For a great family camping vacation, head to Gordon Bay Provincial
Park, on the south arm of Cowichan Lake on southern Vancouver Island.
In July and August, the lake is warm and the sandy beach makes
for great family swimming. History buffs will find plenty to interest
them in the park and the surrounding area. The park, a second-growth
Douglas-fir forest, is located in a valley that forms a heat trap,
and boasts the highest average annual temperature in Canada - over
24 degrees Celsius!
This large wilderness area features many walking and hiking trails,
with views that are unparalleled. As you walk through the forest,
look for deer, raccoons and red squirrels. Birdwatchers often see
juncos, Steller's jays and Chestnut-backed Chickadees as well as
mergansers and Golden eye ducks.
The 49-hectare Gordon Bay Provincial Park has 126 vehicle accessible
campsites - wilderness, backcountry or walk-in camping is not permitted.
Reservations are accepted, and first-come, first-served sites are
also available. However, reservations are recommended in July and
August, when the sun shines brightest on this southern exposure.
The lay of the land here traps heat, and daytime temperatures are
hot by coastal standards. The rewards of being here in April and
May, in advance of the summer crowds, include having your choice
of campsites and witnessing the spectacular display of wildflowers
that begin blooming in April.
There are flush
and pit toilets, showers and full access for the disabled. An adventure
playground has been constructed for children within the camping area.
Recreational activities include boating, swimming, water-skiing, windsurfing
and fishing. Fishing in Cowichan Lake in the spring, fall and winter
is great, and enthusiasts catch rainbow, cutthroat trout and Dolly
Varden. Chum, coho and spring salmon spawn in the lake and in its
tributaries, while steelhead spawn in the Cowichan River.
Bay on Cowichan Lake
Fees for full
services are collected from March 15 to October 31. Off-season is
from November 1 - March 13; self-contained camping allowed in boat
launch area; no fee, no services. Campground gate is closed during
off-season. Other provincial parks nearby are Bamberton Provincial
Park and Cowichan River Provincial Park.
There is a fascinating
little museum at Saywell Park and Teleglobe Canada presents guided
tours of the Lake Cowichan Earth Satellite station. The forest industry
has a number of displays and demonstration forests throughout the
Park users should
always be aware of bears and other wildlife in our park environment.
Never feed or approach bears or other wildlife. To avoid problems
with animals such as bears, lock your food in your vehicle at night.
Be sure to use the garbage containers provided and maintain a clean
Access to Gordon
Bay Provincial Park is north of Duncan off Hwy 1 onto Hwy 18. Travel
16 miles (26 km) west to Lake Cowichan, then 9 miles (14 km) on
South Shore Road.