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Welcome to the beautiful secluded ecological reserve called Tiampo Park! Located on the northern outskirts of the city of Squamish this Earthcache will teach you a couple of things about what an Estuary is.
This land used to belong to the Tiampo family whose origins can dated back to the early days for the city of Squamish. However, as the city grew in size and in importance because of the logging industry and the nearby Whistler the family eventually decided to donate this last part of the beautiful waterfront, about 140 acres, so it could be preserved as an ecological reserve. If you were a bird watching person then you would love this Earthcache because this Earthcache is going to be focusing on why is Tiampo an Estuary.
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams that flows into it but still need a free connection to the open sea. Estuaries form a transition zone between river environments (fresh water) and ocean environments (salt water) and are then naturally subject to marine influences, such as tides, waves, and the influx of salt water into a fresh water environment. However, the river can influence the landscape just as much as the larger salt water can and this is done with the flows of fresh water from the nearby snow capped mountains of Howe Sound and sediment that is brought down from the glacial melt water. The inflow of both seawater and freshwater provide very high levels of nutrients in both the water column and sediment, making estuaries among the most productive natural habitats in the world for both animal and human a like. So many of the coastal features of the West Coast of British Columbia are the direct result of this geological process.
Most modern-day estuaries were formed during the geological time period called the Holocene epoch. (See the diagram) Many of the coastal estuaries that are found along the coast of British Columbia were formed by the flooding of river-eroded but in this case a glacially-eroded U-Shaped Valley when sea level began to rise about 10,000-18,000 years ago or at the end of the last Ice Age. Estuaries are typically classified by their geomorphologic features or by water circulation patterns and can be referred to by many different names, such as bays, harbors, lagoons, inlets, or sounds. However, sometimes these water bodies do not necessarily meet the above criteria of an estuary and may be fully saline (salt water or not even brackish).
Estuaries are amongst the most heavily populated areas throughout the world, with about 60% of the world’s population living along estuaries and the coast. In fact if you were to look at the top 32 largest cities in the world only ten of them would are not located on an estuary. The very city, and its “downtown” that you are in today is directly built on this estuary. The reason why the city of Squamish was built on this land was because it is good for farming, its flat, and its at the northern end of Howe Sound and that was where the mill was built. As a result, estuaries are suffering world wide from a massive amount of degradation by many factors, which would include soil erosion, deforestation, overgrazing and other poor farming practices that don’t focus on sustainability, over fishing the local stocks, the drainage and filling in of the wetlands to build and various amounts of pollution that comes from sewage inputs from city to farmland dumping. Tiampo Park is there to help preserve and protect some of this estuary for the generations to come to enjoy and learn from.
The particular type of an estuary that Tiampo Park and the city of Squamish is located is called a Fjord-type Estuary. Fjord Type Estuaries are formed in deeply eroded valleys that were commonly created by receding glaciers. These U-shaped Valley Estuaries typically have steep sides, shear rock bottoms, and underwater sills that have been contoured and scared by slow but powerful force of glacial movement. The shallowest area of the estuary occurs at the mouth (where the river empties) and that is because it is in this location where glacier deposited its rocks and other debris to form sills that restrict the original flow of the water. In the upper reaches of the estuary, the depth can exceed well over 300 meters.
When estuaries contain very shallow sills, tidal oscillations only affect near surface waters to sill depth, and waters below sill depth may remain stagnant for very long periods of time, resulting in only an occasional exchange of the deep water of the estuary with the ocean. If the sill depth is deep, water circulation is less restricted and a slow, but steady exchange of water from the estuary and the ocean occur. Fjord-type estuaries can be found along the coasts of Alaska, Western Canada, Greenland, Iceland, New Zealand, and Norway.
All Estuaries provide habitats for a large number of organisms and support very high productivity. Estuaries also provide habitats for many types of fish but the more common one here on the West Coast is the salmon. Also, migratory bird populations, such as the Canvasback Duck, American Goldfinch and the Snow Geese. So many times the birds come to place to feed off of the Plankton. Plankton are key primary producers in estuaries. They move with the water bodies and can be flushed in and out with the tides. Their productivity is largely dependant upon the turbidity of the water. The main plankton present are diatoms and dinoflagellates, which are abundant in the sediment. It is important to remember that a primary source of food for many organisms on estuaries, including bacteria, is detritus, which is a type of decaying organic sedimentation.
To Get Credit for this Earthcache:
1. To take a picture of yourself and or your GPS at ground zero
2. Take one picture that clearly shows a geological estuary feature at GZ
3. Name two geological features that you could see from GZ that clearly shows an estuary feature that you didn't use to answer the previous question with.
4. Identify two types of birds that you saw while you were there and include one of them as a picture in your log.
Once you have the answers email them to me and then when you post your log include your picture with it.
Also this is an Earthcache so there is no container, or small item that you will be looking for. Once you have reached GZ all you need is your GPS, Camera, and well...... your brain.
Otherwise Happy Geocaching!
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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum