At Lake Cowichan, everybody knows that tubing the Cowichan River through town is a calm afternoon of fun, but many folks who aren’t from the area do not.
They have been contacting local tube rental places, and even local politicians at Lake Cowichan, worried about news of a recent death and another near-fatal mishap at Horseshoe Bend near Marie Canyon on the river.
According to Cara Hughes of The Tube Shack, one of the Lake Cowichan businesses that rents tubes and inflatables, anyone tubing through town is in quiet water.
“Families love it. I’ve had children as young as one year old that go down with their parents. It’s a very calm, very family friendly part of the river.”
People also tend to tube together: another safety factor.
“We have lots of family groups, lots of groups with their friends that will go as well.”
Another advantage with the wide, slow moving part of the Cowichan River most favoured by tubers is that quite a bit of the stretch through Lake Cowichan is not very deep.
“There are some parts that are deep, in the first section, the part that’s right in town, but those are the sections that are wide and very, very calm. Rather like a lake. There’s nothing that’s going to pull you under or throw you anywhere,” Hughes said. “Then there are spots where it shallows out and you can get up and stand, but there the water kind of rushes over the rocks a bit and shoots you through a little quicker but it’s nothing that’s going to jostle you and throw you off.”
The Tube Shack’s customers ride the Cowichan River through Lake Cowichan to Little Beach, on Greendale Road at the east end of the town.
“We only go to Little Beach. We don’t send our equipment any farther than that. Once it’s past Little Beach, there are people with private properties, and the forest gets a lot denser there. Little Beach is absolutely the best take-out point. And past there it gets more dangerous, so we don’t want to deal with that part of the river.”
Once you travel farther east down the Cowichan River past Skutz Falls towards Marie Canyon, it’s not just the forest that changes.
“Watching the videos that have been on the news you can see there’s some very aggressive, canyon-type rapids that will bounce you off the rocks, very dangerous,” she said.
That sort of river riding is not what many tubing groups are looking for, but there are some folks who like it.
“Some of the young people, the thrill seekers. If you were a professional kayaker, an Olympic kayaker, well maybe.”
But, The Tube Shack is stressing that they don’t go there.
“We’ve had a lot of people calling with concerns. But, I have a youth group from Port Renfrew that I’m sending out right now. They’ve got little kids with them. This is a safe part of the river. It’s not meant to be adrenaline. It’s just meant to be relaxing and calm,” Hughes said.
Lake Cowichan Mayor Ross Forrest told fellow councillors at their July 11 meeting that he had been fielding calls from out-of-town media about the dangers of tubing the Cowichan, and that he had been at pains to explain the differences between the two parts of the river to them.
“It’s important that we all stress that the problem is in the lower river, not here at Lake Cowichan. Down there the current is so much swifter. Here, it’s a heavily populated area, right from the lake to Little Beach.
“We have two proactive, established businesses who are trying to ensure people know the difference. I don’t want to see our tubing companies affected by this,” the mayor said, urging his colleagues to spread the word to people they knew.