The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailThe Valencia is usually regarded as the worst shipwreck disaster in the West Coast Trail and the final impetus for the creation of the West Coast Trail. The SS Valencia was an iron-hulled, 1600 ton passenger steamer built in 1882. Originally built for service between Venezuela and New York City, she later became a coastal passenger liner on the West Coast of the United States. In 1906 she was wrecked off Cape Beale, near Clo-oose, on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

 

During the Valencia's time as a passenger ferry on the west coast, she was criticised for being too slow, too small, and too open to the elements. Relegated to the classification as a second class vessel, she was often used as a backup vessel and languished in San Francisco. In 1906, she was pressed into service for another ship undergoing repairs. In January 20th 1906 she began her long journey to Seattle with 9 officers, 56 crew, and at least 108 passengers. 320 kilometres(200 miles) from San Francisco, she passed Cape Mendocino on the 21st. The weather went from excellent to terrible as strong winds and poor visibility engulfed the ship.

Unable to use the stars for navigation, the Valencia relied on dead reckoning to identify their position. Dead reckoning is an early tool of navigation, where you calculate your position based on estimated speed and time from a previously determined position. The captain did not take into account the strong northerly current that caused ships to overrun the Juan de Fuca Strait by a considerable distance. Blinded by the weather and battered with strong winds and currents, the captain turned the Valencia toward the coast for its run into the strait. Just before midnight on the 22nd of January, she collided with the reef near Pachena Point on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island.

The high number of fatalities are estimated to have been between 117 to 181. Varying sources and speculation has resulted in a fair bit of uncertainty on those figures. According to the government report at the time, the official deaths numbered 136. Only 37 men survived the shipwreck and all the woman and children perished. The high number of fatalities was the result of many factors, navigational mistakes and poor weather. The number of lifeboats was adequate, however, the ability to use them was somewhat lacking. The single, preventable cause for the high death toll, everyone agreed, was the lack of lifesaving infrastructure along Vancouver Island's unforgiving and desolate, west coast. The Canadian government rapidly began work on what would result in the West Coast Trail. A lighthouse was was constructed and regularly spaced shelters along the newly constructed trail. The Valencia shipwreck disaster happened in 1906, the Pachena Point Lighthouse was finished in 1908, and in 1911 the West Coast Trail was completed. 27 years later, in 1933, one of Valencia's lifeboats was found floating in Barkley Sound. Still in good condition, with much of its original paint intact and the boat's nameplate still fastened. This nameplate is is now on display in the wonderful Maritime Museum of BC in Victoria.

Varsity to Woodside Shipwrecks Map

More West Coast Trail Shipwrecks Near the Valencia

The Varsity Shipwreck - West Coast Trail Graveyard of the PacificThere are three more shipwrecks relatively near the Valencia shipwreck on the West Coast Trail. These are the Varsity at 17.6k, the Janet Cowen at 19k, and the Robert Lewers at 20k. The Varsity was a small fishing boat of 90 tons, returning to Puget Sound from California on February 5th, 1940. In bad weather and stormy seas, she abruptly struck the shore, just a kilometre past, what is today, Tsocowis Creek on the West Coast Trail. The Varsity had overrun her position due to the fast northerly current. The crew were so hopelessly lost that they believed their position to still be in American waters, instead of way up on the coast of Vancouver Island. Unfortunately their distress call gave their position as several kilometres south of their actual position. Of the crew of seven, three survived by crawling their way to the shelf below what is now called Valencia Bluffs. They now found themselves on a steep shelf that they could not climb. Out of the wreckage they managed to survive exposure and construct a ladder up the cliff and found the trail that hikers now call the West Coast Trail. The three survivors made their way to Tsocowis Creek and found the Tsocowis cabin occupied by lineman who fortunately was there. The three were later picked up from Tsocowis Beach. Today the shipwreck's huge metal winch rusts in a crevice at the foot of Valencia Bluffs.

The Janet Cowan Shipwreck - West Coast Trail Graveyard of the PacificThe Janet Cowen 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 Cowen 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 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 was wrecked here on the 11th of April, 1923. The ship was heading for Bellingham, Washington in ballast from Honolulu with a crew of 14.

The Robert Lewers Shipwreck -West Coast Trail Graveyard of the PacificThe 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.

 Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailUzbekistan at 13.8k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailVarsity at 17.6k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailValencia at 18.3k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailJanet Cowen at 19k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailRobert Lewers at 20k

Campsites Near the Valencia on the West Coast Trail

Tsocowis Creek Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailThe closest campsite to the Valencia shipwreck site at 18.3k would be Tsocowis Creek just a couple kilometres away at 16.5k. The Tsocowis Creek campsite has a decent beach with an excellent water source. Most hikers pass through the beach here on their way to Michigan if heading north or Tsusiat Falls if hiking south. The beach at Tsocowis is fairly decent and there is plenty of room for tents along the beach amongst the driftwood logs. You have the same amenities here as other West Coast Trail campsites such as deluxe outhouses and animal proof food storage boxes. Tsocowis is home to one of the West Coast Trail guard cabin's. In 1940 the survivors of the Varsity shipwreck survived by crawling their way to the shelf below what is now called Valencia Bluffs. They now found themselves on a steep shelf that they could not climb. Out of the wreckage they managed to survive exposure and construct a ladder up the cliff and found the trail that hikers now call the West Coast Trail. The three survivors made their way to Tsocowis Creek and found the Tsocowis cabin occupied by lineman who fortunately was there. The three were later picked up from Tsocowis Beach. Today the shipwreck's huge metal winch rusts in a crevice at the foot of Valencia Bluffs.

Tsocowis Beach Campsite - West Coast Trail

Orange Juice Creek Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailOrange Juice Creek is not terribly pretty and gets its name from the intensely, orange juice coloured water that crashes through a tangled morass of driftwood logs. If you aren't keen on swimming and/or washing at Darling Falls, Orange Juice Creek is a good alternative. Much quieter than Michigan Creek and a bit quieter than Darling River, you will find a more relaxed surrounding at the campsite at Orange Juice Creek. Another less obvious aspect of Orange Juice Creek that makes it worth camping at is the small, but very livable sea cave. Some find it charming, others find it spooky. At the very least it is worth a look. A small fire in the middle, surrounded by driftwood logs for seats, in horribly, wet weather, this cave is paradise!

Orange Juice Creek on the West Coast Trail

Klanawa River Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailThe campsite at Klanawa River is quite nice because 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. You have the same amenities at Klanawa River as you do at most other West Coast Trail campsites. Outhouses and animal proof food boxes. The water from Klanawa River is nice, clean and just steps away. Beware of skinny dipping in the river, the trail runs on the opposite side of the river behind a narrow band of trees! Possibly the most endearing feature of the campsite at Klanawa River is how beautifully quiet it is. Nobody camps here and everyone camps at the nearby Tsusiat Falls. Almost every hiker passes by without even a look at the beach. Camping here one night is recommended before or after a night at Tsusiat Falls.

Klanawa River Campsite on the West Coast Trail

Tsusiat Falls Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailOne of the most popular and beautiful campsites along the West Coast TrailTsusiat 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 on the West Coast Trail

 Orange Juice Creek at 15k Tsocowis Creek at 16.5k Klanawa River at 23k Tsusiat Falls at 25k

 

West Coast Trail Shipwrecks

The Alaskan was a small, wooden hulled steamship of 150 tons built in Oregon in 1886. She was ...
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The Soquel shipwreck, which lies just past Seabird Rocks, was a much larger ship than the ...
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Built in 1864 the 1376 ton, 3 masted ship, Becherdass-Ambiadass was wrecked on the rocky shore ...
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The Uzbekistan was a steel steamship of 2569 tons. Built in 1937 in France and became a ...
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The Varsity was a fishing boat of 90 tons, returning to Puget Sound from California on February ...
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The Janet Cowan was a steel sailing vessel, four-masted, bark rigged, of 2498 tons built at ...
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The Robert Lewers was a 185 foot, four masted schooner of 732 tons, built in Port Blakely, ...
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The Uncle John was a 138 foot, three masted barkentine of 314 tons. Built in Eureka, California ...
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The Raita shipwreck is located off the reefs at about the 33 kilometre mark of the West Coast ...
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The Skagit, a 3 masted barkentine of 506 tons was wrecked on the reef in front of Clo-oose on ...
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The Puritan was a 4 masted schooner of 614 tons sailing inbound from San Francisco in ballast. ...
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The Duchess of Argyle shipwreck lays at the bottom of the sea at the mouth of Cullite Cove near the ...
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The John Marshall shipwreck is located under the waves just outside the mouth of Camper Bay at ...
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