Love learning about BC’s railway history? At the heart of Cowichan Valley is the town of Duncan, formerly known as “Duncan’s Crossing,” and even earlier, the townsite of Alderlea.
Located on the traditional lands of the Cowichan First Nation, the Cowichan peoples have lived in Duncan and its surrounding areas for millennia. In fact, the town is home to the world’s largest collection of outdoor totems, according to its website.
Today, the downtown features a number of remaining heritage buildings you can explore, as well as a variety of local shops and eateries to peruse. As far as the totems go, visitors can embark on a self-guided walking tour of 40 beautifully carved totems, each of which has a rich history and distinct story to tell. Simply follow the yellow footprints at the start of the self-guided tour, or view the town’s interactive map.
The settlement of “Duncan’s Crossing”
Another interesting bit of history about Duncan? The establishment of the town nearly didn’t happen at all. In the late 19th century, the main access to Duncan was through the Goldstream Trail or the ports of Maple Bay or Cowichan Bay, according to the Duncan City Hall.
While it was believed that Maple Bay would be at the urban centre of the Cowichan Valley due to its bustling port, the establishment of the railroad in 1886 through the townsite of Duncan led to a complete shift, which was only solidified by the completion of the first train station the following year.
Visitors can learn more about Duncan’s fascinating history at the Museum in the former 1912 Train Station, which is situated in downtown Duncan.
Where: Cowichan Valley, BC