Buttertubs Marsh, Nanaimo

It was a chilly -6 C (21 F) this morning when I set out to join my hiking group. We enjoyed a delightful 4 km walk around Buttertubs Marsh, a bird sanctuary in Nanaimo.

As you can see, there is ice on top of the water and we didn’t see many ducks until we had been there for at least an hour. By the time we had completed the circuit the temperature had risen to a balmy -2 C (28 F). En route we saw a variety of birds including several Great Blue Herons, but they were keeping very still.

If my English family members find the name Buttertubs familiar, they are right! The name originated in Yorkshire. According to Wikipedia:

“The Buttertubs Pass is a high road in the Yorkshire DalesEngland. The road winds its way north from Simonstone near Hawes towards Thwaite and Muker past 20-metre-deep (66 ft) limestone potholes called the Buttertubs. It is said that the name of the potholes came from the times when farmers would rest there on their way to market. During hot weather they would lower the butter they had produced into the potholes to keep it cool.”

I am not sure why this bird sanctuary was named after those limestone potholes, and the information board at the park didn’t provide that detail, but it is an interesting question.


  1. Thank you for providing a reason for the name “Buttertubs”. I was about to post asking about it. That sounds like a rather chilly walk and I admire your courage to take it! You really are making many fun discoveries in and around Nanaimo!

  2. I am more likely to get out in that cold weather when I have a companion who also wants to get out. I would think your group activity helps a lot. Right now, neither my spouse or I are willing to get out in temperatures under freezing, even though we did plenty of that a couple of years ago. (And have the proper gear to be comfortable.) This week we have gone to an indoor track to get our walking time. It’s definitely not as interesting, but has great terrain so we an walk safely and more quickly.
    Your pictures are so pretty; I like the muted sun we see more of in wintertime.
    Although I had never heard of buttertubs, it’s fun to hear about. And a different definition of potholes than those nuisances in our streets!

    1. I doubt I would have gone on this hike if I had not already agreed to join the group! Like you, I prefer to stay warm.

      Now I’m wondering about the use of the term ‘potholes’ to describe the damaged tarmac on our roads. I wonder if it comes from the same source as the buttertubs.

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