The Janet Cowan Shipwreck 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!

Uncle John and Vesta Shipwrecks on the West Coast Trail

More West Coast Trail Shipwrecks Near the Woodside

The Valencia Shipwreck - West Coast Trail Graveyard of the PacificThe Woodside met its fate near Valencia Bluffs, where the Valencia shipwreck happened just 17 years later. The Valencia was the final shipwreck that was the impetus for the creation of the West Coast Trail. Of the 160 passengers and crew, more than 125 perished in circumstances which should not have warranted such a loss of life. Another lighthouse was needed as well as a well defined rescue trail with rescue shelters along the way would be quickly built in the months and years after the Valencia. The Janet Cowan shipwreck and the Robert Lewers shipwreck also rest in between the Valencia and the Woodside. A stark and vivid reminder of this particularly notorious section of the Graveyard of the Pacific. The 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.

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.

The Uncle John Shipwreck - West Coast Trail Graveyard of the PacificThe 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.

The Vesta Shipwreck - West Coast Trail Graveyard of the PacificAt 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 Cowen 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

Campsites Near the Woodside on the West Coast Trail

Tsocowis Creek Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailThe Woodside wrecked near the infamous Valencia Bluffs between two West Coast Trail campsites. Tsocowis Creek campsite is a couple kilometres north of the wreck and the much nicer campsite, Klanawa River lays a couple kilometres north. Of the two campsites, the Klanawa River campsite is much nicer with its large and inviting river that passes through the lovely rocky beach. The Tsocowis Creek campsite at 16.5k 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

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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