Haida Gwaii (previously known as ‘The Queen Charlotte Islands”) has always been something of a second home for me since I was a kid. My father grew up in the Moresby Island town of Sandspit, so visiting the islands wasn’t only a familial necessity but also significantly easier than if I had discovered the place on my own.
The Islands while currently developing themselves as a tourism destination still is one of the most expensive and hard to access parks in Canada. Incorporated after Indigenous Canadians protested the logging industry’s use of the islands in 1978; the park (Gwaii Hanas) is jointly managed by the CHN (Council of Haida Nations) and Parks Canada. In addition to the Gwaii Hanas, Haida Gwaii is also home to a number of provincial parks including the famous Yakoun Provincial Park.
The only way to gain access to the islands is either a Ferry which services both Vancouver Island and Price Rupert or one of two airports in either Masset or Sandspit. Beyond that you’ll either need to own a boat or book one of the many tour companies to enter the park which has a strict policy of only admitting 12 people per day.
In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, Parks Canada has generously waived the entry and reservation fees normally associated with the park. This was the prompt for our 6-day Kayak trip to Skincuttle, an inlet in the south Gwaii Hanas.
The annual trip to Haida Gwaii for my family involved a lot of visiting with family and hanging out, and tradition but generally centered around one fantastic adventure. In previous years we had done everything from ambitious multi-peak ascents and backpacking to historical/geographical site visiting. The culmination of these years of visiting, while, by no means makes me an expert on the area; allows me to boast fairly incredible coverage of the islands.
This year I was there in time for the most luxurious-6-day-boating-kayak-trip of all time. Family friends and previous guides Bill and Joanne came as mentors and guides for myself and young cousins. My uncle Doug Gould previously of Moresby Explorers fame, had organized to carry kayaks down to Skincuttle eliminating a significant portion of the work and travel time involved in exploring such an area.
Establishing a sort of base camp in and around the Swan Islands allowed myself and the other new kayakers to ease into the skills and energy requirement necessary for kayaking on the islands while remaining fairly protected and scenic.
Our small portion of the inlet was central to accessing the Bolkus Islands (one of the islands famously visited by Captain Pool on his voyage through the south in the 1800’s), Burnaby Narrows (one of the most densely populated areas on the planet) and a host of other interesting things to see and visit.
Ultimately spending any time in the park is a treat, Haida Gwaii is home to some of the most magnificent flora on the planet.
Beyond kayaking in the park I was treated by my uncle Ian to multiple excursions to some of the more remote parts of the north island (Graham) including Rennel Sound. A strong south-easterly contributed to relatively nice weather and untypically large waves crashing off the west coast.
Every year I look forward to returning to the islands for some new adventure to be had or sight to see – I highly encourage anyone who is interested in a remote wilderness experience to search out and explore Haida Gwaii – just be sure to treat it well while you’re there.