Tofino Wilderness Profile: The Sydney Valley
by Tom Stere
One of the first times I was at the Sydney River was to look at the
potential of establishing a base site for research into the complexities
of the temperate forest ecosystem. Sydney was a perfect choice as it
is a large intact watershed adjacent to further intact areas (Pretty
Girl and Megin).
This is a rare situation on Vancouver Island. The significance of
such a place is without equal on the west coast of the Island.
Sydney River is all the more incredible due to its remoteness and
deep fjord entry. The estuary is intensely alive: flocks of swans,
bears and a myriad of species that make up the web of life. As you
enter the valley the riffles, glides and pools of the river hold
coho, chinook and chum salmon that use this system, as they have for
Walking up the river you have a sense of an ancient tradition playing
Once, after swimming down the river doing fish counts, I came out
into the estuary silently and unnoticed by the trumpeter swans feeding
As I floated by, watching them through my mask, I had an incredible
split image of orange webbed feet under water and white feathers
contrasted against the dark spruce trees on shore.
When you get to know a valley by swimming it, as I did, you have
a sense of the seamlessness between forest and ocean. The giant, vegetarian
basking sharks that I saw near the Sydney estuary and the carnivores
in the forest are all part of the same place.
The forests of the Sydney valley have that archetypal grandeur that
is so familiar in Clayoquot Sound: towering spruce, groves of primal
cedar and pure stands of hemlock.
Working up here over
so many years has given me
a strong connection to place. However, the true value of the Sydney
valley is its contiguity to a vast area of uninterrupted wilderness
that is so critical to the preservation of the ecological integrity
of the temperate rainforest.
In 1991, the Clayoquot Biosphere Project began research in the Sydney
valley. Tom Stere, as Field Operations Manager for the organization,
was involved in the research from 1991-1998.
Sydney Valley is a massive 6,000 hectares of intact old growth
forest. This area
roughly 20 Miles north west of Tofino around the
of Flores Island and just north of Hot Springs Cove. To the east, Pretty
Girl Cove, Talbot Creek, Megin River and Moyeha River form a landscape
of silver and green – uninterrupted, rugged, lush and very mysterious,
covering some 70,000 hectares.
The Sydney Valley - a Tofino wilderness profile written by Tom Stere for Tofino Time magazine in January 2004.