Qualicum National Wildlife Area

Qualicum National Wildlife Area (NWA) is located in southwest British Columbia. It is an important area for migratory birds.


Qualicum NWA is located on Nanaimo Lowland. The lowland is a strip of land that extends from Johnstone Strait in the north, to the Jordan River located west of Victoria. The strip is flanked on the west by the Vancouver Island mountain range, and extends eastward under Georgia Strait.

Qualicum NWA. Photo: Neil K. Dawe

Dividing the lowland in many places are streams and rivers. Entry of these water courses into the sea has led to the development of the estuaries that are the focus of the Qualicum NWA. Estuaries are semi-enclosed bodies of water that connect to the sea. They offer a transition between marine and river environments.

Millions of birds from North and South America and Asia occur yearly in Georgia Strait in southwestern British Columbia. The area is one of the most important migratory bird habitats in Canada due to the:

  • mild, marine climate
  • high, yearly productivity
  • large bird populations
Great Blue Heron
Great blue heron. Photo: Simon Pierre Barrette, alias Cephas

Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) obtained three areas on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Together these units are managed as Qualicum NWA. They are:

  • Rosewall Creek Unit (RCU)
  • Marshall-Stevenson Unit (MSU)
  • Nanoose Bay Unit (NBU)

MSU was donated in 1974 to preserve estuary and uplands. RCU and NBU were intended to preserve existing estuaries. NBU was purchased in 1976 by the predecessor of The Nature Trust, the National Second Century Fund. It was leased to the CWS for 99 years, for wildlife management. The RCU consists of four properties that were purchased between 1973 and 1979 that are yet to be designated but are managed as an NWA.

CWS manages these units to maintain and enhance its capacity to provide wintering and habitat for migratory birds.

More information is provided on Qualicum NWA in the summary table below.


Under the Canada Wildlife Act, NWAs are protected and managed in accordance with the Wildlife Area Regulations. The primary purpose of NWAs is to protect and conserve wildlife and their habitat. For this purpose and according to the legislation, all activities in a NWA that could interfere with the conservation of wildlife can be prohibited. Consequently, most NWAs are not accessible to the public and all activities are prohibited. However, some activities may be authorized through public notice or the issuance of permits as long as they are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWAs Management and Activities section.

Access to the Qualicum NWA is limited and some activities may be permitted. Unless a notice has been posted or published authorizing an activity, all activities in the NWA are prohibited. For certain types of activity, additional federal or provincial permits may be required.

More information on access and permitting for Qualicum NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.

Map of the area

Map of Qualicum NWA
  • Long description

    Map of the area surrounding Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island in southwestern British Columbia. The boundaries of Qualicum NWA are indicated. The NWA is separated into three units. Rosewall Creek Unit is located furthest west and is south of Denman Island between Highway 19 and the shoreline. Nanoose Bay Unit is located the furthest east. Marshall-Stevenson Unit is located near Qualicum Beach. The scale on the map is in kilometers. Permanent water, roads and highways are all indicated on the map. A small inset shows the NWA in Canada.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries.

Summary table

Protected Area designation NWA
Province/territory British Columbia
Latitude/longitude 49°14' North / 124°11' West
Size 78 ha
Reason for creation of protected area To preserve estuaries and uplands
Date created (Gazetted) 1977 - Legal description
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category Strict Nature Reserve (Ia)
Additional designations
Keystone or flagship species
Main habitat type
  • coastal douglas fir forest
  • intertidal marsh
  • upland meadows
Species at Risk Great blue heron
Invasive species Reed canary grass
Main threats and challenges Habitat degradation
Management Agency Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Public access and usage Waterfowl hunting permitted in Rosewall Creek Unit (subject to federal and provincial hunting regulations)

Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page and any notice posted at the NWA site, the notice prevails as it is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.

Contact us

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Pacific and Yukon Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship Unit
5421 Robertson Road
Delta, British Columbia
V4K 3N2

Toll-free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca

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