>One thing I love about living in one of the most undesirable neighbourhoods of Victoria is our close proximity to everything. The lake is under 10 minutes away, Downtown the same, the highways are near enough and The Gorge is 3 minutes away. By car.
The Gorge Waterway connects the inner harbour of downtown with Portage inlet, and is quite a long, narrow stretch of fresh water. As you can see here, it separates Esquimalt from the rest of Victoria. I am becoming more and more enamored with it, and love to go for runs down the walkway along the shore.
The Gorge Waterway passes four bridges to connect Victoria’s Inner Harbour to Portage Inlet, a designated waterfowl protection area.
Young salmon live in the Gorge, especially among the eelgrass, until they are ready to head to the open ocean.
Herring spawn there every year, and native oysters thrive.
After dragging my parents out for a walk along its banks on Monday, my dad had a better idea.
After putting roof racks on my car and cleaning the birds nests and Raccoon poo off of the Moose Hunting Canoe, we threw it on top of my car for an excursion.
We launched it on the beach at the Craigflower School House, the oldest standing one in western Canada which I am so used to seeing that it didn’t occur to me to take a picture.
The Moose Canoe is very heavy, see, ideally it should be able to hold one dead Moose plus passengers.
It’s a lot of fun to canoe by the nice homes on the bank and stare at them. Sometimes there are more interesting things docked out front.
I saw this little critter in the water. Let’s get him, Dad!
We rowed closer, and overtook it. It was looking at us.
To safety. I caught him peering out his little cave at us to make sure we were gone.
What was it? We wondered. We are soon to find out…
With enough time, we could have canoed right into Downtown. It makes for a really nice day excursion, of course us locals will canoe to Downtown and back – you can stop there for lunch or a Canada Cone. Tourists can rent a kayak Downtown, and have a peaceful day exploring the nature of the Gorge Waterway. Here is a nice review written by a tourist who did this very thing.
The Harbour Ferry, which is like a little harbour bus you can take to points Downtown, also does tours of the Gorge, along with historical anecdotes. You will even float past the burial island, where the Indians would bury their dead in trees.
When we crossed the reversing falls yesterday, we were lucky the current was pretty mild. Sometimes it is virtually impassible, and you have to get out and walk your canoe along the rocks. Sometimes, when I go to row downtown, I can’t get there at all.
“Reversing Falls – A tidal phenomenon, the Reversing Falls is the narrowest point in the Gorge Waterway. During certain tides large volumes of water attempt to flow through a narrow, shallow opening, creating a “reversing falls” with a current of up to 6 knots (11 kilometers per hour/6.5 miles per hour) and up to 5.75 feet (1.75 meters) difference in the water level on either side.”
Camossung is a name meaning where different waters meet and are transformed. It was also, once upon a time, the name of a young woman.
The Legend of Camossung, (taken from the Camosun College website)
Story printed with permission of Cheryl Bryce
The location of Camossung at the foot of what is now the Gorge Bridge.
After the flood, the transformer Haylas was travelling with Raven and Mink teaching the people how things were to be done.
They found a young girl, named Camossung and her grandfather. She was crying, so Haylas asked her why. She answered, “My Father is angry with me and will not give me anything to eat.”
Haylas asked her if she liked sturgeon, and when she answered “no” he threw the sturgeon to the Fraser River. That is why there are sturgeons there and not here. He asked her if she liked cranberries and when she answered “no” he threw them into the Shawnigan Lake. That is why there are cranberries there now.
She refused many things but duck, herring, coho, and oyster she accepted, and that is why these were plentiful on the Gorge waterway. Because she was greedy, Haylas told her she would look after the food resources for her people and he turned her and her grandfather into stone.
Note: Camossung is still a guardian and sits in the Gorge near what is now Tillicum Road. n>
From this story, I realized that the animal I just saw was indeed a Mink. I didn’t know Raven had a friend called Mink, but am interested to find out more about this supernatural being.
The shell midden here is dated at over 4000 years old. The reversing falls are so important that Camossung was the first name for Victoria.
Fort Victoria, when it was built, was named Fort Camossung. It was only later named Fort Victoria for the Queen.
In the 70’s, in honour of this, the name Camosun was chosen for the college here.
The Gorge was once the site of Victoria’s first swimming club. During my whole lifetime it has been too polluted to swim in, due to raw sewage being dumped there. This doesn’t happen anymore, and it has been cleaned up. I heard a rumour today that the water there is now cleaner than in the nearby lake. Still, I have never seen anyone swim there.