a typical second-growth forest, with dense stands of trees rising above a deeply matted floor of decaying wood and coniferous needles interspersed with dense brush. Being in close proximity to the larger forest areas forming the watershed of Kanaka Creek, this area acts as part of a larger unit. The slope is much less prominent east of the main branch of the creek, and continues to rise gradually to the mountains beyond.
Kanaka Creek Mountain Stream Area
Upstream of the low marsh area where the slope becomes much more obvious, the parent soils are those of mountain stream deposits, the ecology takes on a much different character. Here the outstanding features are the Creek gravel beds used as spawning channels for the fish resources found in the Creek. Below the lower waterfall area the stream is ideal for salmon and trout and in past years this part of the stream supported large numbers. The forest land surrounding the Creek also provides nesting areas for waterfowl, which are abundant in this area.
This area of clay and floodplain deposits, with its minimal slopes and relatively poor drainage and tidal fluctuations provides an ideal habitat for supporting waterfowl and other marshland wildlife. The terrain is unfavourable for urban development for the same reasons and because of this lowland areas have remained relatively intact ecologically. The vegetation is essentially that of the freshwater marsh type with shrubs and trees lining the Creek for a considerable distance on either side. The low, inundated grasslands provide habitat for a number of insect types, and these in turn attract much of the avian species so abundant in this area. The stream itself provides good ecological niches for the fish resources found in these part of the Creek. In several places the bank and some large trees have collapsed into the Creek. This phenomenon will continue to be the rule rather than the exception, due to the nature of the soils.
Generally, the area of Maple Ridge in which Kanaka Creek appears is in the Coastal Douglas Fir Biogeoclimatic zone. This zone is typical of BC coastal forests found at lower elevations, featuring stands of Douglas fir, western hemlock and western red cedar trees. Deciduous trees are also here, including maple, birch, alder, dogwood and willow. Typical shrubs include salal, blackberry, salmonberry and elderberry.
In humid areas of Kanaka Creek an array of mosses and fungi can be found, along with seven species of ferns. These are particularly significant and would be of interest in any program of nature interpretation for the Creek area. Over 40 species of wild flowers have been observed along the Creek and adjacent uplands.
The wildlife at Kanaka Creek, particularly the waterfowl, are one of its most outstanding natural attractions. In 1977 local residents proposed a wildlife sanctuary in the lower tidal area (between Lougheed Highway and 240th Street). This idea was approved by the Municipality of Maple Ridge and recommended to GVRD. Since this idea is compatible with the type of park uses proposed for this area, the sanctuary was incorporated into the Park Concept Plan. In recent years urban development adjacent to the proposed wildlife sanctuary has been intense. Impacts on wildlife and the practicality of the sanctuary need to be investigated.