One of the most popular and beautiful campsites along the West Coast Trail is Tsusiat FallsTsusiat Falls is one of the main highlights on the trail with its dramatically wide and beautifully picturesque appearance. You will find Tsusiat Falls at the base of an extraordinary array of ladders extending hundreds of metres up into the trees. 

Tsusiat Falls pours over an abrupt and wide cliff onto the sandy beach. The force of the water has dug out quite a large pool that flows in an ever changing channel through the sand to the ocean. It is quite common to see whales passing in the distance from the beach at Tsusiat.

The beach is raised up a few metres from the ocean and affords you a better vantage point over the ocean than you get elsewhere. Tsusiat Falls campsite is wide and extends as far as you want to go down the beach. As everyone has seen pictures of it, everyone aims for it to spend the night. If you don't mind crowds then you'll love it.

If you don't like crowds, you may have trouble finding a serene corner to camp. If you really want to find serenity, you might try camping at the far end of the beach where you will find quite a large sea cave. If you love waking up to whales in the distance and the beautiful roar of waterfalls nearby, then you will find that at Tsusiat. The campsite is well designed for crowds though as the hundreds of driftwood logs on the beach have fashioned partitioned areas randomly, where some sort of organized privacy exists.

Tsusiat Falls Campsite on the West Coast Trail

Should you camp at Tsusiat Falls? Absolutely. Sure it will be busy, but the falls are beautiful and the beach is terrific. Very interesting walk down the beach ending at the sea cave. You can go further, but it involves some scrambling over rock outcrops. Every few metres down the beach you can look back on another view of the falls. Never seems to get old. The campsite is raised up from the ocean a few metres so you get a great vantage point over the ocean and you have a really good chance of seeing whales pass by. Just look for the tell-tale water spouts.

Tsusiat Falls Campsite on the West Coast Trail

Shipwrecks Near Tsusiat Falls - West Coast Trail

Shipwrecks Near Tsusiat Falls on the West Coast TrailThe Janet Cowan was a steel sailing vessel, four-masted, bark rigged, of 2498 tons built at Glasgow in 1889. She was wrecked at about the 19 kilometre mark on the West Coast Trail with several lives lost. The Janet Cowan shipwreck shone a light on the necessity of building more lighthouses and constructing a coastal lifesaving trail. Little was done, however, and just 10 years later, and less than a kilometre away, the Valencia met a similar fate. Considerably more loss of life and media attention spurred the Canadian government forward and the West Coast Trail and the nearby Pachena Point Lighthouse were born. The Janet Cowan was named after the maiden name of the wife of the first owner. Unlike most other shipwrecks in the Graveyard of the Pacific, a good record of the ship as well as at least a couple photographs of her still exist. The Janet Cowan sailed from Cape Town on September 11th, 1895, bound for Royal Roads(near Victoria) on Vancouver Island. With 1100 tons of ballast and a crew of 29. The long voyage went very well until the evening of December 30th, 1895. Approaching Juan de Fuca Strait, under easy sail and with moderate weather, attempts were made to signal for a tug or pilot. They received no response. With daylight gone, she was sailing blind into the Graveyard of the Pacific. The captain decided to wait for daylight before sailing further. Just after 7pm the wind shifted suddenly and steadily increased into a gale. The Janet Cowan was brought around and attempted to run out for an offing to wait out the storm. At 845pm, Cape Flattery Lighthouse was spotted four or five miles away. The weather continued to worsen, with a violent gale blowing, heavy seas and thick snow falling, the Captain worried that their repeated wearing(a sailing technique of turning through the wind to shift the wind from one side of the boat to the other), would cause them to lose ground. This agonizing battle went on in brutal darkness as they charted their position based on their last sight of Cape Flattery and estimated speed. They pinpointed their position to be about seven miles off Vancouver Island, with the time now being well after midnight. Just before 1am, the second mate reported land on the starboard bow. The crew rushed to steer away, however the ship was caught in the trough of the sea and still inching towards the shore. At 130am the Janet Cowan was perilously inside the outside breakers and unable to escape. The ship was swung broadside on, with her head to the westward and the seas breaking over her fore and aft, she crashed into the shore. The captain ordered all hands aft and one of the crew, Thomas Chamberlain volunteered to swim ashore with a rope. The attempt failed when the rope became hopelessly tangled in the rocks. He had to let it go to save himself, clawing his way to the shore. They succeeded on their next attempt, though with tremendous difficulty, by using a lifeboat to get to the shore with a rope. Bitterly cold weather, tumultuous, swirling seas, and overall precarious situation made the lifeboat unusable in getting the crew to the shore. Instead they used the line suspended between the shore and the ship to clumsily bring people over one at a time. In the frantic chaos of that night three of the crew drowned, never to be seen again. It is assumed they drowned while attempting the crossing, however, they were only noticed missing after a muster of the crew by the captain on shore. One final crewman, too afraid to leave the crumbling ship, remained. He eventually made it to shore after daybreak. Cold, wet and desperate, it was decided to make an attempt to reach Cape Beale Lighthouse and obtain assistance. With this object in view, the crew divided, and the telegraph line being found, it was decided to follow it, the younger members of the crew pushing ahead, and others following as best they could. The captain, who appears to have been worn out from incessant watching before reaching shore, being unable to keep up, the chief officer telling the steward and donkeyman to stay by and assist captain, pushed on himself in the hope of obtaining help. After spending a night in the woods, and finding it impossible to make progress through the heavy snow and dense forests, had no alternative but to return to wreck. On the way back he passed the body of captain. who had died from exposure, also bodies of W. Selkirk, donkeyman, and Peberval, A.B., and other members of the crew; reported death of George Kinnear, cook, from same cause. The wreck being reached, and sea having moderated, crew were enabled to get on board ship, and proceeded to land provisions and sails for making tents, and then made camp on beach, meanwhile, doing all they could to attract attention of passing vessels. Almost two weeks passed and on the 11th day of January, the steam-tug "Tyee" arrived on the scene and rescued mate and 12 of crew who were in the immediate vicinity of wreck. Leaving nine men in camp higher up on beach, who at the time could not be reached, and after an unsuccessful attempt at reaching them, owing to bad surf and darkness, the tug proceeded to Port Townsend. The nine men were rescued by Canadian steamer Princess Louise on Monday following, and safely landed at Victoria, B.C. The official court documents of the shipwreck write the following as the cause of the disaster, "The ship appears to have been navigated with proper and seamanlike care, and every precaution taken for the safety of the ship and crew, but in marking the ship's position off on the chart at midnight of the 30th day of December, sufficient allowance does not appear to have been made for current, which, however, seems to have been stronger than usual, and to have set the ship rapidly on the Vancouver shore, the light draught of the vessel, combined with the violence of the gale, with the heavy sea, making it impossible to keep her off."

Shipwrecks Near Tsusiat Falls on the West Coast TrailThe Robert Lewers was a 185 foot, four masted schooner of 732 tons, built in Port Blakely, Washington in 1889. She was wrecked just past kilometre 19 on the West Coast Trail, just half a kilometre from the Janet Cowen shipwreck, and less than two kilometres from the Valencia shipwreck. The Robert Lewers entered the Graveyard of the Pacific on the 11th of April, 1923. The ship was heading for Bellingham, Washington in ballast from Honolulu with a crew of 14. The circumstances of how Robert Lewers became wrecked on this shore is a depressing tale of unfortunate mishaps. As she entered the Juan de Fuca Strait she found little wind and was forced to wait for a tug boat. A tug boat finally arrived to tow her into port. While passing the hawser line from the tug, it became tangled in the masts and rigging, tearing away the Robert Lewers jib boom and head gear. Another attempt was made with hopeful success, until the tow rope snapped. In the confusion, the tug hit a rock and was forced to limp back to Seattle for repairs. Through this ordeal the ship creeped perilously close to shore so the port anchor was released. Moments later the stern of the ship was dragging along the bottom. As the situation became desperate a call was sent out for another tug. An hour and a half passed, waiting for rescue as the ship continued to grind on the reef. When the second tug arrived, it could not get in close enough to attach a line. The wind was picking up so the captain decided to pull the anchor and try to sail out. The wind was far too weak to pull the massive ship away from the rocks and she fell broadside on the beach. The crew abandoned ship and the Robert Lewers remained, battered by waves and in the next few hours, she broke in two and became a permanent part of the Graveyard of the Pacific just offshore of what would later become the West Coast Trail.

Shipwrecks Near Tsusiat Falls on the West Coast TrailJust past the 20 kilometre mark of the West Coast Trail you will find an anchor of the Woodside on the beach. The Woodside, an 87 foot long steamer built in Sooke, BC in 1878. The Woodside provided regular service between Victoria, Port Renfrew, Barkley Sound(sometimes spelled Barclay Sound), and the Albernie Canal. On March 12th, 1888, the Woodside lost her rudder and drifted into the rock shelf in front of Trestle Creek. Just past the 20 kilometre mark on the West Coast Trail, the anchor of the Woodside still sits in the middle of the beach. The ship was a total loss, disintegrating over the years with little left but the hauntingly vivid reminder of the wreck, laying rusting on the beach. The improbably located anchor on the beach is a stunning representation of how cool the West Coast Trail is. Emerge from the deep forest and difficult trail, to a desolate feeling, rocky coastline with a huge anchor left here from a shipwreck that happened over a century ago. Extraordinary!

Shipwrecks Near Tsusiat Falls on the West Coast TrailThe Uncle John was a 138 foot, three masted barkentine of 314 tons. Built in Eureka, California in 1881 and wrecked one kilometre east of Tsusiat Falls on the West Coast Trail. She was inbound in ballast from Hololulu, heading to Port Townsend. Owing to awful weather and heavy seas, the crew was unable to obtain any sights. Upon hearing breakers, she slowed and drifted into "an immense flat rock", which the ship became lodged against. Unable to launch a boat, the crew was forced to spend the night on the unmovable ship. When daylight finally arrived, the crew was able to make their escape to shore. The Uncle John continued to get pounded against the rock shelf until she was breaking apart. Her final resting place on the Graveyard of the Pacific is just down the beach from Hole In the Wall on the West Coast Trail.

Shipwrecks Near Tsusiat Falls on the West Coast TrailAt about 29 kilometres on the West Coast Trail you will pass the Vesta shipwreck. This 3 masted schooner of 286 tons was wrecked here on November 10th, 1897. This 128 foot long sailing ship was primarily used to ship lumber to California. The Vesta was inbound from California in ballast to Port Blakely Mills on Bainbridge Island, Washington. The Vesta wrecked at 430am on the 10th of November and was carried so high on the beach as to find her masts in the trees. She had overrun her position due to stormy, foggy weather and the unaccounted for current that brought so many ships to a tragic end in the Graveyard of the Pacific. All of the Vesta's crew of 8 men survived and were able to row to safety and rescue once the storm eased enough to safely travel. The Vesta, owing to its resting place high on the beach, remained there for several years. Often used by lineman seeking shelter, she was often noted by passing ships and used as a landmark. Eventually the hulk was burned in order to salvage the metal fastenings. Some metal parts of the Vesta can still be found today on the spot where she rested for so long. One of her anchors still lies buried in the sand and revealed occasionally by winter storms.

Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailJanet Cowan at 19k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailRobert Lewers at 20k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailWoodside at 20.2k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailUncle John at 26.2k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailVesta at 29k

More West Coast Trail Campsites 

Klanawa River Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailThe campsite at Klanawa River is quite nice beacause of its lovely, swimmable river, expansive beach and serenity relative to other West Coast Trail campsites.. Though the beach is a thick, tangle of driftwood, you can still manage to find cleared areas perfect for a tent. Klanawa River is just a couple kilometres from Tsusiat FallsTsusiat Falls is pretty impressive and hardly any West Coast Trail hikers don't camp there. This leaves few people at Klanawa RiverBeautiful beach and a wonderfully huge river, the Klanawa River campground is fantastic. And because it is close to the super popular Tsusiat Falls campground it is often quiet and serene.  Also, the main trail runs to the cable car crossing which diverts the crowds away. At Klanawa River you will find the water flowing past wide and slow. The river is deep enough to dive into from the riverbank. Which is the best way to get in as it is always surprisingly cold. There are several nice places in the morass of tangled driftwood logs to put up a tent. This gives you a nice feeling of having partial walls and you are never more than a metre away from a log to sit on. In the forest you will find a few more, very nice and also serene feeling clearings for tents. Always with a perfect little fire ring in the centre and sometimes with log furniture surrounding. It is hard to say where is better for your tent, in the wild, deep forest or the wild, driftwood scattered beach. The forest is a bit more cozy feeling and especially suited for a campfire in the forest. The beach, however has the benefit of a perfectly smooth, sand surface under your tent and the ever present river and ocean view.

Klanawa River Campsite on the West Coast Trail

Cribs Creek Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailCribs Creek at 42k is a beautiful, clean, and surprisingly emerald coloured creek that flows through the beach campsites. That's about the only nice part about the campsite. The beach is not great, it smells of ageing seaweed, the sandy beach has patches of grass and bushes that give it a messy feel. Unlike many other beaches on the West Coast Trail where you have long sandy beaches carved out by the ocean in giant arcs. At Cribs Creek, you find an irregular and not very attractive beach setting. Still, a nice atmosphere can be created. A lively campfire and a West Coast Trail sunset turns this mediocre beach into decent place to get some rest. Certainly the biggest drawback to Cribs Creek is how busy it always is. Owing to its great distance to the next campsite to the north, Tsusiat Falls, everyone seems to camp here. And they camp here after quite a long day of hiking. Unlike Tsusiat Falls campers, who tend to marvel at the ocean view or stunning waterfalls, at Cribs Creek you find campers busy and focussed on camping and cooking. Skipping Cribs creek as a campsite is recommended.

Cribs Creek Campsite - West Coast Trail

Carmanah Creek Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailCarmanah Creek at 46k The breathtaking and massive Carmanah Creek slowly flows through this wonderfully massive and beautiful beach.  Plenty of room for plenty of tents. This is one of the beaches that makes you drop your pack, sit on the warm sand and gaze out at the ocean dumbfounded for minutes at a time.  The West Coast Trail is something special! There is no shortage of great spots on the beach to put up your tent. You can even put up your tent along the river on the lovely sandy bank. Everybody camps at the unimpressive Cribs Creek campsite just 4 kilometres away, leaving Carmanah Creek a serene paradise. This is one of the campsites where you will want to stay for days, so you might want to include that in your itinerary!

Carmanah Creek Campsite on the West Coast Trail

Klanawa River at 23k Tsusiat Falls at 25k Cribs Creek at 42k Carmanah Creek at 46k

 

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