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111. Creston Valley WMA, Creston, British Columbia

Birds to see at this Wetland of International Importance in southeastern British Columbia include Black Tern, Long-billed Curlew, Tundra Swan, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and the spectacle of 100,000 waterfowl.

Nestled between the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains in southeastern British Columbia, Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area is one of my favorite birding sites in Canada. In my view, it rivals the best of the U.S. national wildlife refuges. Its rich mix of birdlife is easy to see as you walk the 20 miles of trails.

On my first visit several years ago, I encountered a mother moose and calf swimming together in the Kootenay River a few feet from the riverbank.

What I really enjoy is navigating the trails around and through Corn Creek Marsh and the river channel, where I can see small islands dotted with deciduous trees and songbirds crisscrossing forest edges in the background. I also like to find and photograph Black Tern, Wilson’s Snipe, and Wilson’s Phalarope in the wet fields a short walk from the visitor center, where the species nest.

I keep coming back because so many birds — cranes, swans, hummingbirds, wrens, you name it — seem to be more accessible here with both binoculars and camera.


111. Creston Valley WMA, Creston, British Columbia


Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area is a 17,000-acre Wetland of International Importance located in southern British Columbia. From northern Idaho, take Hwy. 1 north, cross the border, and continue on provincial Hwy. 21 to Creston. Just north of Creston, turn left on Hwy. 3 and drive west for 4.2 miles (6.8 km) to the entrance.

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At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
49°7’12.32″N 116°37’51.91″W 


Fields, croplands, marshes, lakes, ponds, mature cottonwoods and deciduous trees, riparian willows, and dogwood shrubs.


Mostly flat. Nearly 20 miles of walking trails. Some trails through wet fields may be soggy in early spring.


265 species. Tundra Swan, Black Tern, six grebe species, Eastern Kingbird, Forster’s Tern, Long-billed Curlew, Osprey, American White Pelican, Rough-legged Hawk, Sandhill Crane, Greater White-fronted Goose, Western Tanager, Yellow Warbler, Wood Duck, Canvasback, Cliff and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teal, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Pacific Wren, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Black-headed Grosbeak, Black-chinned and Calliope Hummingbirds, Short-eared Owl, Bobolink, Savannah Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, and Bald Eagle. During spring and fall migrations, the marshes host well over 100,000 waterfowl.

When to go

Late April through mid-June is best. Fall migration also productive.


Visitor center has exhibits, gift shop, and restrooms and offers a map and checklist.


Provincial wildlife management area. Open year-round. Visitor center open 9-4 May to September. Fees: $3 for adults and seniors, $2 for students and children (Canadian currency).


A passport is required for entry into Canada and the U.S. Be sure to walk the short trail under
Hwy. 3 to reach Black Tern and Wilson’s Phalarope breeding grounds.

For more info

Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, (250) 402-6908. Creston Valley Birds booklet, $3.99 plus tax, available at visitor center or by phone at (250) 402-6900.

Sites nearby

Lockhart Creek Provincial Park
32 miles (51 km) north of Creston on Rt. 3A. A great site in spring for nesting migrants in a lakeside forest of Douglas-fir, western red cedar, and ponderosa pine.

Stagleap Provincial Park
23 miles (37 km) west of Creston Valley on Hwy. 3. A sub-alpine forest wilderness area with good summer birding around Bridal Lake.

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Jerry Uhlman

Jerry Uhlman is an inveterate birder and traveler who lives in Richmond, Virginia. His tales of travel to discover and explore birding sites throughout North America have appeared in many newspapers and magazines, including BirdWatching.

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