Wally Knott on saw and his partner Red Meyers at Meades Creek Oct. 1945 by W.H.Gold PhotoMOFM Logo  

Cowichan Lake Research Station (Then & Now)

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Cowichan Valley Authors/History of the Cowichan Lake Research Station by Ralph Schmidt



The BC Forest Service established the Cowichan Lake Experimental Station at Mesachie Lake in 1929. It has become world-renown for its work in forest genetics and tree physiology. The site was chosen for its close proximity to the Bald Mountain Lookout Tower, and an available acreage of 20 year old Douglas fir. In 1931, one of its first projects, was Douglas fir thinning plots.

In 1935, a "Young Men's Forestry Training Program" was created as a work creation program to ease some of the unemployment generated due to the Depression. The program hired sixty young men who built roads and trails, a cookhouse, bunk houses and a station residence, including a telephone service and a water system. The men were paid $1.00 a day for their work, and there was organized recreation as well as job training activities. Since road access did not exist, the station maintained a couple of clinker-built boats equipped with outboard motors. In 1936, a road was built from the Research Station to the public road.

In 1939, the personnel at CLES included 21 men in the Forest Development Project, 34 in the National Forestry Program and 15 in the Youth Forestry Training Program.

In 1941, the Station became a camp for reforestation and federal researchers. Also, a work camp was established to house conscientious objectors to the war. These people developed a reputation for careful tree planting and also as fire look-outs for Japanese incendiary bomb devices.

In 1945, the Dominion of Canada established a field laboratory for insect and disease research. Eight years later, the first forest genetic experiments with Douglas fir plantations were begun by Dr. Alan Ewing.

The Station served as a centre where studies were conducted during the summer months. This research was to learn how best to manage forests for future use. The studies involved growth and yield, thinning, stem pruning and direct seeding. The experimental forest was used for this, and study plots were established, in Douglas Fir and Alder stands. A number of studies were also done in soil-mapping, site-type classification, and cone & seed production. All workers, from the foresters to the labourers, stayed in the camp and used it as a base of operations for their work until the mid-sixties, when the Ministry's planting program in the area was completed.

In 1963, the nursery was established to produce stock for Provenance tests and tree-breeding programs.

In 1979, the CLES saw expansion with up to 25,000 grafts and 350,000 rooted cuttings being grown annually. The camp and cookhouse operate on a full time basis, and housed training courses, Ministry work crews, and visiting groups. The CLES also changed its name to the Cowichan Lake Research Station.

In 1983 it was designated as a Forest Service Heritage Building.