Southern Vancouver Island Whitewater

Cowichan River

Run Marie Canyon Class III
Level 25 cms (0.7 m) - low, but still some features (can run at even lower levels)
90 cms (1.4 m) - high, most drops are just wave trains. Actually easier, but pushy
Boats kayaks, canoes
Season all year, best Oct-Apr Character canyon, medium volume pool-drop
Length 2.5 h
Put-in Usually below Skutz Falls (but the falls can be run)
Takeout stairs at Last Drop
  • S-Bend - A chute/pool/ledges combo. Easiest line is L. Centre line is slightly more exciting due to rocks and/or diagonal wave. Grab the eddy on the L for one of the nicest surf waves on the river when the level is right. The wave at the bottom of the drop is good for playing at all levels.
  • Bernie's Negligee - a large hole at most levels. Watch out for the rock in the hole when surfing. Best line to avoid the hole is to stay hard right. At lower levels it can be sneaked on the left. (The story is that this was so named "because it is so full of holes". But who Bernie was and why his undergarment was so excessively perforated is lost to history.)
  • Jet Ferry - a narrowing of the river with a high cliff on the R. Swirly eddies with a strong jet ferry at the right level.
  • Squirt City - an excellent spot for getting vertical, on the L in the middle of a calm pool
  • Double Whammy - a staircase rapid leads to the Waiting Room, an eddy on the R above a chute. At the bottom of the chute is the Five Fingers of Death - avoid their clutches by staying L.
  • Last Drop - biggest drop on the run. Short, but steep and rocky. Often avoided by pulling out immediately above. Usually run L - but avoid the sharp rocks on the far left. Boof the drop to avoid getting squirted. Can be sneaked via a chute in the centre. R line is risky due to a narrow chute, holes and undercuts.
Comments This is the most popular run on the southern island due to its ease of access, long season, and friendly water. Suitable for all abilities, and has places to play all season long.

Run Lower Class II
Level can be run at all volumes
20 cms (0.7 m) - low & tame, although a couple of drops still require interesting manoeuvering
Boats kayaks, canoes
Season all year, best Oct-Apr Character medium volume
Length 3 h
Put-in Several possibilities:
  • Last Drop
  • Stoltz Pool
  • Sandy Pool
  • Vimy Road
Takeout Several possibilities:
  • Sandy Pool (for a short run)
  • Vimy Road
  • Highway bridge in Duncan
  • Bridge on Cowichan Bay Road
  • Cowichan Bay village (yes, across the bay)
  • Stoltz surf waves - often the best waves on the lower river
  • Headwall - not as bad as it sounds, but don't get caught in the 'room of doom'
  • Canoe Eating rock - only if you play and screw up
  • Sandy Pool - can be a takeout for a short day
  • The Splits - run L, strong eddy at bottom, sometimes with a surf wave
  • Bob's Out - a good surf wave on R
  • Vimy Wave - last big play feature - don't miss it!
  • The Chute - a fast left turn and drop against a cliff - stay L to avoid boulders
  • Lower Log Jam - just above Cow Bay Rd bridge, often a log jam that must be portaged
Comments A popular canoe run. A bit mellow for most kayakers. Stoltz to Vimy is a good winter day's run. Vimy to Duncan is about the same length, but a wee bit mellower. Lake to Bay is the classic canoe run, which can be done in one long day or two enjoyable ones.

Old, old, old school - Voyageurs in The Splits on the Lower Cowichan - November 2003 (photo: Jean Chandler)

The Splits - Running of the Cow - May 2008 (photo: Wayne Barson)

Surfing on the Upper Cow - Running of the Cow - May 2008 (photo: Wayne Barson)