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Hiking through History by Teresa Burton

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Deakin and Beauschesne Trail
Map of Trails (resolution 1540x942x96dpi - 70,029 bytes)

Round Trip 1.5 km/0.93 miles - Allow 30 Minutes

Please park well off the road at the trail head. This trail is a circle route and is beautiful to see in all four seasons. It is not, however, accessible during long periods of heavy rains which bring freshets that inundate this flood plain.

About 20 meters down the trail, go left at the trail junction so that you may reach the gravel bar and the Gordon River. On the way, you pass through a plantation of 20 and 30 year old Douglas fir that has grown to form a canopy overhead. In this natural pruning process, the bottom branches die out and the trees grow straight, clear wood.

Along the bank of the gravel bar, you will see some of the few locust trees planted here by the Deakins. Mingling among them are live canyon oak. After exploring the area, it is here at the oak that you pick up the trail again. Through this section of trail, you come by the Deakin homestead site, where old fence posts and historic fruit trees are all that remain.

It all seems like a paradise place to have had a farm, on the river and by the sea. But it was not so glorious when the floods came. Their livestock often became victim, their land was being washed away and their homes, built up on stilts, where threatened to be flooded. This happened not only to these people, but to many of their neighbors that lived on the deltas.

Port San Juan, as Port Renfrew was known prior to 1895, commenced its white settlement in the 1880's through preempted lands given by the government for anyone wanting to take up a homestead in the valley. The government advertised positive features such as ideal farming land with fertile soil, free land up to 350 acres and a promised road to Victoria. About 100 people did take up homesteads along its water routes. They received a telegraph line in 1890 and a steamship that ran from Victoria up the West Coast between 1890 and 1953. The promised road did not come until 1957, 75 years later, with the West Coast Road.

Emily and Alfred Deakin, with their daughter Violet, were one of the original pioneer families. They took up 40 acres of land at this site around 1889. Alfred's ambition was to farm. Art Beauschesne made a way of life logging and farming in the valley, much the same as their neighbors.

In these early days of logging, the water routes were utilized to transport logs, but the process of getting the logs from the forest to the shore was a slow one. Horses and sleigh or steam donkey engines were most commonly used.

Logging was limited in these early days by the methods of transportation as well as by seasonal flooding and fire hazards. Between seasons, time was spent raising food, building onto the homestead and lending a hand to a meters. Upon retirement, Deakin and Beauschesne sold their farm to BC Forest Products, who turned it into what you see today - a tree farm.

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