The warm springs near Atlin is a popular place for locals and Yukoners alike. Found near the end of Warm Bay Road, this pool is still quite natural and continuously fed by warm water from the ground. A stream captures the overflow, which works its way through the meadow and surrounding forest to Atlin Lake at Warm Bay.
Although adults also dip into Atlin Warm Springs in British Columbia, it’s very apparent that Mother Nature designed it especially for children; the pool is warm — not hot. It’s only about three feet deep and just the right size for its patrons. It’s in total wilderness, and the outlet on either side is lined with a profuse growth of watercress.
The plant communities on the Atlin Warm Springs tufa deposit are unusual and have some rare and some very interesting ones. This includes two Blue-listed plants species, low sandwort (Arenaria long pedunculate) and marsh felwort (Lomatogonium rotated); one native plant species that is a range extension, jointed rush (Juncus articulatus); and one exotic species that is a range extension, yellow waterlily (Nymphaea Mexicana). Other plant species of interest include Greenland primrose (Primula egaliksensis), leafy aster (Aster foliaceus), and common watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum). The tufa also contains Chara.
Green algae thought to be the closest non-vascular relative of green land plants. Atlin Warm Springs Creek, which flows through the tufa deposit, also contains lake chub and toads. The lake chub are distinct physiologically in that they are less able to tolerate cold water than other lake chubs that have been tested from Liard Hotsprings and Green Lake. This likely results from the near-uniform water temperature in Atlin Warm Springs year-round (Dr. Eric Taylor, UBC, pers. comm.). These differences warrant the protection of the lake chub and their habitat (McPhail 2007). Overall, the physical tufa formation, plant species, plant communities, and fish species make this area unique in the study area and provincially important.
photo by @Kelsey Fraser
There are some unexpected things in the water at the warm springs at Atlin, B.C. — thousands of tiny red shrimp.
And their numbers keep growing
It is a species that shouldn’t be in the Atlin warm springs or in North America.
Locals discovered the species this spring. The Taku River Tlingit First Nation sent the shrimp to the Royal B.C. Museum.
They soon found out the strange little creatures are known as cherry shrimp, and are native to China and Taiwan.
And Mark Connor, fisheries coordinator for the First Nation, says members also found evidence to suggest they didn’t reach the springs by accident. Blue gravel found in the water suggests they were dumped there by someone who no longer wanted them.
“[The shrimp] are fairly common in the aquarium trade as a ornamental species because they are bright red and they can survive,” he said. “They have a pretty high tolerance to varying water quality, and temperature.”
Connor is concerned the shrimp could make their way out of the warm springs and into Atlin Lake.
Cherry shrimp are omnivores that can live for one to two years. At 15 to 30 mm long, they have 20 to 30 eggs, which take two to three weeks to hatch.
Not the first invasive species
Connor says the First Nation discovered another invasive species in the springs several years ago — goldfish, which he also suspects came from someone’s aquarium.
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