Winter Hike to Margaret Falls

I always look forward to the Christmas Bird Count around Salmon Arm, BC. The route I’ve covered for the past 17 years in late December includes Herald Provincial Park on the north side of Shuswap Lake. In my walks through the park roads and campgrounds, I’ve rarely seen or heard many birds—a few golden-crowned kinglets twittering in the evergreens, and usually one Townsend’s Solitaire (but not this year!)—even though it seems like perfect habitat.

However, there is one bird you might be lucky enough to spot, if you can reach its favorite habitat. Across the road from the main park a trail follows Reinecker Creek through a rocky gorge to Margaret Falls. It’s a cool, shady 15 minute walk in summer, but in winter the trail is often slippery with ice—frozen spray from the falls. That means it isn’t always easy to get to the end.

Margaret Falls trail

Margaret Falls trail

But if you do, you can stand directly opposite the base of the falls where a pool forms before the water tumbles its way down the creek to Shuswap Lake. It can be quite a rush of water in the winter, bringing melting snow down from the upper part of the gorge.

It is said that a cave exists behind the falls……..it’s a dark patch in the lower part of this photo.

DSCN5997

The prize bird? An American Dipper. These plump little songbirds love fast-flowing mountain streams where they actually walk on the bottom to feed on aquatic insect larvae. They’re dark gray, with a short tail and get their name from their habit of bobbing (dipping?) up and down as they stand on the creek side logs or rocks.

The dippers of Margaret Falls might be seen anywhere along the rushing creek, but they hang out near the falls frequently. I was not lucky this winter….but in September, I did spot 2 dippers flying around by the falls. See if you can pick one of them out in this picture. It is standing on a clear patch of the mossy log, almost central in the photo.

American Dipper

American Dipper

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