Lake Cowichan

This historic Vancouver Island community of 3,000 is perched at the mouth of the Cowichan River. With forestry serving as the dominant industry for much of Lake Cowichan’s history, today the town is renowned for its lifestyle and recreational opportunities.


While the river that used to transport logs now takes tubers for a winding ride through the middle of town, some things have stayed the same over the decades: among them, Lake Cowichan’s diverse economy and spectacular setting.

Campers, hikers, kayakers, and sun-seekers flock to Lake Cowichan and its surrounding area, no doubt attracted by Canada’s only Maritime-Mediterranean climate, and myriad of recreational opportunities – often in secluded locations with access made possible by logging infrastructure.

Logging Boomtown

1886: after lobbying by local settlers, the Provincial Government completed a road to the shores of Lake Cowichan. Once the population began to increase, logging was established as a key industry. After all, Lake Cowichan is surrounded by an exceptional coastal timber supply; Douglas-fir, yellow cedar, alder, hemlock, and maple all find a welcoming growing environment in the hills and valleys surrounding the lake.

In the days before railroads or trucking, the area’s unique geography facilitated the logging boom: logs would be brought down to the lake, then floated along the Cowichan River all the way to Cowichan Bay for shipment. Substantial logging camps were constructed to house workers, some of which still exist today – such as Caycuse, still home to a small number of permanent residents, and a lush public reactional campsite owned by TimberWest on the shores of Lake Cowichan.

In 1912, the industry and town were reinvigorated by the arrival of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railroad. Over its life the E&N hauled an estimated 400,000 cars of lumber harvested from the area around Lake Cowichan.

Harvesting for Jobs

Community Forests are now well-established throughout BC’s coast – but in the Cowichan Lake region, an early pioneer was founded in 1995 with Lake Cowichan as the closest major population centre. The Cowichan Lake Community Forest Co-operative (CLCFC) was incorporated in 1995 as the first forestry co-op in BC, with a clear priority of supporting Vancouver Island value-added forestry jobs while sustainably managing its tenure.

The logs harvested by the CLCFC are sold to a variety of Vancouver Island forestry manufacturers, which have included: Harmac and Coastland Wood Industries in Nanaimo, Catalyst’s Crofton Mill, the Cowichan Lake Sawmill, and Otter Point Timber in Ladysmith. Thanks to the CLCFC, this vibrant network of local manufacturers benefits from a reliable supply of high-quality timber – supporting well-paying jobs throughout Vancouver Island.

As a locally owned and managed organization, 90% of all revenue generated by the Forest goes to businesses and individuals in the Cowichan Valley, while the remainder goes towards taxes and fees. The CLCFC has also been able to provide thousands of dollars in scholarships to local students, while working alongside municipal governments to support community enhancements.

An Attractive Lifestyle

Word of Lake Cowichan’s great lifestyle is getting out: the community is home to a growing number of residents who choose to settle there, and commute as far as Duncan and Victoria.

Powered by forestry throughout much of its history, Lake Cowichan is now known as much for world-class recreation as it is for logging; a living example of forestry co-existing with the natural attractions that make BC’s coast so unique.

About Forestry Friendly Communities BC

Learn more

Forestry Friendly Communities was started in 2016 as a way to celebrate the proud history and rich future of BC’s coast forest sector.  The term “Forestry Friendly” is intended to recognize pride in, and an ongoing commitment to BC’s forestry sector. In fact, the forest sector supports 1 in 16 jobs in BC. It also contributes $12.4 billion to the provincial GDP and injects $2.5 billion in taxes and fees to the three levels of government.

For more than a century, the forest sector has fueled our coastal economy and shaped our communities. Today, people and businesses across BC’s coastal region depend on transportation networks and other services developed for our forest sector. Families are able to earn a living while enjoying a unique West Coast lifestyle.

Forestry Friendly Communities is proudly brought to you by companies and associations working in forestry in coastal BC.