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, British Columbia in 1878. Sooke is the small town located about halfway between Victoria and Port Renfew at the south end of the West Coast Trail. The Woodside provided regular service between Victoria, Port Renfrew, Barkley 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!

Woodside Shipwreck Map

Shipwrecks Near the Woodside (KM20)

The Valencia Shipwreck Near KM18

Shipwreck Icon West Coast TrailThe Valencia is usually regarded as the worst shipwreck disaster in the Graveyard of the Pacific 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. The captain did not take into account the strong northerly current that caused ships to overrun 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 about 140. 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 38 men survived the shipwreck and all the woman and children perished. The Canadian government rapidly began work on what would result in the West Coast Trail. A lighthouse 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.  

Valencia shipwreck continued here...

The Robert Lewers Shipwreck Near KM20

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...

The Uncle John Shipwreck Near KM26

Shipwreck Icon 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.

Uncle John shipwreck continued here...

The Vesta Shipwreck Near KM29

Shipwreck Icon 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.

Vesta shipwreck continued here...

 

The Valencia Disaster

When the survivors on the second raft were rescued by the Topeka just five hours into their ordeal and so close to death that they could barely stand, one of them asked about the first raft.  It was ...
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Shortly after 3pm on Tuesday afternoon on January 23rd the Valencia’s owners in Seattle received a message that the Valencia had gone ashore somewhere west of the Carmanah Lighthouse on Vancouver ...
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The Valencia departed from San Francisco at 11:20am on Saturday, January 20th 1906, bound for Victoria and Seattle. She cruised roughly parallel to the coast at a variable distance that ranged from about 8 ...
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This is a much more accurate list of the victims of the Valencia shipwreck than all the other lists currently found online and in print.  The passenger and crew list given by the owners of the ...
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West Coast Trail A to Z

There are quite a few books about West Coast Trail shipwrecks, though many of them are tough to find and written decades ago. Here is a list of the ones we have found with the best information on the often scarce history of many of the lesser known shipwrecks ...
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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. ...
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Darling Falls has to be the most overlooked and underrated feature of the West Coast Trail. It never even appeared in West Coast Trail guidebooks until recently and hardly any websites or blogs give it a mention. There are some good reasons for this. First, the ...
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The West Coast Trail by Day

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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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