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Chemainus, Cowichan Valley, BC

By KC Beam

The early history of the area is tied to its forests and related industries. The bay, around which Chemainus grew, has the natural attributes which made it attractive to the forest industry. The first sawmill opened in the early 1860s, was operated by a powerful stream and a potent waterfall. The late 1880s heralded the appearance of the railroad and the town slowly grew for the next thirty years. In the early 1920s the population was estimated at 600.

Chemainus is located in the District of North Cowichan, tucked neatly in the Cowichan and Chemainus Valleys, on south eastern Vancouver Island. North Cowichan is the third oldest municipality in British Columbia, with a population of approximately 27,000.

Never let those who say it can’t be done, stand in the way of those who are doing it. This is the credo of Karl Schutz, the force behind the original Chemainus Mural Project. There were many who looked at Chemainus, and declared that turning the town into an Outdoor Art Gallery simply could not and should not be done. Fortunately, the people who were busy trying to do it were too busy to get discouraged. And that is why, today, Chemainus is world famous and known as “the little town that did.”

With more than 35 murals and 13 sculptures depict the town’s history, people and future. Chemainus’ murals are world famous and attract hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. It’s the world’s largest outdoor gallery, and each year new artworks are added. Follow the footprints for a self-guided tour of Chemainus’ colourful past, or take a tour via horse-drawn carriage or simulated steam train.

In the heart of town, nestled in giant fir trees, is Waterwheel Park. While children play in the whimsical, nautical-themed play area, parents can relax. Don’t miss the sights and shops in Old Town, just a short stroll through the Gateway. Kin Park is a seaside picnic spot with a playground, swimming beach with change houses, and boat ramp.

A Boeing 737 was sunk as an artificial reef sunk in January of 2006 just off of Chemainus. The plane has now been under the waters of the Straight of Georgia for a while. Scuba divers from all over the world have visited this dive site. Many visit every year to see the development of new species.

Other activities that Chemainus offers include: golfing, boating, fishing, hiking and camping. And for history buffs, there is the Chemainus Valley Museum and if you wish to pursue your cultural side there is live theatre.

Chemainus is located south of Nanaimo and one hour north of Victoria on the Trans-Canada Highway. Cassidy Airport is 20 minutes to the north and the town is also serviced by coach lines between Victoria and Nanaimo. A more stunning route to travel is via the Esquimault and Nanaimo railway, which passes through some of the most beautiful scenery in Canada and provides striking views of the Gulf Islands.

Click here for more information on Chemainus? Or to expand your search to the coast of BC in general go here! Around Vancouver Island

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Beam, KC "Chemainus, Cowichan Valley, BC." Chemainus, Cowichan Valley, BC. 27 Jun. 2010. 4 Aug 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Beam, K (2010, June 27). Chemainus, Cowichan Valley, BC. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Beam, KC "Chemainus, Cowichan Valley, BC"

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