Portage Inlet is a shallow basin connected to Victoria Harbour by the narrow Gorge Waterway. Fresh water flows into the inlet through Craigflower and Colquitz creeks, two important salmon streams. The shallow waters of the inlet contain intertidal mud flats, extensive eelgrass beds and native oysters, and historically supported herring spawning. The inlet is also one of the most important bird habitat areas in the CRD. Residents value the scenic waterfront property and recreational value of the inlet.

The Gorge Waterway Initiative, formed in 2005, is a collaborative, community-driven group of organizations concerned with protecting and enhancing the natural and cultural features of the Gorge Waterway, Portage Inlet and the surrounding watersheds. Members include conservation groups, community associations, local residents and municipal representatives who work together on a variety of stewardship and outreach initiatives concerning Portage Inlet and the Gorge Waterway.

About Portage Inlet

  • Size (total area): 70 ha
  • Length of shoreline: 14,472m (including Gorge Waterway to Selkirk Trestle)
  • Depth of harbour (average): < 2m (relative to chart datum)
  • Creeks that flow into the harbour: Craigflower, Colquitz and Hospital creeks
  • Number of stormwater discharges: 49
  • Protected areas: Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary
  • Species at risk: Olympia oysters and great blue heron
  • History

Valued Habitat


One of the most important biological features of Portage Inlet is its approximately 50 hectares of eelgrass meadows. Eelgrass provides valuable habitat for fish (including juvenile salmon) and marine invertebrates, and feeding grounds for birds. Together, the waters of Gorge and Portage Inlet support 80% of the total eelgrass in the CRD harbours.

Intertidal Mudflats and Salt Marshes

Intertidal mudflats and salt marshes in Portage Inlet support rich ecosystems where marine invertebrates such as clams, snails, worms and crustaceans find refuge. These organisms in turn provide an important food source for birds and other wildlife.

Oyster Beds

Native Olympia oysters (Ostrea lurida) are found in abundance in Portage Inlet. This species is listed as “Special Concern” under the Species at Risk Act, due to its vulnerability to natural and human-caused disturbance. Olympia oysters were a food and trading staple for First Nations, and were sold to early Victoria residents. Olympia oysters tend to occur in clusters, providing a substrate for a variety of other animals and plants to attach to. Empty oyster shells also provide valuable habitat for other creatures.

Gorge Waterway Initiative

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Emergency Contacts

Emergency Management of BC 1.800.663.3456
Report a Spill