Cowichan Station is a small community in the Cowichan Valley, near Whippletree Junction, established in 1885 as a stop-off for the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway. Cowichan Station was built to service settlers living in the area as well as the logging and copper mine operations located on Mount Sicker and Mount Prevost.
In 1881 Donald McPherson purchased the area that was to later become the heart of Cowichan Station. A train station was built and named after him, and in 1885 a trading post was established for the employees of the railroad contractors. In 1887 the Central Hotel, Cowichan Hotel, post office, blacksmith shop, Community Hall, and quarry were all built. The name of the community conflicted when Canada Post was later set up, and so Cowichan Station came into being in 1896.
During the boom years of 1909 to 1913 there also were 2 general stores, 2 real estate offices, 2 Chinese laundries, a smithy, shoemaker, doctor, 2 boarding houses, a hardware store, butcher shop, livery, and 2 churches (Anglican and Methodist). A fire in 1911 destroyed most of the town, and another fire destroyed the two hotels in 1924. The depression also took its toll, with the closure of many of the businesses.
It wasn’t until the late 1980s that Cowichan Station lost its post office and general store, now home to South Island Tile Works. The Southern Railway of Vancouver Island train, formerly known as the E & N Train, still stops at Cowichan Station, with the railway station on Koksilah Road maintained by the local community.
Cowichan Station draws its name from an Island Halkomelem word meaning warm country or land warmed by the sun The name originated because of a large rock formation on the side of Mount Tzuhalem that supposedly resembled a frog basking in the sun. Cowichan Lake was originally known as Kaatza, the Cowichan word for big lake.
Today, Cowichan Station is an active community centred around St. Andrew’s Church that is passionate about its historical roots and excited about its future.
Location: Cowichan Station in the Cowichan Valley is located on Koksilah Road west of the Island Highway (Hwy 19), near Whippletree Junction, south of Duncan and north of Mill Bay. The Cowichan Valley is a 30-minute scenic drive from both Victoria in the south and Nanaimo in the north.
Birdwatching: Spring and fall present remarkable opportunities to view birds as they travel along the Pacific Flyway. Some of the protected areas where they pause and refresh themselves include Hecate Regional Park in Cowichan Bay. Over 200 species of birds are attracted to the feeding grounds at the mouth of the Koksilah River and Cowichan River.
The spectacular Cowichan River Provincial Park protects significant stretches of the Cowichan River, known as a first class recreational corridor. The park is internationally recognized for its wild salmon and steelhead trout, and for the historic Cowichan River footpath that winds through dense Douglas-fir and Western Hemlock forest. Stroll along the footpath – a sensational 20 km hiking trail following the river to Skutz Falls.
Bright Angel Park is a tiny refuge on the banks of the Koksilah River. Trails wind through the forest and cross a suspension bridge high above the river. Huge, old Red Cedar and Douglas-fir trees lean over the river and, at Easter time, fawn lilies nod among the trees.
Mount Tzouhalem: Hike or mountain bike up Mount Tzouhalem for a spectacular view of the region. The moderate hiking trail follows the ridge of Mt. Tzouhalem, providing 180 degree views of Cowichan Bay and Duncan. You’ll be able to see Mt. Whymper, Mt. Prevost and the Malahat. Access to the trail is from the St Ann’s Church parking lot, down the gravel road on the east side on the parking lot.
Golf: Golf courses in the area include the Cowichan Golf and Country Club and Duncan Meadows Golf and Country Club in Duncan, and Arbutus Ridge Golf Club in nearby Cobble Hill. Vancouver Island Golf Vacations.
Fishing: Fish along the Cowichan River, one of the most consistent fishing rivers on the Island; a fishing/hiking path stretches 31 kilometres (19 miles) along the riverbank. Brown, rainbow, and steelhead trout, as well as vigorous salmon runs, make fishing here legendary. Chinook, coho, and steelhead that school in Cowichan Bay enter the river to spawn in November and December. There’s also a steelhead run in March.
North of Cowichan Station is Duncan, the civic centre of the Cowichan Valley and the traditional home of the Coast Salish First nation. Known as the City of Totems, Duncan boasts over 41 distinctive hand-carved cedar poles on public display in parks and downtown streets.
To the east is the village of Cowichan Bayy, established as a settlement in the 1850s as a Hudson’s Bay Company fort. Today, the village of Cowichan Bay and the surrounding area is home to a host of artists, craftspeople, and cottage industries – including some fine local wineries.