North America > Canada

Cowichan Lake: A Must-See on Vancouver Island

lakeCowichan Lake
countryCanada
surface area63 km2
maximum depth152 m
average depth50 m
lake typeNatural
length30 km
catchment area598 km2
altitude168 m
volume3 km3
inflowsRobertson River, Nixon Creek
outflowsCowichan River
shore length100 km
settlementsLake Cowichan
residence time947 days
average discharge38 m3 / sec.

Cowichan Lake Information and Facts

Cowichan Lake, located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, is one of the largest freshwater lakes on the island. The lake is a preferred recreational place for many Canadians, because of the hot summer temperatures, which are the highest in the country.

Geography and Hydrology

The lake is located in the Cowichan Valley Regional District along the Cowichan Valley, in the heart of the Insular Mountains, Vancouver’s main mountain range. The area has two main parts: a mountainous zone and a lowland area. The highest peak on the North is Heather Mountain with an altitude of 1,345 meters. Townicut Mountain, situated on the lake’s Southern side is not far behind, with its tallest peak at 1,260 meters. The two main valleys next to the freshwater lake are Cowichan and Nitinat valley. The Nanaimo Lowlands, which reach out to the Town of Cowichan, have 30 meters thick sand and gravel beds.

The lake’s main inflows are the Robertson and Nixon Rivers, whilst its main outflow is Cowichan River, praised by fishermen for having world-famous trout, steelhead and salmon. The river is now protected as a Heritage Area.

Climate and Vegetation

The lake is located in the maritime climate zone and has the longest growing season and the hottest summers in all of Canada, ideal for recreation and outdoor activities. The summers are usually dry and hot, August being the warmest month, when average day temperatures are 25 degrees Celsius (even though July is the month with the most sun – 235 hours). The winters are mild and wet, with 85% of the yearly rainfall occurring between the months of October and April, December being the wettest. The average snowfall is about 15 centimeters per year. Summer winds consist mostly of gentle breezes, although in November and December sudden, violent windstorms can occur.

Vegetation around the lake consists mainly of hemlock, cedar, silver fins, arbutus trees, Douglas fir and mosses.

Towns and Activities

Cowichan has several communities along its shores of which Cowichan town is the largest, located on the Eastern shores of the lake. The town of Youbou is located in the Northern part, whilst its Southern border consists of Mesachie Lake Community, Honeymoon Bay and Gordon Bay Provincial Park.

The Valley was once the center of a blooming lumber business, which even had two major railroads that passed through the lake, to help with transportation. The center was abandoned and the railroad is now part of a trail system, which leads tourists to the lower part of the valley. This area of Vancouver Island is largely undeveloped.

Tourism and Leisure

The lake can be reached from Duncan through a 20-25 minute drive on a smooth paved road. Once you arrive to Cowichan Lake, you can pick your preference from a wide variety of accommodation: there are campgrounds, B&Bs, motels, cottages, cabins and even hotels waiting for you to check in.

For an active holiday you can choose from the many cultural, sports and leisure activities the lake and its surroundings have to offer. Cowichan is world-famous for its diverse and sustainable farm and culinary scene, so be prepared to taste some of the best dishes in Canada. There are also a number of wineries in the area which can be visited on tasting tours. Don’t forget to check out the local farmers markets which offer a wide range of local produce.

There are plenty of scenic hiking trails (Bald Mountain, Hill 60) and bike routes (Cowichan Valley Trail) for adventure-seekers. Popular water activities include river tubing, kayaking, canoeing, snorkeling and even diving. Cowichan also has its local Golf and Country Club.

Those in search of a more relaxing holiday can rest at one of the lake’s many beaches, learn about local history in the Kaatza station Museum & Archives, and even admire fields of the rare pink fawn lily at the Honeymoon Bay Ecological Reserve.