Thousands have lived without love, not one without water – W.H. Auden


Before the arrival of non-indigenous settlers, the Rock Bay Creek watershed was part of the  territory of the Swengwhung family group, a Lekwungen sub-group. In 1850, Sir James Douglas enacted a treaty with the Swengwhung in which the Hudson's Bay Company purchased their territory for 75 pounds sterling. The Swengwung chief signed a blank paper with his “X” and Douglas penned the treaty above it.  [The treaty includes the clause:The condition of or understanding of this sale is this, that our village sites and enclosed fields are to be kept for our own use, for the use of our children, and for those who may follow after us, but this was largely ignored.]


Rock Bay Creek rises in what is now Fernwood, runs through Quadra/ Hillside, Burnside Gorge, and empties into Rock Bay. The creek also drains parts of North Park and Oaklands. [It runs below three parks – Alexander Park, Blackwood Park, and Wark Street Park, a community garden (all formerly swampy areas) and the heart of two communities.]

150 years ago, the problem of flooding and swampiness was solved by ingenious engineering. In the late 1890s, as settler population increased, many small and large creeks were culverted to facilitate development and as a health measure since they'd became places to dump garbage and carriers of disease.  Once culverted, it is easy to forget they're there and we lose touch with the original water sources that sustained life in this area.

As Victoria spread, we began to identify with our neighbourhoods rather than with our watershed – the high points that form its boundary and the low points where rivers and creeks run. In 2015, local residents came together to consider shared watershed issues and ways to begin remediating Rock Bay Creek. Around the world, there is a movement to daylight parts of our hidden waterways and to build rain gardens and bioswales to better handle stormwater, an ever greater problem as our cities are paved and hardened. A bioswale is a shallow stormwater channel that is densely planted with a variety of grasses, shrubs, and/or trees designed to slow, filter, and infiltrate stormwater runoff. Rain gardens can cut down on the amount of pollution reaching creeks and streams by up to 30%. There is also a move to reintroduce native plants, both for their bio-diversity and as food source for pollinators, birds, fish, mammals and insects. 


Watershed thinking helps us see the way our neighbours are linked, historically and geographically, and how we can work together in these times of climate change and population explosion. Watershed thinking helps us remember the frogs and salamanders, the Garry oaks and firs, the camass and the shooting stars, the bumble bees and the solitary bees, the ravens and the hummingbirds, the salmon that once swam Rock Bay Creek and may once again return.


Rock Bay Creek Revival has been making slow but sure progress. We received a My Great Neighbourhood Grant from the City of Victoria to design and erect two wayfinding signs along the path of the creek. We received a second grant to complete a larger sign at Vining and Stanley, the source of the creek. We've held three free artmaking workshops, two in Fernwood and one in Hillside Quadra, to generate imagery for the signs. We will finalize the text and visuals over the summer and fall of 2017 and expect to have them installed by late spring 2018.


Click on Galleries button at top of page to see work produced at these workshops.


This spring semester of 2017, five UVic graduating engineering students took on the fleshing out of our daylighting ideas as their final project. With the information they came up with, we have a better idea of the practicalities involved.

We've shown the film LOST RIVERS in collaboration with the North Park Neighbourhood Association, Oaklands Community Centre, Quadra Community Centre and the Fernwood Community Association. The film explains why rivers and streams around the world were culverted and how cities and towns are bringing them back. We also showed it for the Burnside Gorge Community Centre AGM in the fall. Our aim is to connect communities along the length of the creek and that is happening.

Daylighting is a mammoth project. We are beginning to look into sources for the big dollars it will take. This is a step by step process and we are proud of what we've accomplished in a short time. We couldn't have gotten this far without the support of the FCA, the FNRG, the City of Victoria, and the several community groups we're working with.

If you'd like to be on our mailing list (not many emails) so you know what we're up to, please email Dorothy - dotter [at] seaside [dot] net.




creek falls



Finlayson Falls where Rock Creek outfalls into Rock Bay (~mid 1800).


See more about Fernwood history at Victoia Heritage Foundation.

Harris Pond / Rock Bay Watershed Awareness Program

Fernwood’s early claim to fame was its spring ridge that served as Fort Victoria’s water supply.

A creek, which is now culverted ~10’ underground, drains the Harris Pond basin at Vining and Stanley into Rock Bay. The route passes through three parks, a community garden and the heart of two communities. The problem of flooding and swampiness was solved by ingenious engineering that has hidden this natural feature from our awareness. There is a rising interest in natural storm water management to replenish groundwater. We propose to “daylight” parts of the creek by planting Rain Gardens* and installing educational way-markers to remind us of this forgotten resource.


*A Rain Garden is an area graded and planted to capture and naturally process storm water and surface flow. Educational way-finding markers could include historical photos and stories…e.g. duck hunting from the back porch, and famous loods.



Rock Bay Creek - A Story of Urban Watershed Revival

by Lindsay Kathrens and Ian Flock