Chief Mathews Bay, Gardner Canal

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Chief Mathews Bay, Gardner Canal

by | Jun 2, 2019

Chief Mathews Bay, sometimes spelled Chief Matthews Bay, is on the southwest shore of Whidbey Reach, at Courageux Point in Gardner Canal, British Columbia. This bay extends about 3.5 miles (5.5 km) southwest from its entrance and dries for about 0.5 miles (0.8 km) from its head. The bay was labeled Kowesas Bay on British Admiralty Charts before 1927, after the Kowesas River that flows into the head of the bay.

The Gardner Canal is 56 miles (90 km) long and is one of the principal inlets of the northern British Columbia Coast. The entrance is behind Hawkesbury Island and is accessed via Devastation Sound or Varney Passage. It was named in 1793 by George Vancouver in honor of his friend and former commander, Alan Gardner, who was in command of Courageux in 1792. Lieutenant Joseph Whidbey, with the Vancouver Expedition, was the first to chart the fjord.

Chief Mathews Bay has a small estuary notable for its diverse plant communities, particularly the salt marsh meadows and intertidal species abundance. All five species of Pacific salmon, as well as herring spawn in the Kowesas River and several smaller creeks that drain into the bay. There was also a historical oolichan or eulachon (candlefish) run in the river. According to Henaksiala tradition, there was a settlement or camp at the head of the bay. The boggy flatland on the north side of the river mouth is called Tla’mid where wild crab apples, blueberries, huckleberries, salmonberries, and roots can be picked. On the south side of the entrance is Ma’alinuxw mountain where the Haisla historically hunted mountain goats. Read more here and here. Explore more of Chief Mathews Bay here:

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