Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island

Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island

by | Mar 17, 2019

Cowichan Bay is an estuary with an extensive tidal flat located on the east coast of southern Vancouver Island near Duncan, British Columbia. The name Cowichan is derived from the Quamichan First Nation people of the Coast Salish, who inhabited this area for thousands of years and subsisted mostly on salmon and shellfish.

The Cowichan River originates in Cowichan Lake and flows east to the head of Cowichan Bay. The Cowichan River Provincial Park includes about 12 miles (20 km) of the river between the villages of Lake Cowichan and Glenora. The tidal flat at the head of Cowichan Bay was the original site of a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post. In 1858, the Hudson’s Bay Company started selling land in the area that eventually became Cowichan Bay. The original settlement was near the mouth of the Cowichan River where the Quamichan had a village. One of the biggest obstacles to settlement was the shallow water at the head of the bay. Goods brought to the trading post had to be barged from boats anchored in deeper water. This was time-consuming and extremely difficult, so eventually the south shore of the bay made for a better settlement site.

The village of Cowichan Bay thrived during the European settlement of the Cowichan and Chemainus valleys from the early 1860s. A steamer service from Victoria was the major link for goods and people before a railway was built. The economy was based on fishing, and log and lumber exports. When that economic base started declining, it was replaced with recreational water activities, a revived interest in boatbuilding, and tourism. The village of Cowichan Bay is now a summer tourist attraction, but the deep-water port is still regularly used by tankers and container ships. Read more here and here. Explore more of Cowichan Bay here:

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