Youbou is a small town on the North side of Cowichan Lake. It was first settled around a lake-front sawmill about 100 years ago. The mill grew over the years until the company shut it down in 1991, preferring to ship the raw logs out of the country. The buildings were torn down and the land was sold to developers, who planned to build thousands of recreational homes, condos, a resort and an industrial park on the property. I don't know if there are actually that many Albertans who still don't own a home on Vancouver Island, but whatever the reason, the site is still empty years later and the asphalt and concrete foundations of the leveled mill are slowly being reclaimed by nature and local campers.
I wanted to escape the May plankton blooms in the ocean so I drove up to Cowichan Lake (which seemed pretty clear when I've been snorkeling in it before). This was on May 20, 2012. There are several parks and settled areas around the lake where it would be possible to access the water, but I chose Youbou because I've never been there before and I thought there might be some interesting traces of it's history underwater. I drove through the town and ended up at the mill site. I parked outside some gates near the road (the locals just drive around them) and walked the short distance to the water. I entered the water near a dock and swam out to the right. Visibility was about 30 feet. The sloping bottom seemed silty, but I think it was actually sawdust and wood chips. There were areas covered with jumbled logs. Some of these logs were surprisingly large (maybe 4 feet in diameter). There were also scattered beams, chains, steel cables, pipes, metal grilles and a few chairs. I didn't see any sunken steam locomotives or jars full of gold nuggets, but it was still entertaining to see what the next dark mass in the distance would turn out to be. There were a few crayfish and some trout. One of them had a long "sucker fish" stuck to it's side (lamprey?). I didn't see any freshwater sculpins. My maximum depth was about 35 feet. I could have easily gone deeper by swimming down the slope, but I wanted to stay closer to shore where there seemed to be more debris from the mill. The water temperature was a bit warmer than I'm used to (13 degrees Celsius) so this was a surprisingly comfortable, 2-hour-long dive.