The pristine Cowichan Lake District includes the communities of Lake Cowichan, Honeymoon Bay, Youbou and Mesachie Lake. This mountainous area, rich with wildlife, is an ideal destination for outdoor adventure.
Cowichan Lake's settlement history begins in about 1883 with the arrival of William Forest to Cowichan Bay. In 1884, he and James Tolmie toured the lake with the help of the native Ikilass brothers. Forest, impressed by "the most beautiful spot he had ever seen", was able to convince BC's Premier of the day to build a road to the head of the Cowichan River. This was completed in 1886 and settlement began which today is the Town of Lake Cowichan.
Although forestry which was the major industry in this area has declined, tourism is fast becoming of economic importance to the community. Now, a significant number of people travel here and beyond to enjoy Cowichan Lake and experience the stunning Caramanah Walbarn.
Lake Cowichan is located on Highway 18, 28 km (17.5 mi) west of Duncan.
The Kaatza Station Museum and Archives, governed by the Kaatza Historical Society, is housed in a 1913 Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway Station. Its members are dedicated to collecting, conserving, cataloguing, researching, displaying, and interpreting the history of the Cowichan Lake area. The museum and archives place special emphasis on logging, lumber, the railroad, mining and pioneer life. The museum is home to a 1927 Shay locomotive and a 1918 wooden caboose. Visitors will also enjoy the floating boardwalk near the beach.
Cowichan River Provincial Park is situated west of Duncan and east of Lake Cowichan off Hwy 18 and is popular with outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Swimming, canoeing, white-water kayaking, tubing, camping, fishing and hiking are all available. The historic 20 km (12 mi) long Cowichan River Footpath and the restored 66-Mile and Holt Creek Trestles on the Trans-Canada Trail offer spectacular river views. This park protects significant stretches of the Cowichan River, a designated Provincial Heritage River internationally renowned for its wild salmon and steelhead fishery..
Gordon Bay Provincial Park is located on the shores of Lake Cowichan. In the summer the lake is warm and the sandy beach makes for great family swimming. History buffs find plenty to interest them in the park and the surrounding area, which is home to a second-growth Douglas-fir forest. The lake is known for its spectacular fresh-water fishing in the spring, fall and winter, when anglers can be challenged by rainbow, cutthroat and Dolly Varden trout. Waterskiing and windsurfing are also popular activities on the lake. This small wilderness area features a number of walking and hiking trails with unparalleled views. Keen-eyed hikers can spot a variety of wildlife and birds, including juncos, Stellar's jays, chestnut-backed chickadees, mergansers and golden eye ducks. Visit in April when the wildflowers are at their peak.
Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park is a luxuriously forested sanctuary that is without a doubt one of the most remarkable wild places on Vancouver Island. The park offers protection to diverse forest ecosystems, including a large Sitka spruce ecosystem that represents 2% of BC's remaining old-growth forest. The park is also home to ancient, gnarled cedars - estimated to be well over 1,000 years old - clinging to the side hills. Nestled beneath these awe-inspiring trees are millions of mosses and ferns and other varieties of flora and fauna that have possibly remained undisturbed for hundreds of years. Several hiking trails in the Carmanah Valley provide access to many of the park's notable natural features, including some of the area's largest trees.
Lake Cowichan and the surrounding area is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Top activities include hiking, cycling, swimming, fishing, waterskiing, boating, kayaking, jet-skiing and more.
The scenic 75 km (46 mi) drive around Lake Cowichan takes you to several communities - Honeymoon Bay with its Wildlife Reserve, Youbou, Mesachie Lake, known for the 33 varieties of trees planted in the 1940s. Maps are available from the Visitor Centre.
The Cowichan River is renowned for its brown trout, rainbow and steelhead trout, and its vigorous salmon runs of Chinook, coho, and steelhead that school in Cowichan Bay and enter the river to spawn in November and December. There is also a steelhead run in March. Shawnigan Lake, Cowichan Lake and other nearby lakes and rivers are also favourite freshwater fishing spots.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia