The traditional land of the Ktunaxa, Okanagan and Shuswap peoples.

Located between the Rocky and Purcell Mountains in southeast BC, the Columbia Valley is just a short trip from Alberta and the USA border, and about a ten hour drive from Vancouver. Situated along the Upper Columbia River, the wetlands surrounding these friendly communities are renowned for their birdlife. Stretching from Golden in the north, a short hop from Banff and Calgary, to Cranbrook in the south near the Montana and Idaho border, the Columbia Valley Trail is full of outdoor adventure opportunities.

Golden, an hour from Alberta and the scenic destination of Banff, is home to the wetlands of Moberly Marsh along the Columbia River, a critical resting and feeding area for resident and migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway.

Following the river south, you’ll come to Radium Hot Springs and Invermere. The bountiful wetlands around the Wilmer National Wildlife Area offer a great mix of birds from the Pacific Flyway, as well as those found more in the Rockies and across the Prairies. With the mountain resort of Panorama nearby, you have lots of outdoor options at any elevation.

Continuing south, you’ll want to make a stop at Canal Flats on Columbia Lake before heading to the Kimberly area. The Columbia Wetlands here provide some of the best birding in the province, as well as being a major nature conservation area.

Nearby Cranbrook is the main southern hub of the Columbia Valley Trail, meaning a charming town and all its amenities are nearby as you explore the surrounding wetlands. With a mix of marshland, rivers, lakes, and forests, you could spend an entire trip right here.

Whether you pop over on a day trip from Alberta or make it into a week-long roadtrip with the family, just let the river guide you to fantastic birdwatching all along the Columbia Valley Trail.


Spring sees the water come alive in the Columbia Valley! Ducks like cinnamon teal, ring-necked, bufflehead, ruddy, and redhead show up, along with many other species. Also on the water, horned grebes are one of the stars of the area as they return to breed in their striking breeding plumage. Songbirds also return to the skies and trees throughout the valley. A highlight of the region, Lewis’s woodpecker, also returns for the warmer months.

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

Summer can be a quiet season for birding in some areas, but the Columbia Valley is still busy! Ducks and grebes are still around on the water, more and more warblers and other songbirds are singing and adding colour to the area, and raptors like ospreys and turkey vultures can be seen circling and looking for a meal. This is also a great time and place to see typically-eastern species in BC like blue jays and eastern kingbirds. And don’t be surprised if you hear a meowing while you’re on the trail – summer is the best time to see and hear a gray catbird!

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

Fall migration means you’ll see and hear higher numbers of warblers and other songbirds around the Columbia Valley before they head south for the winter. It’s also a good chance to see the many species of waterfowl and raptors before they also leave for the season. Trumpeter swans are one of the stars of the season, and always look majestic as they pose for a photo. Lewis’s woodpecker, a regional highlight, can still be occasionally seen before the weather cools down too much.

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

While many species have gone south for the winter, that doesn’t mean the season is quiet in the bird world. Some year-round birds you can see included ruffed grouse, Barrow’s and common goldeneye, golden and bald eagle, merlin, and several woodpecker species. By the water, you’ll still see the graceful great blue heron and noisy belted kingfisher throughout the colder months. Mountain chickadees and Clark’s nutcrackers are treats, especially if you’re visiting from coastal areas of the province. One species to look out for is the northern shrike, a tiny but fierce predatory songbird!

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)