The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailOn Monday, January 22nd, 1906 the passenger steamship Valencia was nearing the end of her voyage from San Francisco to Victoria and Seattle. Out of sight of the coast for some time and steaming blindly in the dark toward the Graveyard of the Pacific, the Captain used various methods to estimate his position in order to navigate safely into Juan de Fuca Strait. Badly underestimating their position, the Captain steered in the direction of the Cape Flattery Lighthouse which he expected to soon see.

 

Cape Flattery marks the south end of Juan de Fuca Strait, while across the strait Vancouver Island lays in darkness. At 1150pm the Valencia struck a ledge a few hundred metres from the shore and began taking on water rapidly. Attempting to beach the ship, the ship pulled off the ledge and backed onto a reef just 20-30 metres from the shore. Despite this close proximity to land, they found themselves surrounded by crashing waves, jagged reefs and steep cliffs. In the following 36 hours, an estimated 182 people on the Valencia would be reduced to just 38 survivors. The Valencia had seven lifeboats and three life rafts. In the first hour three of the boats were smashed to pieces against the ship, killing all but one on board. Another two boats got a few metres from the ship, then flipped and smashed against to pieces against the reef, killing most of the passengers. One boat disappeared into the night and was presumed to have flipped and drowned all on board.  A handful of men made it to shore from the two flipped boats only to find themselves at the base of vertical cliffs. When daylight came survivors on the ship watched as some men on the shore attempted to climb the cliffs and one by one fell into the sea or on to the rocks below. As the Valencia disintegrated on the reef, pounded by waves, remaining survivors clung to what was left of the ship above water. At about noon on Wednesday, January 24th, the Valencia broke apart and the remaining survivors fell into the frigid water to drown, drift out to sea or get thrown onto the jagged rock along the shore.

In the days and weeks that followed the difficult task of recovering the bodies strewn along the coast was undertaken. In the following days and weeks an estimated 59 bodies were pulled from the sea or found thrown high on rocky ledges at the base of cliffs or inside caves cut by the ocean. In 1906, the west coast of Vancouver Island was mostly inaccessible by land and very difficult to access in the stormy winter months. Most of the victims of the Valencia disaster would never be recovered. Bodies would be found several kilometres up the coast and some would collect in along beaches. Bodies would be pulled from the ocean and hastily covered by sand and rocks to keep birds from eating them. Days later, when boats could finally get in to land, they would be dug up and transported to ships. In such a chaotic and hostile environment many bodies likely did not make it off the beach.

The 38 survivors of the Valencia disaster lived through horrific events. Nine men would survive from the two boats that flipped in the first hour. They managed to crawl their way to the edge of the cliffs and survive the night in freezing rain, huddled against a cliff. The following morning they found a way to climb up the cliff and follow a telegraph cable to a lineman’s hut several kilometres away. In the hut they were able to contact the outside world for help, though it would be several hours before ships would arrive.

Meanwhile on the Valencia the one remaining lifeboat was successfully launched with six volunteer crewmen. Their goal was to get to shore and make their way up to the cliff above the ship. The Valencia had a Lyle gun capable of firing a rope to the top of the cliff where a boatswain’s chair could be rigged to transport everyone off the ship.  Owing to the stormy weather, bad visibility and strong current the boat would travel several kilometers down the coast before reaching land near the Cape Beale Lighthouse. They would get to the lighthouse and contact the outside world for help one hour after the nine men from the boats did.

The following day a ship finally appeared in the distance and the Valencia survivors desperately clinging to parts of the ship above water, hoped for imminent rescue. Hours passed and the ship refused to approach or launch boats, the two remaining life rafts were used. This was a desperate attempt that didn’t seem likely to succeed.  First the rafts are low in the water and the passengers would be partly immersed in the freezing ocean. Second they are hard to maneuver and rowing past the breakers crashing all around them seemed unlikely. Incredibly the first raft, manned by only ten men, as nobody else would get aboard, made it through the breakers relatively easily. The second raft was then launched and packed to capacity with nineteen men. Remarkably this overcrowded raft managed to clear the breakers as well and head out to sea. Astoundingly, during this time the would be rescue vessel departed, leaving the two rafts hopelessly adrift with half submerged survivors dying of exposure. Miraculously, the second raft with 19 men was spotted hours later by a ship called in to search for the Valencia. The Topeka pulled the survivors off the raft and most were barely alive and couldn’t stand up. Incredibly, of the two rafts this was the lucky one. The other raft, the first to be launched with ten men on board was carried by the current up the coast for several hours. Constantly submerged in freezing water and drifting hopelessly only four of the ten men would survive the ordeal when they finally made it to land on Turret Island in Barkley Sound! Three of the men were found on the island, barely alive 26 hours after leaving the Valencia. A fourth man was located hours later wandering the island looking for a lighthouse. The raft they were on was found with three dead bodies on it. These men had died of exposure long before the four survivors managed to reach shore. Another three men out of the original ten had died previously, one of exposure and two jumped into the ocean and drowned.

Valencia Shipwreck Map West Coast Trail

More West Coast Trail Shipwrecks Near the Valencia

The Varsity Shipwreck at 17.6km

Shipwreck Icon West Coast TrailJust 4 kilometres past the Uzbekistan shipwreck you will pass by the final resting place of the Varsity. 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.  

Varsity shipwreck continued here...

The Janet Cowan Shipwreck at 19km

Shipwreck Icon West Coast TrailThe 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.  

Janet Cowan shipwreck continued here...

The Robert Lewers Shipwreck at 20km

Shipwreck Icon 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 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.

Robert Lewers shipwreck continued here...

West Coast Trail Shipwrecks

 Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailAlaskan at 4k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailSoquel at 5k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailSarah at 7k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailBecherdass-Ambiadass at 8k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailMichigan at 12k 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 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 Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailRaita at 33k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailSkagit at 34.2k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailSanta Rita at 37k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailDare at 39k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailLizzie Marshall at 47k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailPuritan at 48.5k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailWempe Brothers at 49.4k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailDuchess of Argyle at 58k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailJohn Marshall at 62.3k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailWilliam Tell at 64.2 Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailRevere at 69k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailCyrus at 75k

Campsites Near the Valencia on the West Coast Trail

Tsocowis Creek Campsite at 16.5km

6 West Coast Trail RatingThe 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 Creek West Coast Trail

Tsocowis Creek Campsite Map v7

Tsocowis Creek campsite continued here...

Orange Juice Creek Campsite at 15km

5 West Coast Trail RatingJust a kilometre past the Darling River campsite you will come to another beach campsite at Orange Juice CreekOrange 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 Crossing

Orange Juice Creek Campsite Map v8

Orange Juice Creek campsite continued here...

Klanawa River Campsite at 23km

8 West Coast Trail RatingThe campsite at Klanawa River is quite good owing to its lovely, swimmable river and expansive beach. 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 River. Beautiful 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.  

Klanawa River West Coast Trail

Klanawa River Campsite Map v7

Klanawa River campsite continued here...

Tsusiat Falls Campsite at 25km

9 West Coast Trail RatingOne 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

Tsusiat Falls Campsite Map v8

Tsusiat Falls campsite continued here...

West Coast Trail Campsites

 West Coast Trail CampsitesMichigan Creek at 12k West Coast Trail CampsitesDarling River at 14k West Coast Trail CampsitesOrange Juice Creek at 15k West Coast Trail CampsitesTsocowis Creek at 16.5k West Coast Trail CampsitesKlanawa River at 23k West Coast Trail CampsitesTsusiat Falls at 25k West Coast Trail CampsitesCribs Creek at 42k West Coast Trail CampsitesCarmanah Creek at 46k West Coast Trail CampsitesBonilla Creek at 48k West Coast Trail CampsitesWalbran Creek at 53k West Coast Trail CampsitesCullite Cove at 58k West Coast Trail CampsitesCamper Bay at 62k Thrasher Cove - West Coast Trail CampsitesThrasher Cove at 70k 

"Breakers Ahead!" written by R. Bruce Scott, who began living in Bamfield in 1930 and spent the next few decades pushing for the development of a park on the west coast of Vancouver Island.  After he retired in 1960, he began researching and writing this book, ...
Read more

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 ...
Read more
Just a kilometre past the Darling River campsite you will come to another beach campsite at Orange Juice Creek. Orange Juice Creek is not terribly pretty and gets its name from the intensely, orange juice coloured water that crashes through a tangled morass of ...
Read more
The Bonilla Creek campsite at 48km on the West Coast Trail is easy to miss, as it looks very unassuming from the beach. Most hikers pass by Bonilla Falls, which is nestled against a small cliff at the edge of a suddenly deep forest. And the forest hides a nice ...
Read more
Camper Bay campsite at the 62km mark of the West Coast Trail is very nice, similar to Cullite Cove there are cliffs on either side and a large creek flowing through. The downside is crowding due to the difficulty of the trail making it an almost essential campsite ...
Read more

The Revere shipwreck lays at the bottom of Port San Juan between Thrasher Cove and Owen Point. Thrasher Cove is the first or last West Coast Trail campsite you will encounter. She was a large 3 ...
Read more
The Puritan was a 4 masted schooner of 614 tons sailing inbound from San Francisco in ballast. She was heading for Port Gamble in Washington to pick up a load of lumber when the crew failed to ...
Read more
The John Marshall shipwreck is located under the waves just outside the mouth of Camper Bay at the 62 kilometre mark of the West Coast Trail. Owing to the great difficulty and slow progress hikers ...
Read more
On Monday, January 22nd, 1906 the passenger steamship Valencia was nearing the end of her voyage from San Francisco to Victoria and Seattle. Out of sight of the coast for some time and steaming ...
Read more

When shipping in and out of Juan de Fuca Strait rapidly increased in the mid 1800's and an alarming and costly number of ships were lost, the need for a inland trail was realized. It would take decades, and many more brutal and costly shipwrecks in the waters leading to
Read more
The West Coast Trail is incredible. Everything about it is amazing. From the wildly, incomprehensibly enormous trees to endless jaw dropping views. And it's tough.  Very tough.  It is a trail that shouldn't exist. Hiking trails always form out of the easiest route worn ...
Read more
The West Coast Trail hiking season is confined to just five months due to the dangerously stormy weather during the winter months. In the winter the days are short, tides are high and heavy rain and strong winds are frequent. Hiking the trail in the summer is tough ...
Read more
There are three entry/exit points for the West Coast Trail, however the midway entry/exit point at Nitinaht Narrows is for hikers only hiking part of the trail. The two main entry points are at Pachena Bay in the north(Bamfield) and Gordon River in the south(Port ...
Read more
There are lots of options to getting to the West Coast Trail. The trail is linear so you have to arrange to get to the trailhead as well as from your exit trailhead. Most West Coast Trail hikers drive to one trailhead then bus to the other and hike back to their car. ...
Read more
The West Coast Trail is a very tough hike. About one out of one hundred hikers don't make it, they need to be rescued. That's why there are so many fees. By the time you are done preparing and registering, you laugh at how hiking got so expensive. Isn't hiking usually ...
Read more