Vancopalypse: Travel to Richmond, BC, Without Leaving Your Couch (Couch Wanderings 2)

Iona Beach Regional Park, Richmond, BC | Treensbert Churchmouse, 2019

Richmond is as non-touristy as it could get, if you want to step away from the busyness of downtown. It’s a municipality south of Vancouver by the Vancouver airport, full of residential areas, some commercial ones, farms, and a few country clubs. But it also has the Steveston Harbour, a commercial fishing sector included with restaurants and a nice little wharf, some really local and fresh farmer’s markets, a casino, and three SkyTrain stops (to three different malls). Richmond also has an amazing amount of really good Asian food (whatever kind you prefer), and in the summers you might get lucky and have a good view of the smoke for when Burns Bog is setting itself on fire (it’s located in the municipality of Delta).

A few fun facts about Richmond. It’s located in an area termed as the Lowlands (it sounds somehow very Jurassic Park), and the soil here is composed of mostly sand and silt (click for more about this!). If there was a flood due to quakes or tsunamis, they also rate Richmond at a risk level of “moderate to high” (I think it’s about a meter above sea level). For the record, if a tsunami hit, we would likely not get very much damage in Vancouver because of our location (happily cushioned behind Vancouver Island), though water levels might rise. The city of Richmond already has mitigation strategies in place to reduce flooding due to various reasons, which is pretty good.

If there was a very bad earthquake, a good portion of Richmond, due to its soil composition of sand and silt, will experience liquefaction. Google translates liquefaction as “the process of making something, especially a gas, liquid”. I translate this as when you’re walking down the street and suddenly a giant hand shakes the earth in a very rapid, teeth-clacking way so that the pavement suddenly turns fluid and disappears (and shortly after, so do you). If you want to see what parts of Vancouver fall into this liquefaction zone, it’s here (incidentally, it’s the same link I posted up above). But Back to Richmond. It also has a liquefaction map. You’ll notice the danger zone is, in short, all of Richmond.

Chances that you’ll end up falling into Richmond and never leaving it are slim, however, so it’s worth visiting. If you are without a car, getting around is tricky (so I would recommend the car, and will pretend everyone has one from now on). I am also entirely focusing on all things outside right now, because, well, coronavirus. Because I can’t go outside, I therefore have to want to.

One of the places I enjoyed going to is Iona Beach Regional Park. I think it technically falls under the Richmond umbrella and is in the northwestern part of it, and is also northwest of the Vancouver airport, as well. There is a small parking lot for you at the park’s start.

You know you’re driving in the right direction (definitely use navigation or you’ll end up in the airport in some way), because you’ll see airplanes in the distance on your left (on your right you should not see any airplanes) as you go down a long, small street (it ends with said parking lot). Before you start walking down Iona Beach’s walkway, keep in mind that it’s fully open to the elements, so dress for them. It tends to be windy and even cold, depending on the season.

The Iona Beach Park is actually a trail of an easy there-and-back walk down a straight path that heads straight out into the sea, and is apparently a 6 km walk (return). At the beginning of it you see some low grasses and bushes, some logs lying about, and the water lapping on both your left and right side. Here it’s also a great place to watch for birds. As you keep walking, that path thins out until it’s a single path that leads straight out, into the water. The grassy expanse you have seen earlier recedes now, and there is mostly water, and land and mountains in the distance.

Iona Beach Regional Park, start of walk from the Jetty (view from left and view from right), Richmond, BC | Treensbert Churchmouse, 2019

I like this walk because it’s easy (no hills to climb if you have bad joints), and because it’s a straight arrow towards the water. If you look at google maps, you can easily find Iona Beach Regional Park because it is the needle-thin line just above the Vancouver airport. Here you can see airplanes taking off or landing, you can see bird life, and if you’re lucky, you might see seals or, as I’ve heard once, Orca whales (though I think that’s very rare). If wildlife is your kind of thing, I would suggest checking when the tide comes in and goes out, or when dusk is coming (that’s what I noticed, anyway). The birds, of course, are all over the place.

I’m not sure why I always end up learning so much about eagles, but here it is (if you hate eagles, skip this paragraph). There are a multitude of eagles’ nests scattered throughout Metro Vancouver. Here, I think the closest are near UBC (there should be a few nests in the Pacific Spirit Regional Park), and all this is technically across the water (on the right side when you’re walking out through Iona). There should also be some nests, again, I think, around Terra Nova Park (northwestern part of Richmond, just south of airport – so, towards the left of where you’re walking). This is information I remember hearing from various sources and can’t back up, but either way, you can see them flying around the area at times.

Leaving Iona Beach would take you a bit further south to what I mentioned briefly, Terra Nova Rural Park. It’s located directly across the water from the south portion of the Vancouver airport island. Here, too, you can find an abundance of wildlife (bird, mostly).

I heard someone mention once that the reason there are so many eagles’ nests in this area is because of the Vancouver Airport South Terminal. The eagles apparently chase away smaller birds, which have a tendency to fly into the kind of uncomfortable airplane bits that might make them crash. I’m not sure if this is true, but the idea is interesting (and also the reason for the whole eagle paragraph above). But from here there is a trail with a view of the water, of tall, swaying grasses, scraggly bush-trees that intermittently guard the landscape, and of a variety of bird life. There are so many birds, that they literally have a website for it (birding map included). If you’re accompanied by children (who don’t care about birds), there’s also a playground.

What I like here is the view of the seaweed growing throughout this apparently grassy domain. The kinds of logs and rubble you see decorating some beaches, you also see here along with seaweed. The tide comes in deeply in parts, allowing for an intermingling of sea and land ecosystems, albeit only barely. At times there are men who even come here to fish.

This walk is also a trail that can become a bit of a longer trail if you would it like to be. From Iona Beach towards the south, and lining the coast, there is the West Dyke Trail which reaches as far as Steveston Village (southeastern part of Richmond). The South Dyke Trail then lines the southern part of Richmond. (Click for links to these trails, the West Dyke trail map, and South Dyke trail map.)

This is the southernmost part of Richmond, this South Dyke trail, and I’ve only seen pieces of it because people here fish too, and we went here for fishing. We fished Pink salmon around dusk, just before one of the closures for this species had taken effect. The Pinks are interesting because they run only every two years (but more on that on another more salmon-related post).

It was peaceful this day, and all we saw was the occasional boat passing by, tugboats with their loads, and I think a seal a couple of times. If fishing is your kind of thing, you have to keep in mind that there are a good number of rules to abide by, and you would need to acquire a tidal fishing license (for this area, anyway). Certain waterways are closed to fishing at different times or for different fish species, so the rules link is a useful one to take a look at (especially for closures). There are still, naturally, also a number of people walking along the trail here, walking their dogs, or in twos or threes. It was quiet and calming.

Considering we’re going through a Vancopalypse, I would go so far as to suggest that walking these trails in Richmond is also a very good social distancing kind of activity, but considering all the park closures and parking lot closures (a problem if you drive all the way to the south of Richmond, say, and find you can’t park anywhere), I would double check if these areas are open to visitors first before attempting them. But at other times, it’s a nice way to see the land, and to see another part of the land. We aren’t only all mountain and sea here. There are other parts, too.

Sources & Links:

Burns Bog – Peat Bog in Delta, BC | Delta – municipality of Metro Vancouver || Fishing: Tidal License | Regulations – information on closures and rules || Iona Beach Regional Park – located in Richmond, an easy there-and-back trail | Richmond – municipality of Metro Vancouver || Richmond GeoInfo: Liquefaction Map – map showing risk of liquefaction in case of big earthquake | Richmond Flood Mitigation – information showing flood mitigation with dikes || Richmond Trails: Visit Richmond Trails site | West Dyke Trail Map | South Dyke Trail Map || Steveston Village – small area in southeast Richmond with harbour, restaurants and walk path | Terra Nova Rural Park – park in northwestern Richmond with trail | Vancouver GeoMap – geological information about Metro Vancouver’s soil composition and other aspects

Tell me when there’s more!

Published by Treensbert Churchmouse

I'm a European-born individual, raised on the west coast of Canada in beautiful BC, and a Vancouverite at heart. I love the world of city, sea, and mountain we are lucky to have, thanks to many years of some proper tectonic plate action. Vancouver is a vast, thriving west coast city, balanced perfectly with the peace of the wild surrounding it. That said, I love to explore, but also to escape! I'm a writing and travel enthusiast and have a good foot wedged into the tourism industry (it only follows, if one is a travel junkie). I hope to share what I see and learn about my experiences with those who might like to try the same.

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