The Cowichan River is a nationally and internationally recognized river flowing along the East Coast of Vancouver Island, near Duncan. In the fall of 2000, Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific and United World Colleges Inc. sold a 4.77 acre property along the North bank of the river to TLC, with the intention of seeing this ecologically diverse land permanently protected. TLC placed a conservation covenant on the land to maintain the natural state of the property and the amenities for ecological, educational and environmental purposes. The Province of BC and the Cowichan Community Land Trust co-hold the conservation covenant with the understanding that TLC will incorporate the property into the Cowichan River corridor – a continuous strip of protected property along the length of the river – being put together by BC Parks.
The property contains a rustic log cabin, located in a big leaf maple grove. TLC makes this cabin available as a rental cottage for holidays or for educational groups. The eco-renovation of the cabin is an ongoing project for participants on TLC’s Working Holidays.
The Cowichan River supports a rich variety of biological values that are characteristic of south-eastern Vancouver Island. It is considered one of the most valuable and productive salmon and trout streams on Vancouver Island, supporting a host of species including coho, chinook and chum salmon, steelhead, rainbow and brown trout, resident and anadromous cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden char.
The Maple forest is that surrounds the Cowichan River Cabin property contains a host of unique wetland species, including trillium, hellebore, and tiger lily. In the spring, fawn lilies bloom and create white and pink patches between the sword fern islands.
The Cowichan River watershed provides habitat for an array of wildlife species native to Vancouver Island. Black-tailed deer, black bear and cougar are relatively common, while Roosevelt elk, wolf and wolverine are more rarely seen. Other small mammals include: otter, beaver, marten, mink, weasel, raccoon, red squirrel, bats, shrews and voles. The valley also supports over 200 species of birds, including osprey, bald eagles, ravens, hawks, owls and ducks and the estuary provides important winter habitat for thousands of waterfowl.
Beginning in 1960, there have been conservation efforts and interests by the various levels of government, conservation organizations, foundations and community groups to permanently protect the river corridor and its ecology as well as to ensure that the community and visitors have access to this remarkable river environment. Cultural values also abound for this property and area as the river is homeland of the Cowichan First Nation and was once an important travel and hunting route. The landscape as a whole has continued cultural and spiritual importance for the Cowichan people. The river has also been a focus for later European settlement and industry. The salmon fishery has a long history in the area, as well as agricultural and forestry activities.
The character and integrity of the Cowichan River is directly dependent upon the health of the network of tributaries and the management of natural influences and human activities along the corridor and throughout the watershed. The Cowichan River watershed drains an area of approximately 939 km2 and flows 47km from its headwaters at Cowichan Lake, among the peaks of the Vancouver Island Ranges, through forests and fields to the estuary at Cowichan Bay. Abounding with diversity, the Cowichan River was designated in 1996 as a BC Heritage River and is currently nominated as a Canadian Heritage River. The Cowichan River has received this provincial recognition and commemorative status for its outstanding natural, cultural and recreational heritage values.
The Land Conservancy is working in conjunction with the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection (the Environmental Stewardship Division) and other community partners in order to ensure the protection of the heritage and ecological values of the Cowichan River.
Preserving this property as a public protected space provides connectivity with other protected areas along the Cowichan River Corridor. Provincial government efforts have led to the designation of a significant area of parkland including lands adjacent to the river corridor. However, a number of important linking properties must still be purchased to achieve connectivity and prevent the loss of critical fish and wildlife habitat through logging and housing developments. TLC has been working in partnership with the Provincial Government and local residents to acquire or covenant the 23 remaining parcels, totalling 115 hectares, as they become available. The purchase of these final properties will achieve the long-term vision of parkland connectivity and thus complete the vision of a fully protected Cowichan River Conservation Corridor. By creating a corridor of protected riverfront, TLC is ensuring the river remains in its natural state for conservation, recreation and a heritage of green space for Southern Vancouver Island.
The property offers great opportunities for education, interpretation and community links. Conservation and education of the Cowichan River ecosystem values are top priorities for TLC. The Cowichan River Footpath and Trans Canada Trail are excellent for hikers. The Cowichan River Footpath is a historic 20 km trail that winds its way along the scenic Cowichan River from Glenora to Skutz Falls. The Cowichan Fish and Game Association built the footpath during the 1960′s, and although the trail was primarily for anglers, it is now an important historic and community resource for hikers, naturalists and the general public. A couple of minutes walk from the cabin and canoeing, fishing, tubing, river kayaking and swimming also await.
To view Cowichan River Cabin and other TLC properties and partners see the new Cowichan Valley Green Map. Please note that this map is for illustrative purposes only and may not be suitable for navigation.