Hill 60

Traveling between Lake Cowichan and Duncan many of us are aware of Hill 60 , a distinct landmark where a manganese mine was once situated.

How did Hill 60 get its name?

One might well ask. In 1914 and 1915, during World War I, Canadian soldiers in Belgium distinguished themselves in the Battles of Ypress, part of Flanders Field, despite heavy casualties. One particular noteworthy engagement was the taking and holding of Hill 60. Cowichan residents were so proud of the bravery and achievement of the Canadians that they named the local mountain Hill 60.

In 1917 the government of Canada Munitions Board declared a little known mineral, manganese, of strategic importance in the making of munitions and steel. It was the following year, in the summer of 1918, that Merlin Douglas and Thomas Service discovered manganese deposits on the 2,000 foot level on Hill 60. With C.H. Dickie and T.A. Wood as partners, they acquired a lease from the C.P.R. which had purchased the E & N Railway in l905 and formed the B.C. Manganese Co. Three claims were staked on Hill 60 which became productive.

A four mile wagon road was built from the mine to an ore bunker at Charter Siding, the federal government paying half the cost. The campsite was established with a cookhouse and bunkhouse for the workers. The first shipment from the open pit mine was shipped to Bilrow Alloy Co. in Tacoma, Washington. It consisted of 530 ton of ore, averaging 5% manganese and 19% silica. During 1919 and 1920 a total of 1,117 tons of ore was shipped to Tacoma for the manufacture into ferro-manganese steel. There was a great demand, so much so that in the winter of 1919-20 an aerial tramway was built on the mountainside from the mine to the bunkers along the railway line below. However the flurry of activity didn’t last long. Little interest was taken in any of the deposits when the post war depression hit and the demand for manganese dropped. According to the records of the B.C. Department of Mines no ore was shipped after 1920.

It wasn’t until 1938 when the Crown granted claims of Hill 60, which had reverted to the Crown, were acquired by W.R. Wylie of Vancouver. A year later, in 1939, ten young men, trainees of the Dominion Provincial Mining Training Project cleaned out and extended trenches on the known veins and found several others which they explored by trenching and stripping. Since then there has been no further mining.

In 1954 none of the deposits was staked. Rock hounds discovered the abandoned open pit mine as a source for rhodonite, the pink rock prized as gem quality for jewelry and much in demand. Re-staked and mined by a private enterprise interested in rhodonite, the area was mined out but in adjacent claims the gem rock is still found.

Although its history was brief, Hill 60 remains a landmark.

Stoker/Simpson Estate

Dr. Richard Stoker and his wife Susan first arrived at the lake at the turn of the century and found a valley rich in wildflowers. They had lived in India, where Dr. Stoker was a Lt. Col. in the Indian Army. It was there that they developed their love of flowers and plants.

As amateur botanists, Mr. Stoker collected native botanical plants from Asia and Mrs. Stoker propagated and cataloged them. She also did water colour paintings. Their house and 25 acres of land sat on Marble Bay, across from Honeymoon Bay.

The Stokers built their garden behind the house with the help of Chinese workmen. It was a subtle blending of all types of foliage and bloom. Vegetables, herbs, berries, and tree fruits supplies the kitchen. Rhododendrons flourished and a natural hollow filled with piped-in lake water provided an appropriate environment for native water-loving plants. Surrounding this was heather and a small formal garden filled with tulips and lily of the valley. Pathways climbed through a series of terraces that held native plants.

Mr. George Buchanan Simpson and his wife Jeanne Suzeanne (Susie) first came to the lake in 1912 and camped in the area, living in tents and houseboats. In 1924 they bought a parcel of land from Dr. Stoker. From 1921 to 1927 Mr. Simpson was game warden for the lake area, with a special assignment to look after the Shaw Creek Game Reserve. Both of them had a keen interest in the area and carved out a beautiful garden. It blended wild with the cultivated. Shrubs and flowers from every part of the world nestled beside native alpine and rock plants. South American vines and wild geraniums intermingled.

During the 1920’s and early 30’s the Simpsons had helped the Stokers develop their gardens. In 1931 Dr. Stoker died and Mrs. Stoker, disgusted with the devastation made by the logging companies, left the lake. In time the Simpsons bought the Stoker Estate, which had been neglected by it’­s new owners and worked at restoring it. Over the next 20 years the garden grew to 350 plants, including 200 varieties of rhododendrons, many of them species.

Mr. Simpson died in 1958 and his wife continued to live on the estate. In 1966 she realized that she could no longer care for her gardens. She offered the estate to the University of Victoria, with some very strict regulations. She would be allowed to live there as long as she was able. She demanded that she receive no publicity and stipulated that the property be used as a ground unit for scientific observation and study. She arranged for the bulk of the exotic plants to be moved to the grounds of the university. Mrs. Simpson died in 1973 at the age of 87.

In 1976 the official opening of the Jeanne S. Simpson Field Studies Resource Centre of the University of Victoria at Lake Cowichan occurred.

-Courtesy of Kaatza Station Museum and Archives

Lake Cowichan – History

The town of Lake Cowichan, BC, is located 31 kilometers west of Duncan at the beginning of the Cowichan River at Cowichan Lake. Cowichan Lake is one of the largest bodies of fresh water on Vancouver Island. The Town was incorporated on August 19, 1944 and this is its history from early settlement to the present.

Early Settlement

Before the arrival of the Europeans to the region Cowichan Lake seems to have been left largely untouched by local Native tribes other than for hunting and fishing. The two surveys of the region ordered by Governor Douglas in Victoria only mention one long deserted village at Skutz Falls. Small groups had apparently set up camps and hunted in the region but had more or less left before these surveys took place.

Cowichan Lake’s settlement history begins in about 1883 with the arrival of William Forest to Cowichan Bay. In 1884, he and James Tolmie (older brother of a later premier of British Columbia) toured the lake with the help of the native Ikilass brothers. Mr. Forest impressed by, “the most beautiful spot he had ever seen”, later lobbied the premier for a road to the lake. The premier decided that if ten to twelve settlers were to move to the lake then a road would be built. Mr. Forest assured the premier this would not be a problem and thus was authorized to build a road.

Thanks to Mr. Forest’s efforts a rough road was finished to the head of the Cowichan River in 1886 and settlement began. A fair number settlers, sensing the value of being at the gateway to the Cowichan Lake region, built their homes at the end of the road. This settlement is what became the Town of Lake Cowichan. Those that chose to settle on land grants or cut timber further up the lake passed through this settlement and then reached their destination by boat. Most permanent residents at this time came for the area’s farming, hunting and logging opportunities. Logging quickly became the major economic power in the region. The combination of Cowichan Lake and the Cowichan River provided an attractive way to log. Loggers simply cut the timber around the lake and floated the logs out down the Cowichan River to Cowichan Bay where they could be collected and shipped away.

The original Riverside Inn was built around 1886 as well as the Lakeside Hotel in 1893, which catered to tourists. Settlers slowly came to the region but by 1905 disastrous log runs down the Cowichan River and a slowdown in wood demand had curtailed logging opperations.

Railroads and Wars

Rumors of a railroad to Cowichan Lake began in 1906 and things began to pick up again. The bridge at McCallum’s Landing was built in 1909 and stood till 1924 when it was condemned. Today, the weir next to Saywell Park occupies its location. The only sport fish hatchery in Canada at the time was officially opened in 1911 next to the Riverside Inn. Under the supervision of John Castley the hatchery was utilized to raise local trout, steelhead, Atlantic salmon and eastern trout. By 1910 the building of the railway was assured so a survey was conducted to lay out lots and roads for a town on the south side of the river. This plan was titled “The Townsite of Riverside.” A year after, a survey of the northern side of the river resulted in the “Riverside Park Subdivision.” Incredibly, both these surveys are more or less the present day town of Lake Cowichan.

In February 1912, the E & N railway reached Cowichan Lake and a logging boom began. The community at the start of the Cowichan River now had a railway terminus, hotel, government fish hatchery and its own mail service. Also, the C.N.R. in 1913 began work on its own railroad to the lake.

1914 came and brought the 1rst World War with it. The logging industry suffered a severe downturn with the disruption of the markets by the war. Begin rather isolated, the effects of the war were somewhat minimized but many of the area’s young men left to fight and never came back. The Beech Hall was built and held its first dance in 1914 and on April 1, 1915 the first telephone was installed. The first wedding took place at the Riverside Inn on July 1 of the same year. In late 1916, the first of many traffic bridges (located where the modern bridge is) was constructed next to the Riverside Inn.

1917 saw the logging industry reactivate and begin a boom. The population around Cowichan Lake increased steadily and things continued to improve throughout the twenties. Large lumber companies used the E & N railway and the newly completed in 1921 C.N.R railway to transport the wood from the lake. These companies required large work forces to harvest the timber so extensive self-contained camps were built around Cowichan Lake. Some of these camps disappeared and others like Caycuse (Camp 3) still exist today.

The Great Depression of 1929 wiped out most of the lumber market but the region survived. The Lake Cowichan Community Club formed in the same year and on March 7, 1931 opened a community hall, which operated for 30 years. On that same date, Premier Tolmie opened a new bridge next to the Riverside Inn to replace the first one built in 1916.

The worst flood in the history of the town marked the New Year in 1935. Boats were required to go down several streets and water flooded the school basement. Electricity came to the lake people at the end of 1936 when Stanley Gordon installed a light plant on a mountain stream and hooked up 40 homes and businesses. Two private water systems were providing fresh water to homes at the time. The school board decided demand was high enough to start a high school and classes began the following year. In 1937, the hatcheries long time manager, John Castley, was replaced and the hatchery was put under the direction of the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo. The hatchery’s operation basically ceased in 1940 and its land eventually became Central Park in downtown Lake Cowichan. The 2nd World War broke out in September 1939 but like the previous one its effects were minimal on the community as a whole.


In 1943 the idea of incorporating the village at the foot of the lake took hold and after most objections had been dealt with it went ahead. The community at the head of the Cowichan River became the Village of Lake Cowichan on August 19, 1944 with 660 people in its borders. The village council inherited many problems. Buying all three local water systems and increasing the size of the dam on Stanley Creek solved the problem of adequate drinking water. Later councils would buy a new pumping station to use Cowichan Lake to supply the water. Over many years the inadequate street lights, sidewalks, paving, garbage removal and other problems were slowly dealt with.

The R.C.M.P. took over policing duties from the Provincial Police in 1950. In 1951 the traffic bridge next to the Riverside Inn collapsed after a truck had crossed over it. A makeshift bridge was made out of the C.P.R. railway bridge by planking it and work began on the bridge that still spans the river in Lake Cowichan. The B.C.F.P. built in 1956 a weir across the river to ensure a constant flow of water for their crofton mill. It has been raised several times since to increase the size of the reservoir.

Today, all of the railways that provided easy transport of lumber to market are gone. It is estimated that in 34 years of operation the E & N railway hauled 400,000 cars of lumber away. Gone are the mills that cut the trees felled in the local woods into lumber. Thus, all the historical reasons for Lake Cowichan’s growth as the entrance and exit to the lake area are gone. This does not spell an end of Lake Cowichan, however, as tourism is fast becoming how area residents make a living. Now, a significant number of people going on to Gordon Bay, the Caramanah Walbran, and other great camping and hiking spots come through and stop in Lake Cowichan. This continues the tradition of Lake Cowichan being the gateway to Cowichan Lake and beyond.

Written by Matthew Bystedt


Back to The Town of Lake Cowichan

Honeymoon Bay Info

General Information

Honeymoon Bay is a quaint little town on Cowichan Lake. Most of the town’s buildings were built by the Western Forest Industries (WFI) to house and entertain the workers at its mill. This mill burned on July 3, 1948 but was quickly rebuilt. The mill permanently closed its doors in 1981 leaving most of the towns residents unemployed. Some people stayed but most left to seek employment elsewhere which forced the community to make a large transition. Today, the rows of company houses, which have been well maintained, create a picturesque ambience.

To get here from Highway 1 turn onto Highway 18 north of Duncan and travel 26 km west to the Town of Lake Cowichan. Honeymoon Bay is located on South Shore Road 20 minutes west of the Town of Lake Cowichan.

Features of the Village

The village is cut in half by a park that runs from the lake shore through to the elementary school. This park has a basketball court, jungle gym, a large grassy area, the community hall, picnic tables and parking right at the lake. The park has a beautiful view of Bald Mountain as well as west and east down the lake. One of Honeymoon Bay’s RV campsites is located across the road at the beach. Much like Mesachie Lake’s heritage trees the town has a collection of labeled trees in this park.

The community hall, which was built in February of 1948 by WFI, deserves a special note as it has six large murals inside. These were painted a well-known Victoria artist George Jenkins in 1952. Each is a window back into the past of the region with scenes of logging and wildlife.

The western side of Honeymoon Bay features a nice restaurant and pub called the Honeypot. Modern housing developments are located on this side as well. Farther along South Shore Road is the Sutton Creek Wild Flower Reserve and March Meadows Golf Course.

With an average summer maximum temperature of over 24C, the highest in Canada, Honeymoon Bay is very hot place to visit.

Places to go from here

If you leave west along South Shore road the road divides with the lakeside fork going to Gordon Bay and the other out to Caycuse and eventually to the western end of the lake. There you can go to Heather Campsite and go hiking up Heather Mountain. At the western end of Cowichan Lake, you can also take North Shore Road back to Youbou or proceed to Nitinat Lake or to Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park.

Check out the map section for more information about the roads and activities west of Honeymoon Bay.

Return to Honeymoon Bay’s History

Mesachie Lake Town Info

General Information

In early 1940s, the Hillcrest Lumber Company faced a serious problem. It had cut all the trees in the area around Sahtlam and needed a new location for its mill. In the spring of 1942 Mesachie Lake was born when the Hillcrest Lumber Company moved its mill and company houses to the shore of Cowichan Lake. In August 6, 1968 the mill closed because of a dwindling timber supply and then burned in 1970.

Today, despite doom and gloom reports that Mesachie Lake village would disappear when the mill closed the community continues to thrive. Mesachie Lake is approxiamately 10 minutes drive west of the Town of Lake Cowichan on South Shore Road. A 10 minute drive in the opposite direction will get you to Honeymoon Bay.

The rows of quaint company built houses, tree lined roads, mountain backdrop and lake access make Mesachie Lake a fine little village. Mesachie Lake also has a baseball diamond right on South Shore Road with a nice playground next to it.

Points of Interest


Mesachie Lake Firefighters

Mesachie Lake Fire TruckThe Mesachie Lake Firefighters are stationed in a small building in the village. The firehall still uses the original 1946 International fire truck that was bought soon after the Hillcrest Lumber Company moved to Mesachie Lake. Since 1979, the annual Firemen’s Softball Tournament has been hosted by the Mesachie Lake firefighters in late June at the baseball diamond in Mesachie. This event was originally created to raise money for the firehall but now all proceeds are donated to Muscular Dystrophy research.

Forest Research Station

Established in 1929 by the BC Forest Service, the Cowichan Lake Experimental Station has become renown for its work in forest genetics and tree physiology. The site was chosen for its close proximity to Bald Mountain lookout tower and the presence of a considerable acreage of 20 year old “fine, thrifty Douglas fir.” More Information

Heritage Trees

During the early years of the community fruit trees were distributed to residents in 1944 by the Hillcrest Lumber Company. The company continued this policy of providing fruit trees to all new buildings for quite some time. Today, they line the streets of Mesachie and are recognized as an important heritage landmark of the community. Plaques have been erected to label the trees.

Return to – Mesachie’s History

Lady of the Lake

Cowichan Lake Days was first held on Labour Day in 1943, 54 years ago. It began as a picnic for the area’s children. Members of the Lake Cowichan IWA local organized the event and canvassed residents to help pay for food and prizes. The event was held in the field where the Smith Block is now located.

In 1944 a decorated bike competition was added and over the next few years logger sports were introduced. The first parade was held in 1945 and the first Lady of the Lake, Dolores Traer, was selected. The winner was not really selected, but was the contestant who sold the most tickets to the event. She was given the title of ‘Lumber Queen’.

Lake Days soon outgrew the field and was moved to the old school grounds (Lisa’s Fit Stop) to make use of the old Community Hall. In 1958 there appeared in the Lake News an ad asking for 50 men to complete the Centennial Park in time for that year’s Centennial celebration. They obviously found their volunteers and the work was completed. The event has been held at the park ever since.

In 1959 the Kiwanis Club received a franchise to participate in the PNE contest. In 1979 the first Lady of the Lake Ball was held at the Riverside Inn. The Lake Days Society was formed in 1987, the same year that the Boom Chain Toss was introduced. The 1st annual 10K run and the ultramarathon were first held in 1989.

Lake Days has seen many changes over the years. It has certainly seen every kind of weather known to man, from gale force winds to brilliant sunshine and more than its share of rain.

Previous Winners

1945 Dolores Traer
1946 Delphine Williams
1947 Ruby Tasa
1948 Majorie Turner
1949 Carol Lipstack
1950 Gurdev Dley
1951 Shirley MacKenzie
1952 Doreen Towle
1953 Dorothy Peacock
1954 Irene Westwick
1955 Heather MacDonald
1956 Arlene Johnson
1957 Karen Ross
1958 Shirley Woodward
1959 Sharon Kidds
1960 Grace-Ann Malone
1961 Lois Weismiller
1962 Linda Neil
1963 Joanne Akiyama
1964 Linda Davies
1965 Susan Hildebrant
1965 Suzanne Castley
1966 Kirstin Palsson
1967 Sharon Berar
1968 Marilyn Nelson
1969 Julie Vanyo
1969 Marlene Denniger
1970 Susan Neva
1971 June Viczko
1972 Lynn Morrow
1973 Cathy Lamb
1974 Maureen Long
1975 Janet Peterson
1976 Shelly Scott
1977 Kelly Peterson
1978 Susan Hajdu
1979 Carla St. Cyr
1980 Pinder Rai
1981 Lisa Calleberg
1982 Cindy Thorpe
1983 Denise Carpentier
1984 Kim Baird
1985 Michele Peterson
1986 Robin Tapley
1987 Kirsten Nimmo
1988 Jolene Cook
1989 Julia Turner
1990 Connie Basso
1991 Selena Gough
1992 Rachel Hoole
1993 Nicole Bonenfant
1994 Bridget Walshe
1995 Brannon Nelson
1996 Shelby Sanders
1997 Paula Sohye
1998 Michelle Hartshorn
1999 Kristal McQuinn
2000 Tannis Wylie
2001 Masika Allan
2002 Tiffany Mailloux
2003 Amanda Nijar
2004 Jocelyn Lundberg
2005 Carli Feltrin
2006 Cassie Bell
2007 Jackie Johnson
2008 Randi Lundberg
2009 Sydney Rabey
2010 Bryanne Kitagawa
2011 Jorden Matson
2012 Alicia Fall
2013 Megan Berry
2014 Lauren Frost
2015 Crystal Bell
2016 Chailyn Vensel
2017 Desiree Karlsen
2018 Keely MacDonald
2019 Program in Hiatus

Mt Bolduc Plane Crash

(The following story is taken from the Cowichan Leader, dated May 1, 1944)

Bomber Plane Crash Kills Six Airmen on Lake Cowichan Peak

Six R.C.A.F. flyers were given a last resting place at the top of rugged peaks in mountains near Cowichan Lake where their plane crashed killing them all last Wednesday. They were on a navigational flight from a Vancouver Island Base.

On Tuesday, while two R.C.A.F. Padres read the burial service, comrades of the dead men reverently erected a cairn of stones over the bodies and left them to their last sleep.

The dead airmen are: FO Ambrose Moynagh, Souris, P.E.I; PO John E. Moyer, St. Catherines, Ont.; Sgt. Harry Maki, Sudbury,Ont.; WO1 Brinsley Palmer, Saskatoon, Sask., WO2 Lawrence Kerr, Millet, Alta.; LAC Murray Robertson, Patricia Bay, B.C.

Search for the missing plane and its crew was one of the most intensive carried out in this district. It was marked by the daring of those who searched from the air and by the hardihood of loggers from Lake Logging Company at Rounds, who risked death or serious injury in scaling the rugged mountain wall on Saturday and Sunday to reach the 3,500 foot peak where the aircraft crahed. An unusual feature of the search was the part played in it by a United States Navy dirigible ballon from an Oregon coast station.

Wide Search
Airplane search over a wide area began last Wednesday night when the plane failed to return to its base. Planes from Vancouver Island and northern Washington stations flew over many districts.

On the following day Mr. David Beech, skidder engineer, and Mr. J.G. Pappenberger, head loader, working on Lake Logging Co. operations, saw smoke arising from a mountain top approximately five miles southeast of Rounds. They notified the B.C. Police, who in turn notified the Aircraft Detection Corps. Immediately FO Godwin, R.C.A.F., flew in by sea-plane with a party of Air Force men.

The next morning, Friday, the flyers left their base at Honeymoon Bay and, accompanied by two guides furnished by the Lake Logging Co., climbed the mountain where it was believed the smoke had been seen. They found nothing so returned to their base.

That night FO Heaslip landed a sea-plane on Cowichan Lake and after receiving directions as to location of the smoke made a short search. He thought he had located a burned area on a mountain top but had to give up his search owing to darkness.

On Saturday, with Const. Andrew Grant, B.C. Police, and a wireless operator, he set out again in spite of extremely bad flying conditions, which were so bad that the wireless man became airsick.

Eventually the searchers spotted a swath cut through the timber at the top of a peak. It was about 200 feet in length. Risking disaster by striking tree tops the pilot followed this swath and on the top of another peak, one quarter of a mile away, he and his companions could make out the wreckage of a plane.

The party returned to Honeymoon Bay and made a report. FO Heaslip went on to Vancouver and came back the following morning. On Saturday night another plane, with a number of R.C.A.F. personnel, with equipment arrived at Honeymoon Bay.

On Sunday morning the airmen and 20 loggers set out for the mountain top where the wreckage was seen. Shortly afterwards a United States Navy “blimp” appeared over Lake Cowichan. FO Heaslip met it in the air and talked by radio with its pilot. He then led the balloon to the scene of the wreck, where the balloon hovered and dropped marker balloons.

The ground searchers arrived at a steep and almost perpendicular face below the mountain top. A party led by Mr. William Crapo and composed of Messrs William Green, Arthur Wayment, Peter Kachnia and Raymond LeFleur, all Lake Logging Co. employees, set out to scale this face, often clinging like flies to the steep cliff. At 12:15 noon they reached the summit to be met by a ghastly sight.

The wreckage of the big plane was still hot and smouldering. Bodies of two of the crew were found 30 feet in front of the demolished fuselage. Another body was found at one side and two more were discovered in the wreckage.; Later a sixth body was found to one side and 50 ft. distant. All must have died instantly.

After making a full investigation, Mr. Crapo and his men made the difficult descent to where the rest of the party awaited them and reported in detail. The party then returned to their separate bases at Rounds and Honeymoon Bay.

On Monday R.C.A.F. personnel, travelling by an easier but much longer route, went to the scene of the crash for further investigation which resulted in the decision that it would be practically impossible to remove the bodies for burial. It was then decided to inter them beneath a cairn at the mountain top.

Dr. Joseph Tassin, acting as coronerís physician for Col. J.H. Boyd, coroner, Lake Cowichan, examined the bodies. Following the burial service on Tuesday, the coroner held an inquiry at Rounds and declared that death of the flyers was accidental.

Operations of the R.C.A.F. at the scene of the crash after discovery of the wreckage on Saturday were directed by Wing-Cmdr. McNee. R.C.A.F.

Few Cowichan residents noted the arrival of the U.S. Navy dirigible in the district but on its return journey, about 1 p.m. Sunday, it attracted great interest and aroused much conjecture as to the reason for its appearance over Canadian territory. Few connected it with the search for the missing plane.

Webmaster Notes:
Not mentioned in the article was the name of the mountain. It is known as Mt. Bolduc.

Lake Cowichan – Surveys of the Region

(This account was adapted from a research report written by Ron Smith)
Because of the abundant fish resources and the importance of local plants, the native Indians, the Cowichans (Coast Salish), Nitinahts (Nootka) and Pacheenats, made extensive use of this area. Major fishing sites were located at nearly all the falls along the Cowichan River.

The large settlement areas for the Cowichan people were in the lower reaches of the river and they made annual trips to the meeting places of the other tribes. Similarly, the Nitinaht people living along the southern coast of Vancouver Island from Jordan River to Pachena Point and inland along Nitinat Lake also used the upper reaches of the Nitinat River and Cowichan Lake as their major fishing area. There was quite likely some trading between the Cowichans and Nitinahts in the Cowichan Lake area.

In September 1857, the first authentic record of white men at Cowichan Lake was made by an exploratory party led by, crown surveyor, J. Despard Pemberton. Sent by Governor Douglas, their purpose was to make a rough survey from Cowichan Bay to Nitnat covering things like natural resources, nature of the terrain, natives and areas suitable for settlement.

They landed at Cowichan Bay and set out up the river to Cowichan Lake and from there to the Nitinat. Mr. Pemberton reported his trip as exceedingly interesting. He comments on the excellence of timber and particularly mentions the abundance of game: elk, deer, grouse and fish. His report was given in November 12, 1857 at Victoria and is in part as follows:

“In the valleys Douglas pines twenty-three feet to twenty-eight feet in circumference are not uncommon. Indians occasionally hunt and fish on the border of the large lake and the stumps of huge cedars cut down at its Western extremity show that they once manufactured their largest canoes there.”

After Mr. Pemberton, the next official record is Robert Brown’s expedition which left Victoria on June 7, 1864 aboard Her Majesty’s Gunboat Grappler. His report was much more detailed and reliable. He went up the Cowichan River, to the lake known as “Kaatza”, Brown recorded the following:

The lake at the head of the river is about half a mile wide gradually enlarging to two, three, five, and ten miles. I should say it is about 50 miles long. We proceeded to the extreme ends, keeping the northern shore, and found three large rivers. All these rivers sink down at some distance from the mouth. I suppose I walked three miles up the bed of one before I came to running water. In the lake are several islands. The land on either side is very high and heavily timbered. The country around teems with elk, deer, bears and racoons. The lake is full of salmon and ducks. There are also land otters-two of which were killed by the Indians during our stay. The lake must be nearly 2,000 feet above the level of the sea and I think a road to Victoria could be made not to exceed 50 miles in length.”

“On the 15th June we found the forest getting thicker, a sign that we were nearing the lake; and later the same day we camped by its placid waters. One cedar near this spot measured thirty-five feet in circumference at the height of five feet from the ground. In this country very valuable timber is necessarily useless at the present time, from the fact that in most cases there are no available means of transport to the coast, the rivers usually being tortuous, and blocked at intervals by accumulations of driftwood.”

After finishing exploring Cowichan Lake on June 23rd 1864, Brown’s party divided, one going southwest toward Port San Juan overland while he and four others struck out for the “Nitinaht River” which they ascended by raft, then on to the coast. At “Whyack” the fortified Nitinaht village, they met up with the local inhabitants who transported them down the coast to Port San Juan.

Gateway to Cowichan Lake - 1910It would be another twenty-one years, 1885, before a road ten feet wide began to wind its way from Sahtlam toward the lake. Completed in the following year, it opened the area to settlement and a number of individuals began to preempt parcels around the shore of the lake. One of the earliest, Charles Green, settled at the “Foot of the Lake” commencing to build the first very small Riverside Hotel in 1885.

While the initial intent of settlers was farming, it became very evident from the beginning that this economic endeavour would be of minor importance. The real wealth would not be in tilling the soil, but cutting the forest: The excellent stands of Douglas fir, hemlock and massive red cedars. Thus the agricultural aspects of the area remained small and today have all but disappeared. Communities as they now exist such as Youbou, Honeymoon Bay and Lake Cowichan were developing around lumbering activities. Initially they were lumbering camps, although Lake Cowichan, being more strategically located, did begin to attract a number of commercial enterprises.

Travel in the area remained almost exclusively by water in the early years. It was not until 1900, for example, that a trail was built from Honeymoon Bay to the “settlement at the foot.”

A second hotel, The Lakeside, was constructed in 1893 and soon became popular for fishermen and hunters as well as other travelers to the area. Over the next quarter century, the area became renowned as a sportsman’s paradise and people from all around the world began arriving to hunt elk, deer, grouse and ducks or to fish for salmon, trout and steelhead.

Logging actually preceded the arrival of the first settlers with William Sutton acquiring the first timber lease in 1879. This consisted of 7,069 acres with the logs going down the Cowichan River to their mill at Genoa Bay. In 1887 the Sutton interest were bought out by Hewitt and McIntyre and in turn were acquired by Mossom Boyd in 1897 to form the Cowichan Lumber Company.

E&N reaches Cowichan LakeA second firm, Victoria Lumber and Manfuacturing Company (VL&M), incorporated in 1889, also began logging in the area and between them “controlled the lumber industry at the lake.”

The arrival of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway (E&N) in 1913 marked the end of the initial phase of development. Now, not only was travel to the outside much easier but also the delivery of the logs to the coast considerably more reliable than the drives down the Cowichan River each fall. The railway extension was initiated after a large tract of the E&N land grant, some 54,000 acres, was sold to American interests that formed the Empire Lumber Company and set up operations in the Cottonwood Creek area (near Youbou), on the north side of the lake. At the same time, VL&M expanded their operations to take advantage of the railway.

After a period of sagging markets between 1913 and 1915, the industry started to pick up with new logging camps being established around the lake. By 1920 C.C. Yount’s Medina Lumber Company was milling at Cottonwood and soon a community began to be established.


Friendship Park Fisheries Trail
Friendship Park Fisheries Trail is a wooded trail that is located opposite the Payless gas station on South Shore Road in Lake Cowichan. The path winds along a small creek past Palsson elementary. There are several bridges and benches. Friendship park is dedicated to the people of the twin city of Lake Cowichan, Ohtaki, Japan. The park was made possible by the cooperative efforts of many different local organizations. Every year an exchange program is held and a delegation of area students and teachers visits Ohtaki.
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Friendship Park

Friendship Park

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Central Park

Central Park

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Central Park
The Kiwanis Club sponsors Central Park alongside the river in downtown Lake Cowichan on South Shore road. There is a fountain, picnic tables, outdoor stage, and washroom facilities. The park has a nice green field and a row of fir trees next to the river which provide shade to the picnic tables. The fountain is in honour of Dr. William Carpentier who grew up in Lake Cowichan and was a physician to the astronauts of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. Lake Cowichan’s war memorial is located beside the stage. Lastly, a blue heron sculpture perches on a stump and watches the river flow by in the park.

Sponsored by the Kinsmen Club, “The duck pond” is located on Park Road off North Shore Road in Lake Cowichan. Here you can talk a relaxing dip into the Cowichan River just after it leaves Cowichan Lake. There are floating docks for swimmers, picnic tables, benches and a playground. There are no lifeguards on duty but the river flows quite slowly past the swimming area and is fairly shallow. The bridge in the park will take you into downtown Lake Cowichan. The year 2000 grad tree, a golden deodar cedar (native to the Himalayas), is on the opposite bank in Lake Cowichan as well.

Saywell Park
Located at the “foot of the lake” where the Cowichan River begins, next to the tourist information booth in downtown Lake Cowichan on South Shore Road. There is lots of parking, public washrooms and picnic facilities. The Kaatza Station Museum is in the park as well and offers a look back into the history of the region. The park is named after Vera and Jack Saywell. Jack Saywell was a high school principal from 1937-64. His wife, Vera, was a kindergarten teacher. A plaque under the park’s sign commemorates both their efforts in educating area youth.

Trans Canada Trail
The Trans Canada Trail passes through Lake Cowichan on its route between Nanaimo and Victoria. This section is fairly easy hiking as it runs along abandoned railway lines whose tracks have been removed and trestles have been converted to bridges. Going east the trail runs parallel to the Cowichan River to Duncan and then north to Nanaimo. South it goes west of the Malahat Range to Sooke and then onto Victoria, BC. More information on this section of the trail is available on the BC Trans Canada Trail Homepage.

Gordon Bay Provincial Park

Gordon Bay Provincial ParkFrom Highway 1, turn onto Highway 18 north of Duncan and travel 26 km west to the Town of Lake Cowichan. Gordon Bay Park is located 14 km west of Lake Cowichan (2.5 km west of Honeymoon Bay) on Walton Road which splits off of South Shore Road just before the park.

This 49 hectare provincial park of second-growth Douglas fir forest is in one of Vancouver Islandís sunniest valleys. Enjoy the sandy beach and small, placid Gordon Bay, named for an early settler who lived on the north shore.

The forest was one of the first on the island to be logged, probably because of the relative ease with which the felled trees could be skidded to the lake and floated to the mills. Look for notched stumps. Springboards were sedged into those notches so the fallers could stand on them and work above the dense shrubbery. Todayís forest floor is covered with the same kinds of shrubs that made such hard work for the fallers: thimble berry, salal and salmonberry. You can also see vanilla leaf, foamflower and bunchberry which grow closer to the ground.

bluejayAs you walk through the forest, look for deer, raccoons and red squirrels. Bird watchers often see juncos, Stellerís jays and chestnut-backed chickadees as well as mergansers and golden eye ducks. Dolly Varden, rainbow and cutthroat trout live in the lake, and chum, coho and spring salmon spawn in the lake and in its tributaries. Steelhead spawn in the Cowichan River.

Gordan Bay is possibly the most popular campsite on Cowichan Lake. The 126-site campground has potable water, picnic areas, an adventure playground, a boat launch, hot showers and more. If you wish to camp here during the summer months it is recommended that you make reservations. Interpertive programs are held during July and August. It is the perfect family camping and picnic spot.

There is a large area along the shore next to the day use area that can be hiked easily. A trail follows the shoreline in the trees or you can hike over the rocks closer to the water. There are several small beaches and nice outlooks onto the lake a few minutes away from the day use area on this trail.

Licenced drivers can use their properly licensed motorcycles, trail bikes and mini-bikes on roads and parking lots only. Please keep the operation of all vehicles to a minimum and watch for children. Speed limit is 10 km per hour.

More information is available on the BC Parks website.

Gordon Bay