Fairfax Point, Moresby Island

Fairfax Point, Moresby Island

by | Aug 20, 2021

Fairfax Point is a point of land at the southern tip of Moresby Island, one of the Southern Gulf Islands, about 41 miles (66 km) south-southwest of Vancouver and 6 miles (10 km) northeast of Sidney, British Columbia. The island and the point are named after Rear Admiral Fairfax Moresby of the Royal Navy, who was the commander-in-chief of the Pacific Station at Esquimalt between 1850 and 1853. Moresby is the largest privately-owned island in the Gulf Islands Archipelago with an area of about 2,060 acres (834 ha). The island is 2.3 miles (3.7 km) long and 1.4 miles (2.2 km) wide, with a high point of 485 feet (148 m). In 1859, the Northwestern Boundary Dispute between Canada and the United States was settled to follow a line running east through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then north through Haro Strait, then east again through Boundary Pass to the Strait of Georgia. Boundary Pass is 14 miles (23 km) long with the southern entrance between Turn Point on Stuart Island in Washington and Fairfax Point on Moresby Island. Today, the transition from Haro Strait to Boundary Pass is marked by a lighthouse at Turn Point and a lighted navigation marker at Fairfax Point.

First Nations people likely using the island as a resting place when traveling by canoe through the Salish Sea. Moresby was first settled by Europeans in 1863 and stocked with game animals. The trees on the island have been logged several times, first in the 1880s to create clearings for fruit trees, and three times since by separate logging companies. Evidence of the logging is mostly gone, but trails built for the machines can still be found. It has had several interesting owners. One was a merchant in China, who returned to Canada and had a reputation for mistreating his Chinese servants. In the 1900s, the island had a thriving agricultural operation with extensive apple orchards and vegetable gardens that supplied produce to Vancouver and Victoria grocery stores. Between 1909 and 1914, it was owned by Thomas Wilson Paterson who was the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, and he established a dairy farm on the island. Moresby Island is currently used by its owners to raise beef cattle. The island benefits from provincial farm status providing extremely low operating costs. There is a three-bedroom residence occupied by a caretaker who manages the farm of 148 acres (60 ha) with about 120 head of cattle, along with a few horses and sheep. Although the island has always had one owner at a time, there are currently 17 land titles on the island, all waterfront parcels ranging from about 6 to 14 acres ( 2.5 – 60 ha). Additional development on the island is limited by the availability of freshwater, primarily the size of the underground freshwater aquifer.

An aquifer is an area underground where spaces between gravel, sand, clay, or rock fill with water. There are two types of aquifers that exist in the Gulf Islands, unconsolidated sand and gravel aquifers and fractured bedrock aquifers. Fractured bedrock provides the primary source of freshwater for the majority of the Gulf Island residents. Fractures in the bedrock located below the water table are filled with water and tapped by wells drilled from the surface. The density of fractures and proximity to major faults determine the water yield from individual wells. Land development will continue to raise concerns over adequate quantity and quality of water. The drinking water in the Gulf Islands comes from a variety of sources including private water systems, improvement districts, regional district water systems, individual wells, and surface water all of which rely on a safe supply of groundwater from aquifers. There are specialized systems that do not rely on groundwater such as rainwater catchment and desalinization. A few residents rely on bottled/trucked water. Sustainable practices are required to conserve and protect fresh groundwater sources. There is currently no system to understand the cumulative impacts of individual wells drilled. There are a number of issues that impact the quality and quantity of groundwater such as saltwater intrusion, land use impacts, well interference, surface contamination, topography, recharge rates, soils, vegetation cover, geology, proximity to the sea, liquid waste such as septic systems, and seasonal water shortage. Climate change may also have an impact on groundwater supplies. The protection of existing groundwater supplies is significantly easier than finding alternative water sources on the islands. Read more here and here. Explore more of Fairfax Point and Moresby Island here:

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