- Difficulty Easy
- Time 1 hour
- Round-Trip 5km
- Elevation Gain minimal
- Season year-round
- Camping No
- From Vancouver 45 minutes
- Public Transit No
- Dog Friendly No
The George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary is one of the best places in the Vancouver area for bird watching as it's an important location for migratory birds. The sanctuary is located on Westham Island in Delta, BC, and does charge an entrance fee ($5 for adults, $3 for children and seniors as of 2013) but the well maintained trails along the dikes and through the marshland are perfect habit for dozens of species of birds and waterfowl.
There are several different trails and routes to take and it's best to plan your route using the sanctuary's map while assuming you will be taking your time as you watch for different birds. The route described below will follow the outer-most trails.
From the entrance area, walk along the wide trail and stay right as you usually pass by the ducks looking to be fed. Continue straight along the trail as it narrows and heads west along one of the raised dikes with a waterway on your right and marshland to the left. Along the path, there are several birdhouses on the trees that are used bythe wood ducks for nesting. At the end of this section, the trail splits and two short paths lead to bird blinds, small wooden huts with latched doors that open so you can peer out and look for birds without them noticing movement. Take your time here but be sure to enter and leave the bird blinds quietly to not disturb others who are bird-watching.
Continue along the trail as it now heads south where it joins with several other trails and an observation tower a short distance later. The observation tower is the highest viewpoint in the area and offers a great 360-degree view.
After enjoying the view, walk back to the junction and trail where you came from and continue in the same direction heading south towards the outer most trail. This trail heads out towards the north western most point and wraps around on a raised dike along the western side, offering views out towards the Strait of Georgia. This is where binoculars come in handy as there are often flocks of birds in the distance out towards the shoreline or amongst the brush on both sides of the path. Continue walking along the section of trail at your own pace and pass the junction with the trail on the left. A short distance later, you reach a metal gate marking the sanctuary's boundary. Go left and back inland along the the marsh's on both sides of the trail.
A short distance later, you reach a junction with another trail. To return to the sanctuary's entrance, go right and after a few minutes walk, you'll reach the main trail near the entrance. If you would like to extend your day, walking around the inland marsh area is a great place to see more birds. Go left and take the first trail on your right. The network of trails will look around the inland marsh area and bring you back onto the outer main trails.
How to get to Reifel Bird Sanctuary
Estimated Driving Time from Vancouver
The Reifel Bird Sanctuary is located on Westham Island, a small island in the mouth of the Fraser River that's located next to Delta, BC. To get there from Vancouver, drive to Oak Street and head southbound through Vancouver. Oak Street will eventually cross a bridge into Richmond and turn into Highway #99 South. Continue driving southbound along the highway and go through the George Massey Tunnel.
After driving through the tunnel, take Exit #28 BC Highway #17, which is the same route to BC Ferries. At the first set of traffic lights, turn right onto Ladner Trunk Road. Continue driving straight, passing the shopping malls, and drive straight through the lights at Elliot Street. After driving straight through the lights, the road curves and becomes 47a Avenue. Follow this for about 1km as it will veer left and become River Road West. Continue to follow River Road and watch for signs to Westham Island and Reifel Bird Sanctuary as you will eventually make a right turn onto Westham Island Road. Cross over the 1-way wooden bridge and follow the road as it weaves through the island. At the metal gates where Environment Canada is located, turn left and follow the narrow road into the gravel parking lot.
View a map of Driving directions to Reifel Bird Sanctuary.
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