Hunlen Falls on the right front of the photo empties into Lonesome Lake on the left. Ric Careless photo

Donations fuel successful Lonesome Lake purchase by BC Parks Foundation

It took only four weeks for the donations to come in

Lonesome Lake has been purchased by the BC Parks Foundation and will become part of southern Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, thanks to the generosity of donors from across North America.

In a wilderness area known as the Chilcotin Ark, Lonesome Lake was made famous because homesteading pioneers Ralph and Ethel Edwards came to the aid of starving and dying Trumpeter swans who wintered there.

Along with their children Stanley, John and Trudy, the couple packed sacks of whole wheat for miles and broke lake ice to feed the desperate birds.

Supported initially by the Canadian government in 1925, the family fed the swans.

Trudy, and later her daughter Susan, continued feeding them for more than 40 years.

When the foundation learned Susan was putting the 153-acre parcel at the south end of the lake up for sale, it launched a fundraising goal of $695,000 to purchase it.

Hundreds of British Columbians, Canadians and international donors responded, helping BCPF cross the finish line in four weeks, just one week before the deadline, said Andy Day, chief executive officer of the foundation.

READ MORE: BC Parks Foundation aims to buy historic Bella Coola region property

“It was amazing the number of people who wrote in saying when they were children they had heard the story about the trumpeter swans and it had always inspired them,” Day told Black Press Media. “It was neat to see how far and wide that sentiment was.”

The Trumpeter swans as seen circa 1940s at Lonesome Lake. (Trudy Turner photo)

The Trumpeter swans as seen circa 1940s at Lonesome Lake. (Trudy Turner photo)

Foundation vice-president Ric Careless said the protection of this site in the heart of the Chilcotin Ark will ensure that Trumpeter swans and other wildlife continue to thrive at Lonesome Lake without disturbance.

“Now, with the protection of Lonesome Lake ensured, we plan to expand efforts to preserve other fragile and important areas in the Chilcotin Ark.”

In 1957, Edwards’ biography, Crusoe of Lonesome Lake written by American writer Leland Stowe, became a North American best seller.

The swan saga captivated North America with television appearances, Reader’s Digest and Life magazine making the family famous. Ralph received the Order of Canada in 1972 for his work with the swans.

In addition to wildlife values and the old growth Interior Douglas Fir forest found at Lonesome Lake, is the least protected of BC’s 16 major ecosystems, which scientists refer to as biogeoclimatic zones.

Because of these values, and the saga of the pioneer family who saved a species, Lonesome Lake has tremendous historical and ecological significance, said BC Parks Foundation in a press release.

Grizzly bears roam on the shore of Lonesome Lake. (Ric Careless photo)

Grizzly bears roam on the shore of Lonesome Lake. (Ric Careless photo)

“In a world of disappearing species, Trumpeter swans are a notable conservation success story. The largest of all North American waterbirds now thrives across the continent. In BC, major populations overwinter at Comox on Vancouver Island and in the Fraser Delta.”

Day said he has not seen the area for himself, but will have the chance this summer.

Two of the donors will be joining him for the two-day hike into Lonesome Lake in either June or August. They have yet to finalize the dates.

BC Parks Foundation is the official charitable partner of BC Parks founded about three years ago with an aim to expand and enhance the park system, which Day said receives more than 26 million visits annually, a number that is growing by one million a year.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, visitor numbers increased by 40 per cent over the previous year, he said.

“I think lots of people in BC realized the health benefits of being outside, exploring and having something to do.”

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