Kissinger Lake: the history of Camp 3

Hidden not far from here lies the small but beautiful Kissinger Lake.

Today the Kissinger Lake area is used by campers and boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts unlike the days when the same area was a logging camp and community. Seen on the left is the railway bed that winds its way along the lake shore to it’s destination at Kissinger where it picked up then transported logs out of the valley. With no road into the area until 1956

Today the Kissinger Lake area is used by campers and boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts unlike the days when the same area was a logging camp and community. Seen on the left is the railway bed that winds its way along the lake shore to it’s destination at Kissinger where it picked up then transported logs out of the valley. With no road into the area until 1956

Hidden not far from here lies the small but beautiful Kissinger Lake. Today the lake, which is situated at the west end of Cowichan Lake, is a magnet for many who like camping, canoeing, boating (electric motors only), swimming, exploring, biking, and hiking. Run by TimberWest, the Kissinger campsite is easily accessible from either side of the lake, unlike the early days when the area was a remote logging camp.

During the 1920s and ’30s Island Lumber Company leased holdings from Cowichan Lumber Company. John D. Kissinger was president at the time, prompting the camp to be named Kissinger. According to the 2005 book, Caycuse Memories, the Canadian National Railway laid steel to Kissinger in 1928 thus enabling 5 million feet of timber a month to be shipped out. Island Logging then constructed a logging railway camp at Kissinger, complete with the most modern machinery then available. By 1929 there were close to 200 loggers working at the camp, which temporarily closed in 1931 (during the Depression).

In 1934, Kissinger, by then called Camp 3, re-opened and was taken over by Industrial Lumber Mills Co. (ITM) who also operated the ITM lumber mill at Youbou.  In 1937, Camp 3 (still referred to as Kissinger by locals) had brought in a school to accommodate the children of the 20 families that lived in camp. Within the next few years, a dozen or so float houses were brought to the head of Cowichan Lake. These houses were for additional employees and their families, bringing the total population to 47 families plus the many Chinese employees who lived in the company owned bunkhouses.

Rail service to Kissinger stopped in the mid 1940s with the rails then being leased to ITM and later British Columbia Forest Products (BCFP) who took over the operation about 1946.

Over the following years Camp 3 grew in size and population — building a community hall, new school and several new modern bunkhouses. Sports teams, a Junior Forest Warden group, a first aid team and other social groups were formed. Later a mobile library stopped at Kissinger twice a week, church services were held in the old school, and the Nitinat Trap and Gun Club was formed. A road to Caycuse was opened in 1956 two years prior to the permanent closure of Camp 3.  In 1985, the camp was razed leaving barely a sign that the logging camp/community had ever existed.

 

 

Research: Kissinger article, Caycuse Memories, and Kissinger Lake Campsite website.