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Discovering Howe Sound, Salish Sea

Just north of the Fraser River's mighty delta lies one of many breaks in the Coast Range Mountains where Georgia Strait extends its reach northward. This is Howe Sound, an island sprinkled inlet that narrows northwards to a true fjord — an ancient river valley that was widened, straightened and deepened by glacial ice over the millennia.

The silt-laden waters of the Squamish River, Howe Sound's major river system enters at the north end advancing its delta of mud southwards by as much as 7 metres a year. Dry forests of fir and arbutus at the southern entrance to the Sound give way to forests of hemlock, cedar, and fir inland and at higher elevation. Below the forest canopy live communities of salal, deer, swordfern, owl, huckleberry and banana slugs, to name a few.

A rich bio-diversity of marine life is visible during shoreline explorations by foot or by paddle. The closest volcano is Mount Garabaldi at the north end of Howe Sound. It rises to almost 3,000 metres above the town of Squamish and is easily seen from both Keats and Gambier Islands. Rounded black fragments of its earlier eruptions carpet the local beaches.

Human communities that have taken root along the shores of Howe Sound are Gibsons, Langdale, Port Mellon, Woodfibre and Squamish to the west and north. Along the eastern margin strung out along Highway 99 are the communities of Britannia, Furry Creek, Lions Bay and Horseshoe Bay. There are no roads connecting Gibsons with Squamish, hence the ferry from Horseshoe Bay across Howe Sound connects Sunshine Coast residents with the Vancouver region.

bald eagle