This section of the Cowichan River, just below the “Washout” run in the 5400 block of West Riverbottom Road, is now dry after the river changed course as a result of the rain storm at the beginning of the month. (Submitted photo)

Rain storm causes Cowichan River to change course

Hatching fish to be monitored this spring

The rain storm at the beginning of the month that flooded many areas of the Cowichan Valley has also impacted the course of the Cowichan River.

Parker Jefferson, vice-president of the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society, said all the rain at the time caused water levels to rise and has cut a new channel and diverted the river just below the “washout” run in the 5400 block of West Riverbottom Road.


He said the river used to travel through a U-shaped bend in that area that is approximately one-kilometre long, but a shorter side channel began forming through the centre of the oxbow over the past few years.

“Now, after the big storm, all the water in the river is now flowing through the approximately one-half kilometre side channel and away from the oxbow,” Jefferson said.

“The oxbow used to be a good spawning ground for salmon and steelhead trout, but the new shorter route is steeper and faster and not a good spawning habitat for fish.”

Jefferson said there is still some subterranean flow in the oxbow that could form pools where the fish eggs that were laid there before the storm could hatch this spring, and society members will be busy searching for them so they can be captured and released in the main part of the river.


He said it’s the only major change in direction of the Cowichan River from the rain storm that he is aware of.

“It’s certainly a big change in one day, but we knew it would happen at that spot for some time, so now it’s finally happened,” Jefferson said.

“There will likely be impacts to the fish as a result, but fish are resilient and have evolved in this environment where rivers change direction from time to time. They will find somewhere else in the river to spawn.”

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