NTS Map:92D13. The 750 hectare Cowichan River Provincial Park has 20 kilometres of trails that follow the Cowichan River from Skutz Falls to Stoltz Pool. The park offers hiking, kayaking, tubing, and mountain biking. While on the trails, GPS coverage is sketchy at best, but is fairly good in the wide clearings at parking lots and along the riverbank. Waypoints are provided for the main access points, and the North Side and Cowichan River Footpath at Mayo Road.
For hikers, there are three well developed trails to chose from, all can be accessed from the Mayo Road parking lot on Riverbottom Road:
On the south side of the river between Skutz Falls and Holt Creek, the Cowichan River Footpath.
On the north side of the river between Skutz Falls and the 66 Mile Trestle, the North Side trail.
Crossing from the north to south side of the river at 66 Mile Trestle, part of the Cowichan Valley section of the Trans Canada Trail takes you from Skutz Falls to the Glenora trailhead at Holt Creek, crossing to the south side of the river at the 66 Mile Trestle.
The Cowichan River Footpath is a 20-km historical trail winding its way alongside the river, connecting all of the river's parks. This is an easy to moderate level of hiking, and you should allow about 6 hours to hike its length. The main trail is well marked, but several older secondary routes still exist, and these are not sign-posted or maintained. Downstream of Skutz Falls Road Forest Road Bridge is fairly well brushed out, upstream to Skutz falls is more overgrown. Although the trail is well signposted, there are many unmarked branch trails.
The North Side Trail is the roughest and most scenic of the trails. This trail hugs the river, and affords fantastic views of the river and access to swimming holes.
The Trans Canada Trail is the widest and flattest of the three trails. Its hard packed gravel base is suitable for bikes, strollers, and wheelchairs. This is also the shortest route to connect the park areas; for example, from Skutz Falls to the 66 Mile Trestle is a 5.5 kilometre slog along the North Side Trail, vs a 1.6 kilometre stroll along the Trans Canada Trail. From the Mayo Road trail junction, Marie Canyon is 2.5 km, and Stoltz Pool is 6.5 km, one way. Highlights include the 90 metre long Mile 66 Trestle over Marie Canyon, and the 73 metre long 64.4-Mile Trestle over Holt Creek.
Paddling from Skutz Falls to Marie Canyon is approximately 10 kilometres and you might have to portage around Marie Canyon, depending on the water level. Hazards include rapid water level changes, log jams and rapids. The Cowichan River has a gradient of 7 metres per kilometre, and is rated as Class II/III at a flow of 85 cubic metres per second, and Class IV at higher flow levels during spring run off and the winter rainy season. The water level and flow rates can fluctuate rapidly on the river; check station 08HA011 - at http://scitech.pyr.ec.gc.ca/waterweb/formnav.asp?lang=0 for real-time flow rate data.
At low flows, Skutz Falls is a good starting point for beginner to intermediate level runs. A short run through a bedrock canyon passes under the Skutz Falls Road Forest Road Bridge, and leads into class II/III rapids. The river then opens slightly in a swift section without any significant rapids as you approach Marie Canyon.
Small surf waves mark the entrance to the bedrock gorge that forms Marie Canyon, where you will find several ledges as the river drops into the S-Bend, and then heads under the 66 Mile Trestle. Shortly past of the trestle, the Double Whammy has more surf waves. The Last Drop, the last set of rapids, is downstream a short distance from the Double Whammy.
There are several well marked take-out trails on the left bank of the river, all within a short distance of parking lots. Riverbottom Road connects with all the parking lots, campsites, and trail access points.
Camping is available at Horseshoe Bend Group Campsite, Skutz Falls Campground, Stoltz Pool Campground and Group Campsite.
There is GPS data attached to this trail (see "download GPS"), which if loaded into your GPS can help you find route points.
There are three main access points to this Cowichan River Provincial Park:
Skutz Falls Road/West Access: Located off Highway 18, Skutz Falls Road provides access to Skutz Falls Campground, Skutz Falls Day-Use area, Horseshoe Bend Group Campsite, Marie Canyon Day-Use area and the Skutz Falls Trailhead of the Cowichan River Trail. Follow signs from Skutz Falls Road via Cowichan Lake Road and Mayo Road to Riverbottom Road.
Highway 18 Connector/Middle Access: Located off Highway 18, the Highway 18 Connector provides access to the Stoltz Pool Campground, Group Campsite and Day-Use areas. Follow signs to Riverbottom Road.
Robertson Road/South East Access: Located on Robertson Road in the Glenora area south of Duncan. To access this point proceed west on Glenora Road, turn right onto Vaux Road and continue down Vaux Road, as it leads into Robertson Road. This provides access to the Glenora Trailhead of the Cowichan River Trail.
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Posted By: noreenw1
- Sun Aug 23 13:20:14 UTC 2015
CommentAnd another 1 hour to get to Stoltz Campground. From Maury to Stoltz was a piece of cake . Shallow river with fun little rapids, much different from the upper half of the river. It was easy to pull out here and thankful we didn't have to pull our kayaks up the steep cliff at Maury Canyon. I'm obviously it a experienced blogger , just a person willing to try almost anything... And hope this info helps you stay safe and provides a little more info on what to expect. What I learned is tubing the river was actually easier than kayaking it.. Who knew?? Lesson learned. And all in all I have a story to share. Thanks for reading!
Posted By: noreenw1
- Sun Aug 23 13:13:30 UTC 2015
CommentAfter kayaking this route in our canadian tire pelican plastic kayaks I realized that I was up for a challenging adventure. The first real drop is a horseshoe bend. It was btw a2-3 foot drop with bedrock hanging over the right side. You can get out and check it out 1 st and figure out how to navigate it as you should with all of the rapids. We walked around. Our more experienced friend in a proper river kayak managed it well but still had to think about best way to safely navigate it.There were several drops like this threw out our trip which we took on water easily and flipped over several times. We pulled out twice altogether, 2 end time being just after Trestle 66 where the river funnels into a narrow channel with several big drops and huge waves and very strong current. We had little control over the direction in which the river was pulling us, which was into rock. This was due to our inexperience and type of kayak. There is no way a canoe could manage this river and recommended for only Experienced kayakers. It was much more difficult than originally expected and I won't be doing it again unless I am with a instructor. I realized after that as the river level drops the size of the drops also increase. We pulled out at Maury Canyon ( death trap) many ppl have died here! Lots of sighnage saying to GET OUT. And walked 5 min around it to get back in to continue to Stoltz. It took aprox 3 hours to get to Maury.
Posted By: noreenw1
- Thu Aug 20 13:20:38 UTC 2015
UpsideExcellent description of this river route. Answered a lot of my questions. Thank you! DownsideI wanted to know more about kayaking the river from Maury Canyon to Stolz campground where I plan to get out. CommentWe are starting our kayak trip at Skutz Falls and finishing at Stoltz river campground as there are steep cliffs at Maury canyon and other places along the river. Sure you can get out but getting the kayaks up the steep river bank is another story. Anyways we will be carrying our kayaks ( or floating them down) Maury canyon. And then carrying on to Stoltz Campground. It is the end of the summer and it will be fine to kayak from Skutz to Maury canyon as river waters are low but with the rapids it will still be fun! I just hope the river isn't too low btw Maury Canyon and Stolz . Wish me luck! Oh to you hikers out there, no the trail is not a loop you will need a car at the other end to pick you up. It's a long trail and a days hike but beautiful!
Posted By: hawke_gh
- Tue Apr 27 16:14:54 UTC 2004
UpsideI've noticed Greg's posts are quite informative overall. As is this one. DownsideFor canoe & kayak, a better idea of the put in point(s) and take out point(s) would be nice. CommentGreg - nice to see canoe content in a trail post that offers more than one activity. Nice description of the river characteristics too!