The lakeside community of Youbou sits on the north shore of Cowichan Lake in Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley. “Kaatza” or “The Big Lake”, as Cowichan Lake is known by its native inhabitants, is over 30 km long, and one of the largest bodies of fresh water on Vancouver Island.
Formerly called Cottonwood, the name Youbou is a compound of the names of two officers of the Empire Lumber Company in 1914 – Yount, the general manager, and Bouten, the president of the company.
The Empire Lumber Company secured large blocks of timber around Caycuse and Youbou in the early 1900s, including the current Youbou town site. The E&N Railway was pushed through to Youbou in 1912, and logging commenced the following year. A small mill was built at Cottonwood, as Youbou was originally known. The Cottonwood Mill, also known as the Medina Mill, shipped its first load of sawn lumber in 1918, after delays caused by the First World War. The Canadian National Railway was extended to Cottonwood in 1925.
The Youbou Sawmill closed in January 2001, thereby ending 73 years of continuous production and sawmill history for the communities of Youbou and Lake Cowichan. This closure of the last sawmill on Cowichan Lake severely impacted the economy of the region and the livelihood of families that had been dependent on the mill for generations.
US-owned TimberWest closed the Youbou Mill in favour of exporting the raw logs to sawmills in the US. In a sweetheart backroom deal with the BC Government of the day, Clause 7 of Tree Farm Licence 46, which tied wood from TFL 46 to the TimberWest mill in Youbou, was edited out of the renewed TFL 46 contract in 1997 by ministry bureaucrats under the NDP Forests minister David Zirnhelt. The legal and contractual obligations to the Youbou community and its mill workers simply disappeared with the stroke of a pen.
Today, features of the former mill town and second-largest community on Cowichan Lake, include a public beach at Arbutus Park and extensive recreational opportunities, including swimming, canoeing, kayaking, boating, fishing, and hiking. Other communities around Cowichan Lake include Alder Bay, Caycuse, Honeymoon Bay, Mesachie Lake, and Lake Cowichan.
Location: Youbou is located on the north shore of Cowichan Lake in the Cowichan Valley, 24 miles (38 km) west of Duncan and a 25-minute drive west of the community of Lake Cowichan. Youbou is accessed via Highway 18, a 26-mile (42-km) paved highway connecting the town of Duncan on the east coast of Vancouver Island with the community of Youbou. West of Youbou the road is a gravel logging road that is graded and maintained by logging companies. The condition of the road, which leads to Nitinat Lake, Bamfield and Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park, can vary substantially, as the upkeep is determined by logging activities in the area.
Arbutus Park is a peaceful park set in wonderful Arbutus trees. The half-hectare waterfront park offers a playground, a large sandy beach, and the Big Pool, a system of docks that creates a warm and protected freshwater pool for safe swimming. Amenities include a diving board, a slide from the dock, step ladders from the water, a bike lock-up, a first-aid building, and lifeguards on duty during the summer season.
The annual Swimming Regatta is held at Arbutus Park on the second Saturday of August. The regatta is Youbou’s premier festival, with dances, a sunset cruise, a parade, and more.
Pine Point Recreation Site is located west of Youbou on the north shore of Cowichan Lake, offering good vehicle and tent camping, fishing, paddling, swimming, and hiking. Pine Point beach faces south to provide warm sunbathing conditions. Facilities include a boat launch and pit toilets.
Maple Grove Recreation Site is also located west of Youbou on the north shore of Cowichan Lake, offering the same recreational pursuits as Pine Point, including vehicle and tent camping, as well as a south-facing beach, pit toilets, and a boat launch for boats up to 14 feet in length.
Recreational Sites: Other Recreational Sites on Cowichan Lake that offer boat launches and vehicle and tent camping are Heather Campsite, at the extreme eastern end of the Cowichan Lake, and heavily-forested Nixon Creek Campsite and Caycuse Recreation Site on the southern shore of Cowichan Lake.
Hiking is popular on Bald Mountain at Marble Bay. The trails are all well marked, and accessed via North Shore Road, Meade Creek Road, and Marble Bay Road. Cub Run is a 10-minute walk to the Old Wolf’s Hill and another 10 minutes to the top where there is an excellent view of the scout camp, the lake, and the Forest Research Station. Beaver Walk: Follow the Denniger Scout trail for approximately 5 minutes, then turn left at the sign and follow the trail along the lake. After walking for about an hour the steep trail to the right is Venturer’s Challenge, which takes you to the Saddle of Bald Mountain. If you wish to go all the way to the Marine Park, it is approximately 1-1/2 hours one way. Denniger Scout Trail is approximately 1-1/2 hours to the Saddle of Bald Mountain, and another 45 minutes to the top of Bald Mountain, with views of Youbou, Honeymoon Bay, and the North and South Arm of Cowichan Lake. From the top you can either return the same way or continue down the ridge of the mountain to Marine Park. This is a steep incline and will take an hour, with views of the upper lake and the South Arm. From the Marine Park it is another 1-1/2 hours along the lake to the parking lot.
The Great Lake Walk and Ultramarathon is a 56-km walk or run around beautiful Cowichan Lake, held annually on the third Saturday in September. The race route starts at Youbou on the north shore, continuing counter-clockwise to Caycuse, Honeymoon Bay and Mesachie Lake on the south shore, and finishing in the town of Lake Cowichan.
The closest community to Youbou is Lake Cowichan, situated at the eastern end of Cowichan Lake. Travelling from the east (Duncan), the town of Lake Cowichan is the gateway to some great camping, boating and hiking on and around Cowichan Lake.
West of Youbou is the remote First Nations community located on Nitinat Lake, a beautiful tidal saltwater fjord, 23 kilometres in length and 1.2 kilometres wide, located in the West Coast Trail Unit of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Nitinat Lake is considered one of the world’s ten best windsurfing and kite boarding areas.