Saanich Inlet

Saanich Inlet is a large body of salt water that lies between the Saanich Peninsula and the Malahat highlands of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Located just northwest of Victoria, the inlet is 25 km long, has a surface area of 67 km², and its maximum depth is 226 m.

The major tributary feeding the inlet is the Goldstream River and has been of importance as a fishery to First Nations for centuries.

Saanich Inlet is Important Because

Saanich Inlet

It is a UNIQUE glacially carved reverse fjord, 25km long and 226m deep.

It is HOME to Pacific Giant Octopus, Salmon, Whales, Glass Sponges and much more.

Pacific Giant Octopus

Goldstream River Park and SALMON Hatchery are at the head of the inlet along with Gowland Tod Provincial Park with it’s walking and biking paths.

5 FIRST NATIONS Communities reside around the inlet.

First Nations
Butchart Gardens

The World Famous BUTCHART GARDENS and Malahat Skywalk border the inlet.

Diving, kayaking and boating ACTIVITIES are readily available.

Saanich Inlet Activities
Mill Bay-Brentwood Bay Ferry

BC FERRY crosses between Mill Bay and Brentwood Bay.

A Truly Special Place

Saanich Inlet is a glacially carved fjord more than 25 km long and up to 235 metres deep. For 7000 years water circulation has been restricted by a shallow sill (70 metres in depth). As a result, Saanich Inlet is a rare example of an anoxic basin that is relatively pristine.

The special conditions that make Saanich Inlet unique are reproduced in only 3 other locations known in the world: the Black Sea, a similar fjord in Venezuela and Nitinat Lake on Vancouver Island. Saanich Inlet is perhaps best described as a bathtub fed by a small trickle of water running over the rim at one end.

Our understanding of Saanich Inlet has come from more than a hundred years of scientific investigations and generations of First Nations traditional knowledge. Cores of sediment collected from the drill ship JOIDES Resolution during a 1996 expedition of the Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling (JOIDES) Ocean Drilling Program, record the history of the inlet during and following the retreat of ice from the most recent advance of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet (Fraser glaciation). Along with providing an archive of changing climates in the last 13,000 years, these cores reveal a history punctuated by catastrophic floods, slope failures, earthquakes, and volcanic activity. For the last 7,000 years, water circulation has been restricted, owing to a shallow sill (only about 70 metres deep) at the mouth of the inlet. As a consequence, Saanich Inlet is a rare modern example of an anoxic marine basin. Deep waters lack adequate oxygen for sediment-churning, bottom-dwelling organisms to destroy delicately laminated sediments. This enables high-resolution reconstructions of past climates, ocean chemistry, relative sea-level changes, environments, biota and seismicity, including an estimated recurrence interval for major seismic events of 200-500 years.

The inlet continues to be investigated, notably at the VENUS observatory (Victoria Experimental Network Under the Sea) of Ocean Networks Canada at the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria. VENUS has deployed cabled ocean sensors throughout Saanich Inlet that stream real-time data around the world.

Bedrock, surficial geology, and seismic studies continue at the British Columbia Geological Survey and the Pacific Geoscience Centre of the Geological Survey of Canada.

While fishing has decreased over the years, crabbing and prawning in season remain favourite activities. Marine mammals seen in the inlet include the ever present seals and river otters, the occasional sea lion in the migration season. There are increasingly frequent sitings of gray whales, and orcas. The inlet supports herring and salmon spawners, ling cod and rockfish and giant pacific octopus populations, among so many more species.