What is a watershed?

A frozen lake with a mountain backdrop.

The BC Lake Stewardship Society defines a watershed as,

“The entire area of land that moves the water it receives to a common water body. The term watershed is misused if it describes only the land immediately surrounding a water body or the water body itself. The true definition represents a much larger land area than most people normally consider. A watershed is where much of the ongoing hydrological cycle takes place and it plays a crucial role in the purification of water.”

A watershed is much more than just the shoreline around a lake or a river; watersheds include the hills, mountains, roads, lawns and even groundwater that all drain into a common place. Many watersheds on Vancouver Island are hundreds of square kilometers – close to Victoria, the Sooke River Watershed is over 340 km2.

Smaller watersheds are often part of larger ones. For example, Peden Lake is the headwaters of the Mary Vine Creek Watershed. Yet, Mary Vine Creek flows into the Sooke River, making it also part of the larger Sooke River Watershed.

There are over 300 watersheds larger than 1 km2 in the Capital Regional District, and thousands of smaller watersheds that are unnamed. A tiny, seasonal mountain stream can have a watershed as small as a few square meters.

Learn much more in the full Lakes of Victoria, BC guidebook!

Cover of Lakes of Victoria, BC.

In the full guidebook, discover where to:

  • Walk: enjoy lakeside strolls & boardwalks.
  • Hike: discover single-track trails & scenic views.
  • Swim: find the best beaches to soak up the sun.
  • Fish: learn about stocking trends and piers.
  • Paddle: explore shorelines, and hidden bays.
  • Bike: plan your next route and hit the trails.

Along the way you will meet the animals and plants that call these lakes and watersheds home, unearth forgotten place names, and learn stories of days past.

The book is full of useful maps, access information, and local trivia to get you started on your next family day or great adventure.

From locals to visitors, everyone will learn something new about the freshwater lakes that bring Victoria to life.