Monday, 14 January 2008

Cowichan Valley Lakes

Vancouver Island Backroad Mapbook - Maps 9 and 10

Google Earth: Type in Cowichan Lake and zoom out a bit
Mayo Lake Latitude: 48°48'8.89"N by longitude: 123°57'15.06"W
Beaver Lake Latitude: 48°48'45.75"N by longitude: 124° 4'45.54"W
Mesachie Lake Latitude: 48°48'42.39"N by longitude: 124° 6'32.37"W
Bear Lake Latitude: 48°48'52.75"N by longitude: 124° 7'41.78"W
Kissinger Lake Latitude: 48°55'6.90"N by longitude: 124°28'46.76"W
Trip Date: December 12, 2007
After a late breakfast I headed south from Nanaimo to the Cowichan Valley to scout out six different bodies of water for paddling.

The first stop was Mayo Lake located on map 10 at D3. Reports indicated that it was a beautiful little lake suitable for paddling and I found the lake on Mayo Road just off of Old Cowichan Lake Road. The lake was partially iced over and smaller than I expected. The western section of the lake which appears on the map to be open water is now filled with vegetation. Great place to sit and eat your lunch, but not large enough to paddle, even for me.

From Mayo Lake I drove up the Old Cowichan Lake Road, through Cowinchan Lake municipality, observing the towns lovely waterfront, and on to the Beaver Lake turn off. The only access road to this lake takes you to a private campground with signs indicating access for guests only.

I continued on to Mesachie Lake (Map 9 A3), which is a pretty little lake right beside the South Shore Road.

The lake is dominated by Camp Imadene which occupies a peninsula on the south shore. It would be possible to drop a featherlight canoe into the lake from the South Shore Road, but not comfortably, there is a fairly steep bank from the road down to the lake.

I continued past Camp Imadene and turned right down the Mesachie Lake village’s main street, looking for an alternative access to the lake. There did not seem to be one. I crossed a small bridge that spans the creek that runs between Mesachie and Bear lakes, and looked at the creek carefully. It may be possible to paddle between Bear and Mesachie Lake along this water way.

I then turned around, and drove to the public beach and boat ramp on Bear Lake. Several empty boat trailers suggested that boaters were on the lake, but I could not see them anywhere.
The picturesque public wharf gives a good view of the entire lake. I later examined the lake on Google Earth and discovered that a wide channel connects Bear to Cowichan Lake, so I suspect the absent boaters were out on Cowichan Lake.

The water of Bear Lake was high and muddy and not inviting, so I decided to continue on along the south side of Cowichan Lake to Kissinger Lake. I had never driven the South Shore Road before so took my time, consulting the map at several intersections. The road turns to gravel just past Honey Moon Bay but it is an exceptionally good surface and I drove along at 70 km/hour on the good sections. I stopped the vehicle on a height of ground across from Youbou. The lake was calm and the winter afternoon light soft on the distant hamlet.
I made a wrong turn past Nixon Creek and went left (South) up the Caycuse Main. It was a fortuitous error as the valley contains Nixon Creek and was beautiful. Large Broad Leaf Maple trees are covered in moss and I stopped the vehicle near a bend in the creek to examine a large heap of logs recently deposited at a curve in the channel. Sand and stones were mixed in with the wood detritus so the creek must have really been thundering when it deposited these logs. Clearly this valley gets a lot of rain and subsequent run off.

Caycus Main

Nixon Creek

North End of Cowichan Lake

I turned the vehicle around and headed back to the intersection where I made the error and headed on to the end of Cowichan Lake and stopped to take a few photos of the Heather Campsite across the water from the boat launch. Smoke and RVs indicated that people were there.

The map (9 A1) indicates that access to Kissinger Lake is off the Nitinat Main and I inadvertently passed the Nitinat Main and turned left instead at the North Shore Road intersection. The Mapbook has a dashed line where this road continues away from Cowichan Lake, so I didn't immediately realize I was on the wrong road. I guess the old the road has been re-activated.

I drove for some way along this road into an area of active logging, turned right in what I thought was the direction of the lake but ended up on an old road that was paved! This must have been the Nitinat River Road, but why it is paved, I’m not sure.

I backtracked, got my bearings, and found the Kissinger Lake Recreation Area, which had a gate, but the gate was open. A large sign said the gate closes at 8:00 pm, so I drove through the campsites and found the lake.

A group of fellows in their twenties had a fire going in an iron pit on the rocky bank overlooking the lake. I chatted with one fellow who informed me that they had been doing a little fishing, but only caught two small trout which they threw back.

He told me they were leaving, and with good cheer they load their ATVs on three large trucks and roared off leaving me with their dwindling fire.

The lake shore was picturesque, with a little road running right up to the edge of the water and curving in a loop to go back to the campground.

There was a little dock and two small sandy/muddy beaches on either side. Several Alders stood at the lake shore and several more shaded the picnic area on the small hill. The lake’s prominent island was attracting the last rays of light off to the left (see photo).

Red stemmed bushes; willows maybe, lined the shore on the left side, and evergreens on the right.

I took down my canoe, launched, and coasted out onto the glassy surface.

The smoke from the remains of the fire drifted to mingle with a mist rising from the lake surface and I listened to a grader working somewhere in the distance, the changing pitch of the engine and the odd clunkof rock and metal. I could see my breath in the dying light.

A fish broke the surface somewhere beside me and I watched the trees lose color on the shore. By 6:00 it was too dark to see much so I put on my head light and paddled back.

Kissinger Lake is completely ringed by logging roads now, and active logging has left a large raw area to the west of the lake.
None of this is visible from the water, however, because the loggers have left a band of trees that give the illusion that all is well.

Back on the road again, I passed two large trucks, burly young men grinning at my little Tracker and canoe.

I imagined what the place would be like in the summer and decided that I probably should not find out. Better to be somewhere a little less utilized at that time of year.

© Richard R. Powell 2008


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