COLUMN: Sensitive habitat area in Squamish deserves our respect

Cat Lake Provincial
Recreation Site

A great family campsite and a bustling dirt biker area to the east, and fine hiking to the west.
Origin of name: In 1938 local loggers first used “Cats,” also known as Caterpillar bulldozers, to move felled logs. 
Trailhead: Entrance to provincial park. 
Use: Single track, biking, hiking and noisy biking. 
Difficulty: Blue.  
Elevation: 190 to 340 metres.  
Etiquette: Do not feed wildlife. Any habituated animal is eventually euthanized. 
Feedback: info@squamishtrails.ca. 

The camping sites at Cat Lake Provincial Recreation Site give you an out-of-the-way experience in a stunning wilderness setting. The tall second-growth trees block out highway noise and you can catch glimpses of snow-capped peaks as you hike the enjoyable trails. 

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There are many dirt bike trails to the north and east of the lake where the motorized demons have priority; yet one can hike these on quiet days.

The Lake loop, Cheshire Cat, Cheshire Kitten and Section 57 are popular mountain and cross-country bike trails that are not shared with the dirt bikers. 

Hikers will enjoy these mostly smooth trails until the arooty, hilly and rocky sections remind you that bikers like to be challenged. 

The lower elevation of this lake means that it is one of the first areas to be fished, starting in March or April. It is stocked with rainbow trout twice annually because of the heavy fishing pressure. The lake centre is deep at 43 metres.   

The site is maintained by Squamish Nation Witness Society (Uts’am) and is visited frequently by provincial recreation officers, who have jurisdictional authority to enforce all park rules. The unruly days of 2012 are long past and this is now a family-oriented camping area. 

Cat Lake sees a lot of bear activity and mandatory food caches are provided.

The campsites are not accessible by vehicle and you have to walk your gear in from the parking lot. There are wheelbarrows available for this five-minute transfer. No reservations – first come, first to get a campsite.                                                                     

Dirt bikers                                                                                                                                            

Squamish Dirt Bike Association (SDBA) is the steward for the trails north and east of the lake. Their network of over 35 kilometres weaves in and out of the forest and crosses two FSRs. Be careful and alert when near FSRs and yield to all types of traffic. 

SDBA trails are mostly not signed and you are advised to get a map at OTP or any bike shop in town. Trails are kept narrow and single-track to spare the terrain. 

ATVs are cautioned not to widen nor braid any trail. Cooperation and compromise are the guiding principles to keeping this area recreational into the future. 

Climbers are also active in the bouldering area east of the lake.                                                                                           

Sensitive habitat area 

The side channels of the Mamquam River just south of the golf course are a designated protective area all year. The salmon spawn develops into fry, fingerlings and minnows and stay in these nursery waterways for one year or more, depending on the salmon species.  

There are always young fish in these channels and they do not need the extra stress from splashing kids and dogs. The designation of “ Sensitive Habitat Area” definitely means that dogs must be on leash to prevent their interfering with wildlife. 

Only by respecting this area will we be able to continue to enjoy the pleasant walks along the spawning channels. 

Any abuse of this area should be reported to municipal animal control at 604-815-6886, federal fisheries at 604-892-3230 Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery at 604-898-3657 and Responsible Dog Owners of Squamish via rdogs.ca.     

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