The Sanctuary is located on the outskirts of the Village of Ladner,
in Delta, BC. By the turn of the century, protective dykes
had been built along the Fraser River to protect Ladner's
thriving farming and fishing-based community from the Fraser
River and the tidal waters of the Strait of Georgia. Nearby
river islands were only partially dyked or left to flood each
year naturally, and were often sites of fishing camps which
supplied the numerous local salmon canneries. On Westham
Island, Ewen Slough was the site of one of
these camps, named after Alexander Ewen, a scotsman who owned
several local canneries.
George C. Reifel bought his property in 1927, it consisted
of land isolated from the rest of Westham Island by Ewen,
Robertson and Fuller Sloughs, natural river channels which
dissected the island. Although all equipment and building
materials needed to be barged in, by 1929, he had consolidated
more land, and created a large recreational family retreat
in this idyllic location. Dykes and causeways were constructed
to create waterfowl habitats and road access connecting
his land ("Reifel Island") to the rest of Westham
Island. Although the family ran successful real estate
and brewery businesses, Reifel Farm, as it became known,
was also very successful, and during WW2 was responsible
for over one-third of the sugar beet seed production of
In the 1960's, his son, George H. Reifel, granted the first
lease to the British
Columbia Waterfowl Society for a Bird Sanctuary
to be named after his late father. Ducks
Unlimited Canada was brought in to assist with
the water management of the many wetland habitats on the
site, and has continued to be an active partner in the
management of the area. The provincial government supplemented
this effort by establishing a game reserve on the adjacent
Sign showing Reifel
Geese in front of former
Reifel family home.
By 1972, there was widespread recognition of both the real
estate value and the wildlife habitat value of the Reifel
homestead, waterways, farm fields, and Sanctuary area. To
conserve the entire area, the Reifel family agreed to a combination
of land sale and donation to the federal government on the
condition that it would continue to be managed for the primary
benefit of waterfowl and that the Sanctuary would continue
to bear the name of George C. Reifel.
With this change in ownership, the federal government designated
the farm site as the Alaksen
National Wildlife Area and the provincial game reserve
and the Sanctuary lease area were designated the George
C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
Aerial view of Alaksen
NWA buildings 2002.
Visitors at George
H. Reifel cairn.
The Reifel family home now serves as the regional headquarters
of the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS)
(part of Environment Canada).CWS administers
these lands, with the Sanctuary managed by the British
Columbia Waterfowl Society under a long-term
lease. Under this kind of federal land ownership, activities
are regulated through permits, and their wildlife and habitats
are protected under the Canada Wildlife Act.
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British Columbia Waterfowl Society, 5191 Robertson
Road, Delta, BC V4K 3N2. Phone: 604-946-6980. Last updated
September 28, 2012
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