Meet Bill and Bev Ramey – Kakwa Park Backcountry Hosts
After eight years volunteering as backcountry hosts in Kakwa Provincial Park, Bev and Bill Ramey find it difficult to pick one of the multiple highlights of their experiences. When we spoke with them about their time in Kakwa, they remarked: “the opportunity to live in a wilderness setting for weeks at a time each summer in such an extraordinary location provides too many highlights to share.”
Kakwa Provincial Park is part of a one-million-hectare area of roadless wilderness, north of Highway 16, a location that Bev and Bill find remarkable. “Kakwa has a special geographic location in the Northern Rockies as the park extends over both sides of the continental divide – where watersheds diverge – those flowing to the Pacific Ocean (via the Fraser River) and those flowing to the Arctic Ocean (via the Mackenzie River).”
BC Parks manages the backcountry host program at Kakwa Provincial Park and supports the incredible volunteers stationed in the park each summer who act as the “eyes, ears, and heart” of the park.
In summer 2021, Bev and Bill were stationed in the park from June 25 to August 4. With excellent knowledge of the park, tasks that need to be accomplished, and species that call the park home, they bring so much to their role and to the people they meet.
Throughout their nearly six-week term, Bill and Bev completed a variety of tasks. They maintained the camp and cabin, and gathered extensive conservation data. The pair are incredible naturalists and also volunteer as ecological reserve wardens on the South Coast of B.C. Their robust data is added to ebird and iNaturalist and shared with BC Parks staff to contribute towards conservation efforts in the park. Birds and plants are a highlight for Bev and Bill, as they reflect on their time spent in Kakwa Park.
“In late July, the return migration of birds begins and we observe birds such as surf scoters resting and feeding on Kakwa Lake on their way back to the coast from their Arctic breeding areas. Plants also show migration. Last summer we observed a meadow of yellow columbine, which with climate change is spreading northwards and hybridizing with the red columbine.”
Bev and Bill are already hopeful for some new plant observations for next season. “We’re now on the lookout for the northern blue columbine.”
They also greet park visitors and provide outreach and educational information to those coming to explore the wonders of Kakwa. While it was mostly local visitors the last two summers, in previous years Bev and Bill met people from all over the world – visitors from countries like France, Germany, Brazil, Sweden and Japan. Kakwa attracts keen backcountry hikers as it is the northern terminus of the Great Divide Trail.
When not cleaning, doing maintenance, or connecting with park visitors, Bill and Bev explored alpine flower meadows, spent time investigating extensive bogs and their special plant communities, appreciated the diverse fauna of this park and grew familiar with porcupines – the name ‘Kakwa’ means porcupine in the Cree language.
They have also spotted their share of grizzly bears, especially in lush avalanche-lily meadows. “When approaching an avalanche-lily meadow, we first carefully scan the meadow. Grizzly bears often feed in these meadows, so if we do see one, we leave. We make noise as we approach a meadow, just in case there is a bear, to alert the bear that humans are around. These meadows are an important food source for the bears early in the season when these lilies bloom. The bears dig and eat their bulbs. Their diggings are scattered amongst the flowers, so do not destroy the lily meadow, but rather seem to strengthen their growth for the next year, almost like a gardener separating their flower bulbs.”
We are so thankful to Bev and Bill for their contributions to BC Parks. They have made a tremendous difference to how the park functions, the species that call the park home, and visitors alike.
Learn more about volunteering with BC Parks at https://bcparks.ca/volunteers/ https://bcparks.ca/volunteers, and check out upcoming park host and backcountry host opportunities at https://bcparks.ca/volunteers/opportunities/.