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6-2448-totems-Haida-Gwaii
Ancient Haida poles, Haida Gwaii
(Tom Ryan photo)

Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands

Geography

Haida Gwaii  consists of more than 150 islands of varying sizes.

It is the most remote archipelago in Canada, located parallel to the northwest coast of mainland British Columbia, 100km/62mi across the Hecate Strait from Prince Rupert. Haida Gwaii's land mass totals approximately 1,000,000ha/2,471,053ac.

Only two of the islands are developed; Graham Island, a large island in the north, has six official communities, and the most inhabitants and infrastructure, while Moresby Island, just to its south, is home to the community, Sandspit.

Graham Island

On Graham Island, Highway 16 runs north to south from Masset to the Village of Queen Charlotte for a total of 113km/70mi. Tow Hill is located on the north east coast of Graham Island, near North Beach. About a 30 minute drive away is Old Massett. Five minutes down the road is Masset. Old Massett and the municipality of Masset are often referred to as Greater Masset. Next along the highway, 40km/25mi away, is Port Clements. Tlell is another 21km/13mi down the road and Skidegate, the location of the ferry terminal, is another 40km/25mi. The Village of Queen Charlotte is less than a five minute drive from Skidegate.

From here, a half hour ferry crosses over to Moresby Island to Alliford Bay. The highway runs to Sandspit for another 22km/14mi. The whole trip takes less than two hours to complete, not including the ferry ride and waiting times.

Gwaii Haanas

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve & Haida Heritage Site makes up the remote southern half of Haida Gwaii. The maximum number of visitors to this area per year is 2,000 while the other two main islands see more than 24,000 visitors.

Topographical Sections

Haida Gwaii can be more or less divided into three distinct topographical sections. The eastern section is somewhat flat and boggy, with endless sandy and rocky beaches. The middle of the islands is mostly forest, while the western area, which consists mostly of Moresby Island, has a mountain range along it. The coast has small beaches and inlets, with steep drop offs. This side of the islands sits on the edge of a continental shelf, resulting in the ocean floor nearby dropping sharply from 100 metres deep to more than 1,000 metres deep.

Climate and Weather

Weather on Haida Gwaii does not range too drastically between summer and winter. Average winter lows are 0°C/32°F while summer highs are around 20°C/68°F. Winter storms are common. The west coast is more sheltered from weather systems than the east coast. The islands are known for their moisture. Rain is common year-round, though a little less in the summer months, so be prepared.