Cowichan River is located in the Cowichan Valley on the southern
part of Vancouver Island. Cowichan River starts at the community
Cowichan and flows 47 km (29 miles) through Duncan
and empties into the ocean at Cowichan
The river's history dates back to when the Hul'qumi'num First Nations
lived along the river bank and used it as a food resource. The bountiful
fish catch was ever present and, with the vast forests, provided
the Cowichan tribes' existence for thousands of years.
Later with the European settlement in the late 1880's, the river
was used as a major conduit for transporting logs to the mills downstream.
In 1924, the CNR was built mainly on the south side of the river
with the CPR E&N Railway on the north side. Both railways delivered
the enormous forest wealth found along the Cowichan River to the
mills in Duncan and port facilities at Cowichan Bay.
Today there is still a strong Hul'qumi'num First Nations presence
along the river with reserves and land set aside for preservation
near Skutz Falls at Skutz No. 7 and Skutz No. 8, Duncan and Cowichan
Bay. The railway lines have all been torn up with most of the easy
timber available having been logged off. Logging operations have
moved and trucking the logs is now done from Mesachie
Lake, a small community west of Lake Cowichan.
Pools and Swimming Holes
Throughout the entire length of the Cowichan River, there are a
number of fishing pools, white-water kayaking areas, and swimming
holes including numerous mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking
trails that are used by outdoor enthusiasts. Some popular areas
include the start of the river in Lake Cowichan towards Little Beach
and the areas along the Cowichan River Provincial Park.
River Provincial Park
This popular spot is located approximately 25 km (16 miles) west
of Duncan along Skutz Falls Road. The park is comprised of a number
of sections along a 27 km (17 mile) corridor beside Cowichan River.
The easiest way to access Cowichan
River Provincial Park is from Hwy 1 and to take the Hwy 18 exit
for Lake Cowichan and travel west to the posted signs.
There are also a large number of recreational opportunities in the
park including the very popular summertime pastime of tubing and
swimming on the river. The tube, especially from Skutz Falls to
Marie Canyon, a 2.5 km trip taking from between 2-3 hours depending
on water flow, is absolutely incredible. Cowichan River Provincial
Park also offers the visitor two separate campgrounds, one at Stoltz
Pools and the other at Skutz Falls.
During the summer, depending on the release of the warm top layer
of water from Cowichan Lake at the weir in Lake Cowichan, determines
the speed of your float. There are several areas downstream on the
river that are recommended for safe passage and others that have
proven to be quite dangerous with injuries and fatalities taking
for Danger Signs
Please obey posted signs especially for Pullout Areas and, if new
to the river, check for information regarding hazardous water conditions,
there have been fatalities in the past. This is particularly important
when tubing or passing through Marie Canyon in the Cowichan River
Cowichan River has a long history of being one of British Columbia's
best fishing rivers and has been declared a 'Provincial Heritage
River.' The best angling, especially fly-fishing, is found during
the colder months with species found including Cutthroat, Rainbow
and Brown Trout plus Coho, Chinook, Chum and Steelhead Salmon.
To access some of the fishing spots you will have to walk along
the Trans-Canada Trail or the Cowichan River Footpath. The Cowichan
River Footpath or trail starts in Glenora near the Holt Creek Trestle
and north for 20 km (13.5 miles) to Skutz Falls. The trail meanders
along the river taking you past several deep pools paralleling the
The Trans-Canada Trail comes from the Kinsol Trestle along the CNR
right-of-way also to the Holt Creek Trestle. With funding from the
Spirit of 2010 legacy, several rail trestles have now been restored
taking you on the Trans-Canada Trail alongside of the Cowichan River
through Cowichan River Provincial Park to the community of Lake
There are numerous guides and eco-tourism operators that operate
through the length of the river offering fly-fishing, kayaking and
tubing opportunities. If you require first-hand knowledge of accessing
more private pools, these operators are well worth it with their
proven and valuable first-hand knowledge of the Cowichan River.
Pool Regional Park
Going south between the southern end of Cowichan River Provincial
Park and Duncan, there are also a number of areas but, unfortunately,
they are either in private hands or have to be accessed by trails
that run the length of the river. There is, though, Sandy Pool Regional
located on River Bottom Road. Sandy Pool has a sandy beach, access
to Cowichan River with a boat launch and trails to some absolutely
massive Cottonwood Trees.
Access to Cowichan River
Other Communities where you'll find great fishing, swimming, hiking
and fishing along the Cowichan River include Lake Cowichan - near
the weir, the 'Duck Pond' and Little Beach on Greendale Road, Duncan
near the bridge on Hwy 1 with trails leading towards McAdam Park
and bird watching opportunities near Cowichan Bay.
on Cowichan River