Mount Maxwell, also known as Hwmet’utsum to the Hul’q’umi’num speaking peoples, is an important ecological feature of Salt Spring Island, BC. The mountain is the highest peak in the Gulf islands standing at 602 metres tall and comprises various unique ecosystems including second growth Coastal Douglas-fir forests, garry oak woodlands, and wetland habitat. Hwmet’utsum has gained ecological interest due to the unique history of logging, agriculture, and wildfire on the landscape. Specifically, the Maxwell Creek Watershed, extending over 296 acres of protected land, is the main area of interest. The Maxwell Creek Watershed project was initiated to understand and enhance the ecological integrity of the forests and wetland areas in this watershed through restoration and wildfire resilience.
The hydrology of the Maxwell Creek watershed is extensive, consisting of several water bodies, creek systems, and wetland zones. Predominant features include: Maxwell Lake, Dry Lake, and the Rippon creek system which connects throughout the watershed. The Maxwell Creek watershed serves as an important feature of Hwmet’utsum, and has gained interest as the only remaining, relatively undeveloped watershed for potable water on Salt Spring Island. In particular, Maxwell Lake provides good quality drinking water for the island, however, this resource is at risk of degradation caused by nutrient loading from the surrounding watershed and roadways. The hydrology of the watershed has also been altered and degraded from its historical state due to drainage and ditching for agricultural purposes. Specifically, deep ditching around Dry lake (southeast of Maxwell Lake) occurred in the mid 1900’s to promote stream channelization to Maxwell Lake, impacting the natural stream flow of Rippon Creek. Channelization effects include the drainage of ephemeral wetlands in the watershed and streambank erosion along the creek bed.