Natural beauty & historical significance: all in one package!

Parks Canada Youth Ambassadors summer adventure part 7:

Natural beauty & historical significance: all in one package!

By Karam Halabi

2022-2023 Parks Canada Youth Ambassador

There’s something magical about Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site. When my Parks Canada co-youth ambassadors and I first stepped on the site, we had the warmest welcomes with a visitor experience that was quite unmatched! We didn’t expect these wonderful national historic sites to be so abundant in nature and wildlife, but it is safe to say we were pleasantly surprised. We got to explore some beautiful meadows on the site and a cliffside that overlooked the beach and so much more! Truly, it was an awesome way to kick off our West Coast adventures.

Upon our arrival we walked by the beach and felt a calming sea breeze coupled with the sounds of the ocean which truly made us feel connected with the waters. We sat by the shoreline and with a watchful eye it didn’t take long till we spotted the cutest baby seal in the waters, as well as some playful river otters who were swimming together :-)!

We got the chance to explore all sorts of incredible activities that are part of the programs offered at this two in one site. We learned about the military history and significance of Fort Rodd Hill, as well as Fisgard Lighthouse and its many keepers throughout history. 

Did you know that Fisgard Lighthouse is the first lighthouse built on Canada’s west coast and is still operational today? The lighthouse is pivotal in guiding the many ships that make their way through the Juan de Fuca Strait. Although the process is automated now, that wasn’t always the case. 

We got the chance to immerse ourselves in the roles of these lighthouse keepers of the past, a profession that used to be quite revered, but slowly became less as time went on. Regardless, it still took a lot of work to maintain the lighthouse, especially when coupled with the fact that they were surviving on a small island with limited supplies and food. As far as one can tell, being a lighthouse keeper meant being isolated and tasked with a LOT of chores! In any case, we had the unique opportunity to learn about their daily tasks and lifestyle as well as some of their stories which ended in tragedy like the unfortunate Joseph Dare (a very fitting last name to say the least). However, some stories inspired hope and even paved the way for women in Canada, although they were not seen to be fit as lighthouse keepers at the time, Amelia Bevis was one of the first to serve as a lighthouse keeper for almost a year! 

We learned more about the historical significance of the site and we got to participate in some incredible historical programs that enlightened us on the tribulations of the first and second world war. We also got a chance to explore the coastal defenses, secret military bunkers and installations at the site which was quite fascinating. 

We were astonished by the WW1 medical training program and we learned about some of the tools and applications that were used during that time period. With the help of some very knowledgeable interpreters and an intact and preserved medkit, we delved into the details of some medical practices that were not for the faint of heart! The whole experience was designed to be quite interactive, our senses were indulged by being able to touch the tools, see some medical cases and believe it or not even involve our sense of smell with some blocks that replicated certain smells from the time!

Shortly after, we stopped by the ration program where interpreters explained how Canada became a powerhouse for food production during the wars and how victory gardens were propelled by the average Canadian to help with the effort.

We then went for a walk on the site where we spotted twin deers in the meadows and plenty of beautiful native plants that are maintained by the resource conservation team. We realized that not only is the site rich in history, but it’s also quite abundant in wildlife and nature to explore! It just goes to show that we can connect with the outdoors in historic sites and in surprising places!

The sun was beating down on us all day so we helped ourselves to the canteen where we got a taste of ice cream flavours from the time period; the chocolate ration cake ice cream flavour being one of our favourites!

Finally, we made our way down to the lighthouse to catch a beautiful sunset over the horizon with a mountainous backdrop that was unlike any other, and it was a great way to end off our eventful day! 

We went back to our snug and cozy oTENTik and sat by our campfire for a late night chat and celebration. I failed to mention it earlier, but it was also my birthday that day and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time. It truly was quite an amazing and memorable experience at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse with my co-youth ambassadors and the people we met 🙂

– Karam

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