Queen Charlotte Islands Attractions
Location: Between 52° and 54°NIslandsThe Queen Charlotte (Haida Gwaii) Islands are an isolated group of more than 150 islands lying out in the Pacific at the western edge of the continental shelf. The two main islands, Graham and Moresby, are about 50 km (30 mi.) and 150 km (90 mi.) respectively off the coast of British Columbia. The Queen Charlottes are often called "the Misty Islands", partly because the sky is usually overcast and the deeply indented cliffs on their western sides frequently enveloped in mist, partly on account of the enigma of their native inhabitants, the Haida Indians. The Haida, thought to have lived on these islands for at least 8000 years, were known and feared as proud warriors and daring navigators. With their awesome 20 m (65 ft) long war-canoes they traversed the length of the Inside Passage as far south as Puget Sound. Nowadays they are rather more famous for the skill and artistry of their carving. Their totem poles and wonderfully elaborate argillite carvings (argillite is a black slate-like but soft stone found only at Slatechuck Mountain in south Graham Island, which only the Indians are allowed to work) occupy pride of place in every ethnographic museum on the Canadian Pacific coast. The Haida were also notorious for their lavish potlatches - ceremonial feasts at which the distribution of gifts served not only to display the wealth and status of the tribe but also to consolidate the often extremely complex systems of kinship and allegiance.HistoryCanada's Queen Charlotte Islands were discovered in 1774 by the Spaniard Juan Pérez. In the 19th c. skilled Haida hunters kept white traders supplied with sea-otter pelts, which at that time fetched particularly high prices in China. But the white man also brought European diseases and epidemics soon decimated the native population. Several Haida coastal settlements were abandoned and numbers fell from an estimated 8000 or more to just 588 in 1915. Today most of the 1300 surviving Haida Indians live on reservations at Skidegate Mission and Haida on Graham Island, the largest island in the group. A permit issued by the Indians themselves is required for visiting the reservations or abandoned Haida villages (for south Graham Island apply to the Skidegate Band office in Skidegate Mission, tel. 559-4496; for north Graham Island and Langara Island apply to the Masset Band office in Haida, tel. 626-3337).White settlement of the isolated Queen Charlotte Islands began relatively late at the beginning of the 20th C. a number of homesteads and small self-sufficient rural communities were set up, mainly on the flatter eastern side of Graham Island. Most however soon failed. Today four fifths of the islands' population live in twelve villages and logging camps on Graham Island, generally close to the Yellowhead Highway (Hwy. 16). Since 1980 when the new, non-tidal ferry terminal was completed near Skidegate, there have been several sailings a week to and from Prince Rupert (6-8 hours, depending on the weather).ClimateOwing to the influence of the warm Japanese current the climate stays relatively mild throughout the year. Precipitation though is high, averaging 1260 mm (50 in.) per annum. May and April - the driest months - are best for traveling. Mean daily temperatures in August are around 17°C (63°F) and in January 4°C (39°F). Cool, wet and windy or misty weather must be expected at any time of year.
An Indian reserve of some 600 inhabitants situated 3 km (2 mi.) north of Masset near the abandoned Haida (Old Masset) village of Ka-Yung. Numerous fairly recent Haida totem poles celebrate important events and people. The Ed Jones Haida Museum is housed in the old school house. Sale of typical Indian handwork is available in the village. Beaches strewn with agate, cornelian, large shells and "sand dollars" (a type of sea urchin) can be found in the Haida area.
Skidegate - Haida Heritage Centre at Qay'llnagaay
The Haida Heritage Centre at Qay'llnagaay is a complex of cedar buildings with five contemporary monumental timber longhouses, and five replica longhouses. The site is multi functional with space for changing exhibits, performances, eating, Haida art and jewellery displays and sales, and carvers to work on totem poles.Also on site is the Bill Reid Teaching Centre and Canoe House which houses his war canoe, Loo Taas (Wave Eater).
Naikoon Provincial Park
This stunningly beautiful 726 sq. km / 280 sq. mi Naikoon Provincial Park on the north-eastern tip of Graham Island is accessible either from Masset or from Tiell on the island's east coast. From Masset a spit of sand 26 km / 16 mi long runs along the northern coast as far as the basalt Tow Hill (109 m / 360 ft); splendid views). Old planking, still visible in places, is all that remains of the original road which once served a remote settlement. The present vehicle track ends at Agate Beach (campground). Some of the beaches around McIntyre Bay are more than 300 m / 330 yd wide, superb for walking on in fine weather. Metres-high piles of driftwood thrown up by the sea fringe the sand dunes behind the beach. A very pleasant 10 km / 6 mi walk (the Cape Fife Trail) crosses "Argonaut Plain" - which Ice Age glaciers have left dotted with small lakes, bogs and meandering streams - to Fife Point on the east coast.The 5 km / 3 mi Rose Spit after which Naikoon Provincial Park is named ("naikoon" means "long nose") can only be reached on foot. This ecologically fragile area of dunes is now a reserve and an ideal place to watch waterfowl.The Naikoon Provincial Park Headquarters (brochures, cards, etc.) are at the southern entrance near Tiell, set amongst massive sand dunes. From the entrance a 10 km (6 mi.) circular trail winds through typical lichen-rich rainforest to the Tiell River estuary, then north for a short distance to the wooden wreck of the "Pesuta" which ran aground here in 1928. This marks the start of the 64 km / 40 mi trail along East Beach to Tow Hill (for the experienced only; 4-6 days; good equipment, up-to-date guide and tide tables essential).
This fishing port and Canadian army base in sheltered Masset Inlet is the Queen Charlotte Islands' largest settlement.Masset is also the oldest town in the Queen Charlotte Islands, first established in 1909.Near Masset is the Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary with good bird watching. The Old Massett village called Haida is also nearby and contains the Ed Jones Haida Museum with historical documents and photographs of the area. Visitors can also buy some native hand crafts in Old Massett.Also of interest in the Masset surrounding area is the Naikoon Provincial Park.