Kw'as Park

Pierre de Trey - Cortes Island Parks Committee
of the Friends of Cortes Island

The Kw'as Park trails are located in a 70 hectare (173 acre) forested area between Hague and Gunflint Lakes on Cortes Island. The trails pass through a variety of ecosystems including a wet area spruce grove, a ridge with good size red cedars, a valley with large alders, high grounds with pine, arbutus trees and manzanita bushes, etc. Close to 20% of the park is still virgin old growth and the rest is second growth forests.

Cortes Map showing Hague Park
Map of Hague Park
Kw'as Park

To reach the north entrance to the trails, park opposite the Cortes Motel on the road leading to Manson's Landing or for the south portion, park at the parking lot off Kw'as Bay Rd (pronounce 'koass'). Allow 1.5 hours for the south loop and 2 hours for the north loop.

The Salish name for Hague Lake is Kw'as Oyela which means 'hot water (lake)'. This is very appropriate as Hague Lake is flat bottomed and shallow (35-50 ft) and warms up quickly in the summer as well as freezes first in a cold spell.

What are now second growth forests were logged in the early 1920's - look for spring board marks on the large stumps and traces of skid roads. There is also the remains of a steam donkey on Gunflint Lake. It's history is both an interesting and sad one and can be read in full at the site. The steam donkey was used to haul logs from the bush to the edge of Little Hague Lake (now Gunflint Lake). From here the logs were floated to Hague Lake and then sluiced down to Manson's Lagoon. The steam donkey was only in operation for a short while before it exploded in the fall of 1923 which effectively finished logging in this area. The explosion was heard for miles around and pieces of the donkey remain at the bottom of Gunflint Lake.

The Birth Of Kw'as Park
a short history of its development on Cortes Island

The parcel is located at the center of the watershed between Hague & Gunflint lakes. It contains some 70 hectares of forested land and up to 20% of it is in its virgin old growth state. It has been considered an undeveloped 'Park' for many decades by the local population and has been formally protected as a U.R.E.P. (Use for the Recreation & Enjoyment of the Public) - a provincial designation. January 15th 1989, the Provincial Parks Ministry declared it had no interest in the area from a provincial park perspective and referred the matter to the Regional District of Comox and Strathcona but kept the Order-In-Council reserve (#2456) unamended.

Since that date Pierre de Trey has done most of the preparatory work - as a member of the Cortes Island Parks Committee - to make this parcel an official Regional District Park. He has been in continuous contact with planners Russell Dyson and more recently Alison Mewett and Brian Allaert.

Alison has a yearly updated file on the proposed Kw'as Park which contains

On May 11, 1993, BC Lands granted us a permit to develop foot trails and a foot bridge over the creek between both lakes according to a trail-map we previously provided to the Regional District. The Ministry of Forest has authorized us to cut down two trees to build the foot bridge. Since then groups of local volunteers have been clearing the trails starting from both ends of the parcel. The intent has been to develop this parcel as a wilderness recreation area with minimal impact on the mainly pristine environment by building an array of very low impact public foot trails and a natural looking foot bridge joining the two parts of the parcel. With this in mind, we have chosen pathways that go over small rocky outcrops close to both south and north entry points to the 'Park' making access to motorized vehicles (especially motorbikes and ATVs) virtually impassable.

Regional District Parks Planners have acquired - as a mandatory Park dedication - an area approximately 3 m wide by 600 m long behind Elmer Ellingsen's new subdivision as well as a 20 x 50 m area on Kw'as Bay Rd. which have been partially developed as an access foot trail and a parking lot respectively. This takes care of the official entrance to this proposed Park on the south end of the parcel.

The north end is accessible as a foot trail from a large parking lot opposite the Cortes Motel with the blessing of the Motel owner Mrs. Joanne Weyler.

In 1995 we built the natural looking 22 foot arched cedar 'bridge' over the creek between both lakes. This was an amazing one day volunteer effort achieved from a standing cedar tree to an almost finished bridge in six and a half hours! We then further improved the existing north to south main axis trail and developed two further side arms which have been approved by BC Lands in their permit to build foot trails.

It should be emphasized that up to this point (1995) no direct costs had occurred to the tax payers via the Regional District as all the work had been done locally by volunteers. From 1995 to this date, Pierre de Trey has submitted - as required by the RD - a yearly budget request towards maintenance and further expansion of the existing basic north to south trail. This allowed us to make trail signs, add many trail side spurs, improve on the safety along all trails as well as remove windfalls and perform ongoing maintenance of these trails. Presently (summer 2000) the latest and probably last trail has been completed and built and a secret to those of you that have had the patience to read thus far: it has been named "The Millennium Old Growth Trail" ... and as its name suggests, features a magnificent VIRGIN old growth douglas fir stand ... it is the longest single trail yet in this Regional District Park-to-be.

The Death Of A Steam Donkey

What you see here are the remains of an old steam donkey similar to many more operating everywhere in BC at the beginning of the century. These machines were called 'donkeys' in memory of the previous times, when logs were hauled out of the woods by oxen and horses.

In the twenties, the east side of the present Kw'as Park was logged. A wood fired steam donkey was floated across Little Hague Lake (now Gunflint Lake) and operated right here to yard the logs down to the lake. These were then mechanically dragged through the narrow channel into Hague Lake, boomed and floated to the very north end of the lake -to the 'Outlet' - the creek draining this whole watershed. They were then yarded with another 'donkey' down a 'Fore & Aft' chute from the top of the waterfall to Manson's Lagoon and boomed there to continue their journey to the saw mills.

The logging company at the time of the explosion was Olsen & Mundigal. The explosion happened one morning in the late fall of 1923 between 10 & 11 am. Besides accounts of a frozen steam gauge that hadn't been drained the previous day, Harry Middleton, who had a machine shop at Squirrel Cove, said that the engineer (Harry Hazel) had come to him during the preceding days asking for advice, and for a caulking tool to repair a leak in the boiler. What really happened is conjecture at this point; but if the boiler had lost enough water because of a leak, it could have overheated dramatically causing an explosive expansion of steam the instant the water hit the red hot metal. Neither a damaged steam gauge nor a boiler leak could be verified, as many parts of the boiler were blown into the middle of Gunflint Lake.

Harry Hazel was severely scalded and brought to the big old lodge at Manson's Landing. A doctor was brought in by water taxi from Campbell River but unfortunately his hypodermic syringe did not work so he could do little to relieve the poor fellow's agony.

The Union Steamship called in that same evening on its scheduled way southbound to Vancouver and the patient was put aboard. Soon after leaving he died close to the reef at Sutil Point so the ship turned around and brought him back to Manson's wharf as "They did not carry bodies unless they were in a coffin"!

A sad little side story was that the unfortunate fellow was due to go to Vancouver the following week to be married.

Ernie Bartholomew, who lived on Cortes Island until he died, was the fireman for the donkey and escaped injury because he was out in the woods getting bark for refuelling the fire box.

Early 1900's Steam Donkey

Spruce Grove Trail

This trail, the Spruce Grove Trail to the steam donkey is now open. Go for a walk from the Motel Entrance and judge for yourself whether the Incas actually made it as far as Cortes Island!

Millennium Old Growth Trail

This is the latest and longest trail which --beside a magnificent stand of old growth (300 to 500 years) Douglas Firs--features a long view on Deadman island, Marina island, Shark Spit, the Heather Islets by the entrance of Gorge Harbour, Read Island and even the smoke plume of the Campbell River pulp mill! with Mount Victoria and Mount Albert in the background.

The trail between Kw'as Park and Easter Bluff: the KATIMAVIK trail

Cortes Island has historically been lacking in public nature trails. The one trail that has been used for many years is the one leading to Easter Bluff. It is located on the eastern part of the Linnaea Ecological Reserve. It is well known by most Cortes Islanders and the Easter Bunny shows up there yearly for the Cortes kids.

A new trail has been opened in the spring of 2001-the KATIMAVIK trail-which connects Kw'as Park right by "Serge" Narrows Bridge between Hague and Gunflint Lake with the old Easter Bluff trail which starts from the very top of Cortes Bay road. It is named in honour of the Katimavik crew who did a magnificent job of making this trail quite 'palatable' over some rough terrain.

This addition allow one to walk mainly through the woods from Manson's Landing [on the west coast of Cortes] to Cortes Bay on the east coast.

If you have questions, comments, or inquiries, please contact:
Regional Body
Regional District of Comox-Strathcona,
RR #4, 4795 Headquarters Road,
Courtenay, BC Canada V9N 7J3


Brian & Betty Ann Page
Manson's Landing BC,
Canada V0P 1K0

or Pierre de Trey

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