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Why Vancouver Island and Lake Cowichan is the Perfect Place for Summer Camp

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

At The YES, we provide opportunities for young people to challenge themselves, build their self awareness, social skills, take a break from technology and reconnect with themselves, others and the natural environment. When I think about The YES, one of my favourite things about it is the location. Our program is located on Lake Cowichan, one of the largest fresh-water lakes on Vancouver Island. Every year, we’re so lucky to be able to return to learn, unlearn, and play on this site, which is on the land of the Ts'uubaa-asatx Nation (formerly known as Lake Cowichan First Nation). When I think about this place, I think of home, I think of friends, I think about safety, and I think about love. It’s a place that fills my heart up with golden memories, laughter and happy tears and it’s a perfect place for a summer camp to be: grounded, inviting and beautiful.

Three Reasons Why Lake Cowichan is the Perfect Place

Important Land History

  • The Ts'uubaa-asatx Nation, which translates in English to “People of the Lake '' have lived along Cowichan Lake since time immemorial. The traditional territory stretches the entire length of the lake, as well as along the height of the mountain ranges that circle the lake.

  • Due to its location in the middle of Vancouver Island, the area was known as a trading area with neighbouring tribes and embodies a sense of community. Self-determining and progressive, the Ts’uubaa-asatx Nation continues to govern in a harmonious and balanced way, inclusive of all members, valuing relationships, customs, and traditions.

  • The YES often uses metaphors like the butterfly effect, domino effect, snowball effect, and ripple effect with participants. It’s the kind of leadership we like to focus on – it’s important to value leadership in our everyday lives and to take stock of how each of our actions and behaviours affect the people around us, so by being conscious of the ways we act, behave, and the decisions we make, we can push those dominos/snowballs/ripples in the right direction. We feel incredibly grateful to have a beautiful site year after year to do our work, often inspired by Indigenous values of respect for land, relationality and collective and community care.

An Opportunity to Connect with Nature

  • The Cowichan Lake Education Centre on Vancouver Island is down a bumpy dirt road not far from the town of Lake Cowichan

  • Arriving at the secluded site, you’ll find 44 acres of stunning Douglas Fir trees, a beautiful lake shoreline, and an unforgettable mountain backdrop

  • Engage in gentle stretching or games on our big fields, forest bathing amongst the trees and swimming in our big blue lake

  • If you get up early, before the noise of camp begins, you can often see deer grazing and rabbits munching on the grass

  • At sunset, the beautiful pink and purple skies often reflect on the glassy waters of Lake Cowichan, often providing a stunning backdrop for campfire evening

Excellent Indoor & Outdoor Facilities

  • One of the largest buildings on site is our main hall and dining area, which is attached to our big, outdoor patio

  • Our camp facility comes with an incredible kitchen staff that serves us nutritious meals and snacks, buffet style

  • We use our main hall for many activities, and we’re also fortunate to have a number of other meeting rooms and spaces on site

  • For accommodation we have dorms, log cabins and two-person motel style rooms. Our main hall and accommodation buildings are all a couple minutes walk from our beautiful lake, private beach, and lush forest

  • We love being able to run activities that connect us back to nature and the land that we are on. Thanks to this site, we’re able to offer teenagers an opportunity to go canoeing, swimming, play field games and more

Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island is a crucial puzzle piece to our camp magic. It is a place where we can spend time deeping connections with one another, as well as the land in beautiful British Columbia. Every year, we look forward to returning to this incredibly abundant site, alongside our fantastic kitchen staff, volunteer staff members, and the teens of BC.


About the Author:

Shania Chand (she/her) is the Program Director of The Youth Excellence Society. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication, a Minor in Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies and a Certificate in Social Justice from Simon Fraser University.

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