The Cowichan River Provincial Park is situated on the south of Vancouver Island just to the south of the city of Duncan. This 750-hectare area stretches almost 20km from the village of Lake Cowichan to Glenora. The park follows the path of the Cowichan River and is in the shape of a corridor protecting the area as a designated the Canadian Heritage River. The main objective of the park is to strike the right balance between nature, human heritage and recreational past times. The source of the River is Lake Cowichan and as the river makes its journey westwards it is fed by several different creeks. Over its 30-mile journey to the mouth it drops 500 feet and is surrounded by mountains that rise as high as 5000 feet. The valley of the river has been shaped by glacial periods and this activity has scoured it into the spectacular feature that remains today. The river experiences a wide variety of gradients on its journey and this leads to a number of different recreational activities. There are waterfalls, rapids and even stretches of slow moving water across the valley’s flats.
Canoeing and kayaking are naturally popular with all skill levels catered for in the different river stages. Swimming and snorkelling is also popular although swimmers have to be aware of the dangers of the differences in volume, currents and speeds of the river. Tubing in the river is also popular and this involves riding on top of an inner tube that makes its way down river and is an exciting activity especially in such spectacular surroundings.
The river being protected has an amazing community of fish. The most popular being wild Chinook and chum salmon, plus steelhead and brown trout. The river is one of the most accessible rivers in Vancouver for anglers. The path of the river valley gives a natural route for hikers with the Cowichan River Footpath providing a natural 20km trail for those walkers looking for a moderate level of walking. One section of this path is the Skutz/66-mile loop trail which is in fact an 8-kilometre trail. This follows a spectacular route along the sides of the canyon above the river giving a wide variety of difficulty levels for the walkers. The area has spectacular vegetation and wildlife on the sides and banks of the river. The hikers are able to walk through areas of densely populated Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock Forest. Horse riding is a popular activity in the park especially on the Trans Canada Path.
This provincial park has three main access points. Firstly, at the source near Skutz falls off highway 18 where the Horseshoe Bend Campsite is located. Secondly, the Stoltz Pool Campsite is located off Highway 18 and gives access to the middle of the Park. And the final access point is in the south east of the river on the Glenora Road giving access to the Glenora Trail Head. The park has some of the best facilities of any in Vancouver Island in terms of camping. Some are drive-in, and some are open throughout out the year. The relatively easy accessibility of the park plus the visitor friendly feel of it, makes it one of the most visited on the Island. It gives many people the opportunity to visit an area that showcases the natural wilderness of a river valley flowing down a mountainous and glaciated area.