Cranberry Marsh or the Robert W. Starratt Wildlife sanctuary is a hotspot in Valemount for photographers, bird watchers, and anyone who loves to feel immersed in a thriving eco-system.
The marsh is located on a 600-acre wildlife sanctuary and wetland located adjacent the Best Western Hotel just south of the Valemount village limits. More than 150 species of birds as well as beaver, otter, moose and deer call this place home. Bears have also been spotted foraging in the area.
Be sure to bring your camera as you walk along dikes among the busy air traffic of dragonflies, hear the unfamiliar honks and hollars of birds and ducks. The surrounding woodlands are a host large poplars, ripe raspberry bushes with diffused light filtering through the trees and bushes. Two wildlife viewing platforms are provided adjacent to the trails. From the first viewing platform, the trail follows a dike built by Ducks
Unlimited project to enhance waterfowl habitat in the marsh. At the end of the dike, the trail leads to the right and around in a loop, about 6km; or left to a second viewing platform.
Many interpretive signs explain all aspects of the life of the marsh. Some areas of the trail are very wet and muddy, however. Bring hiking boots and prepare to get your feet a little wet.
The village is currently working on installing a boardwalk along part of the marsh loop that right now runs along 17th Ave. The boardwalk would mean trail users could remain near the marsh instead of talking about 1km along a residential road.
According to Jim Swanson’s Place Names in the Robson Valley, Robert W. Starratt (d. 1967) was born in New Brunswick. During the 1930s, he pioneered bush flying in the north, operating Starratt. He came to Canoe River as president of Canyon Creek Forest Products in 1950. He and his wife Evelyn moved to Cedarside in 1952, and in 1957 purchased 1200 acres of land south of Valemount. After Starratt’s death his family donated 600 acres of their ranch to the province.
The wildlife sanctuary is managed by the B.C. Wildlife Branch and Ducks Unlimited.
The main entrance to the trail system is on Highway 5 at the Best Western, just south of Valemount. Enter the Best Western parking lot and park in the lot closest to the highway. Or, drive down Ash st. to the very end, park at the Village sewage treatment plant and enter the trail at that point. The chain link fence disappears after a few minutes of walking. There are several other ways to enter the trail. Ask a local!