The Janet Cowan Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailNear the 37 kilometre mark on the West Coast Trail you will pass the Santa Rita, a 100 year old shipwreck hidden under the waves. The Santa Rita was a steel steam schooner, built in San Francisco in 1913. On February 15th, 1923 at 520am, this 235 foot long, 1600 ton ship collided head on with the the small island reef just a few hundred metres from the beach.

 

The Santa Rita was sailing in from San Pedro, California, in ballast for a port in the Puget Sound. In stormy weather and blindly navigating in poor visibility, the Carmanah Point Lighthouse was mistaken for the Cape Flattery Lighthouse on Tatoosh Island. The Carmanah Point Lighthouse is along the West Coast Trail and the Cape Flattery Lighthouse is 24.5 kilometres across Juan de Fuca Strait in the United States! The crew turned into what they thought was Juan de Fuca Strait and keeping the Cape Flattery Lighthouse on their right. Unfortunately they were about 20 kilometres north of what they thought, and were in fact keeping the Carmanah Point Lighthouse to their right and sailing directly at Vancouver Island. At 520am on February 15th, 1923 the Santa Rita collided head on into a small offshore reef just a few hundred metres from the West Coast Trail. The large ship, must have been sailing at quite a speed owing to the crew's reckoning that they were entering Juan de Fuca Strait. The sudden impact must have been horrific, loud, and completely unwarned. In the next few hours the entire crew of 30 escaped the wreck via breeches buoy. A breeches buoy is a rope based rescue system where a line runs from the ship to the shore and survivors ride in a flotation ring and leg harness.

Santa Rita Shipwreck

Santa Rita Shipwreck

Santa Rita Shipwreck

Santa Rita Shipwreck Map West Coast Trail

West Coast Trail Near Santa Rita (KM37)

Nitinaht Narrows to Cribs Creek 32-41km

Highlights, gorgeous ocean views, the Cheewhat River bridge, spectacular Cheewhat Beach, amazing ladder sections, wildly beautiful, hidden Dare Beach and campsite, more stunning cliffside hiking and ocean viewpoints, the absurdly busy, worst campsite on the West Coast TrailCribs Creek.

West Coast Trail Highlights: Gorgeous Ocean Views

Leaving Carl's Crab Shack you hike an easy and flat section of trail through mostly flat terrain as you pass near Whyac a small First Nations community. Just past KM33 the trail runs close to cliffs overlooking the ocean and some terrific views of jagged reefs and crashing whitewater. Below is the location of another shipwreck, the Raita wrecked here in 1925 and remnants hide under the waves on the other side of those reefs.

Best of the West Coast Trail Ocean Views

West Coast Trail Highlights: Cheewhat Bridge

The trail continues along the coast then through the community of Clo-oose and into the forest for a short distance before arriving at the Cheewhat Bridge. The Cheewhat Bridge near KM36 is near the start of an extraordinary two kilometre section of beach. The bridge is nice and gives you great views from the middle down the river toward the ocean.

Cheewhat River Bridge

West Coast Trail Highlights: Cheewhat Beach

After the Cheewhat Bridge you almost immediately arrive at the stunning, wide open, clear sandy Cheewhat Beach that extends for two kilometres.

Beautiful Cheewhat Beach West Coast Trail

West Coast Trail Highlights: Dare Beach

After walking along Cheewhat Beach you have to exit the beach and hike through the forest for a short distance before you get a choice between beach or forest route. After walking the beach and sinking into the sand on every step it is nice to try the forest for a while and the forest section is nice with lots of views and not terribly challenging. Near KM39 you come to a long bridge crossing the creek that flows through Dare Beach. The view of the beach far below is fantastic. Far below you see a pool of clear green water flowing over and beside a big rock shelf emerging from the forest. The beautiful pool ends at a big jumble of deadfall logs where the creek flows through for about 15 metres before ending at a wonderful sandy beach cut through by the creek. This is Dare Beach, named after Dare Point which juts out to the right and the sight of the Dare shipwreck that happened here in 1890. The same Dare Point would claim another ship in 1923 when the 600 ton steel steamer Santa Rita wrecked here. Dare Beach an unofficial West Coast Trail campsite, so it has no campsite amenities and is not marked as a campsite on maps. There is not a lot of room to camp along the beach, but otherwise it is fantastic, especially compared to the busy and a bit ugly Cribs Creek campsite just 1.5 kilometres away.

Dare Beach West Coast Trail

Near KM41 you come to another end of the trail, abrupt ladder down. This one takes you down to the beach that leads to the campsite at Cribs Creek.

Ladder Down to Cribs Creek

The Cribs Creek campsite is not the greatest and due to its location is always quite busy.

Cribs Creek Campsite

Campsites Near Santa Rita (KM37)

Tsusiat Falls CampsiteKM25: Tsusiat Falls Campsite

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 near the base of a towering 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. 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. Tsusiat Falls campsite continued here...

 

Dare Beach Unofficial CampsiteKM40: Dare Beach Campsite

Dare Beach an unofficial West Coast Trail campsite, so it has no campsite amenities and is not marked as a campsite on maps. There is not a lot of room to camp along the beach, but otherwise it is fantastic, especially compared to the busy and a bit ugly Cribs Creek campsite just 1.5 kilometres away. Near KM39 you come to a long bridge crossing the creek that flows through Dare Beach. Far below you see a pool of clear green water flowing over and beside a big rock shelf emerging from the forest. The beautiful pool ends at a big jumble of deadfall logs where the creek flows through for about 15 metres before ending at a wonderful sandy beach cut through by the creek.

 

Cribs Creek CampsiteKM42: Cribs Creek Campsite

Cribs Creek at KM42 of the West Coast Trail is a nice, emerald coloured creek that flows through the messy, beach campsite. The pretty creek is about the only nice part about this 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. 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. Cribs Creek campsite continued here...

 

The Valencia Disaster

The Valencia wrecked just before midnight on Monday, January 22nd, 1906.  Nearly 34 hours later, at 9am Wednesday morning the situation on the Valencia was horrific.  Battered by waves, the ship was ...
Read more
The Valencia was a 252-foot-long passenger steamship built in 1882 in Philadelphia. She served as a passenger ship down the eastern coast of North America until 1898 when she was sold to the Pacific ...
Read more
The Valencia was equipped with six lifeboats and a smaller working boat. These seven boats could hold up to 181 people. Just enough to accommodate the estimated 178 crew and passengers aboard.  There ...
Read more
After the McCarthy boat was launched successfully and cleared the breakers at around 9am Tuesday January 23rd the captain, crew and passengers on the Valencia confidently expected men to soon appear ...
Read more

West Coast Trail A to Z

Owen Point, at about the 67km mark on the West Coast Trail is home to a stunningly colourful and well hidden area of sandstone caves carved out by the ocean. Centuries of crashing waves have gouged out huge, circular openings in the cliffs jutting out into the ...
Read more
William Philip Daykin was the first lightkeeper of the Carmanah Point Lighthouse from 1891 to 1912. In books and newspapers he is either written as Phil Daykin or W.P. Daykin. He and his wife Helen Strelley Marriott Daykin had five sons, Charles Thomas Daykin, ...
Read more
The Cape Beale Lighthouse was built in 1873 and lit up the southern tip of the entrance to Barkley Sound. Barkley Sound is the huge gap in Vancouver Island filled with islands, with Ucluelet at the north end of the gap and Bamfield and Cape Beale at the south end. ...
Read more
 

The West Coast Trail by Day

Day 5 on the West Coast Trail is a stunning, very difficult and tremendously enjoyable day of hiking. Walbran Creek is gorgeous campsite to wake up to. Your tent will open up to a sweeping view of ...
Read more

Amazing Whistler Hiking Trails

Explore BC Hiking Destinations!

The West Coast Trail

The West Coast Trail was created after decades of brutal and costly shipwrecks occurred along the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  One shipwreck in particular was so horrific, tragic and unbelievable that it forced the creation of a trail along the coast, which ...
Read more

Victoria Hiking Trails

Victoria has a seemingly endless number of amazing hiking trails.  Most take you to wild and beautiful Pacific Ocean views and others take you to tranquil lakes in beautiful BC Coastal Rainforest wilderness.  Regional Parks and Provincial Parks are everywhere you turn ...
Read more

Whistler Hiking Trails

Whistler is an amazing place to hike. Looking at a map of Whistler you see an extraordinary spider web of hiking trails. Easy trails, moderate trails and challenging hiking trails are all available. Another marvellous thing about Whistler is that Garibaldi Provincial Park ...
Read more