The Cowichan River has been described as "one of the world's best salmon and trout rivers, although it is relatively unknown." The river drains the heavily-forested Cowichan Valley covering a vast mountain basin of about 90,000 ha or 900 square kilometres. The valley supports a second-growth forest of Douglas fir, hemlock and lodgepole pine, changing to a more pastoral environment of dairy farms and hay fields as well as settlement in the lower reaches. The river actually flows from Cowichan Lake, at an elevation of 159 m, about 35 km to the east coast of Vancouver Island on Georgia Strait.
The river is an important fishery supporting brown, cutthroat, and rainbow trout as well as steelhead and salmon. Recreation is also a major use with a variety of boating, tubing and hiking activities prominent along the river corridor.
Land status along the river is a mix of many interests including parks, private land and First Nations interests. Local planning activity focusing on the Cowichan River and involving a full range of stakeholders has taken place for a number of years and has provided a basis for land-use directions embraced by the approved Vancouver Island Land Use Plan.
On November 5, 2005, a plaque commemorating the Cowichan River's designation to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System was unveiled by federal, provincial and First Nations officials. Here is the joint news release and backgrounder for more information
Proclaimed B.C. Rivers: