A Travellerspoint blog

Haida Gwaii #3 of #3 - Our time on the Islands

Haida_Culture, Totem_Poles, Rain, Beaches, Hikes, Deer

rain 19 °C

Part 1 of this entry covers getting to and from the island. Part 2 covers our guest house. This is our impression of the islands themselves.


Our friends George and Karmen Reid, plus Debra Duncan joined us on this visit. A short, three day visit cannot give a person more than an overview of these amazing islands. We spent all our time on Graham Island. We never set foot on Moresby to the south. Moresby Island contains the National Park, Gwaii Haanas.

Prior to the arrival of the white man these islands were home to about 30,000 Haida, who lived of the land and the sea. They built their villages along the shore, and raised totem poles to tell their family stories.



Their boats were carved from a single tree:


The culture dates back 15,000 years. Today there are about 2,500 Haida on the island. The entire population is just over 5,000.

You can book tours of historic sites, or trips to remote beaches, all guided. Kayak trips into the National Park on Moresby are available. The prices for these are not cheap. On our limited budget we were restricted to things we could get to on our own.

From Skidegate and the ferry terminal, we drove 112 kilometers north, to Masset. First we noted the number of deer along the road. We began to count them and by the time we completed our journey north, we were up to 24. We encountered a lovely black bear as well, although he refused to pose for a picture. A little later in our trip we learned that the deer were introduced in the 1930's and are now a plague on the island, with numbers estimated to be close to 200,000 and a sever effect on the ecology. They eat every spruce seedling as it comes out of the ground affecting the forest future.

As we travelled about, we held a contest amongst the 5 of us as to how many deer we would see before we finished our visit. Karmen won with her guess of 74. The prize was $5.

Masset has several good restaurants. We had a memorable meal at Bud's Bar and Grill. Really good pizza, Chicago deep dish style.

We toured Old Masset, where the street signs are in Haida and shaped like canoes:


The Golden Spruce Trail provided some good pictures of ancient trees and people in the rain:




Moss grows so thick on the tree branches that it causes them to break off. This moss is very heavy:


We came upon this tree of bird houses in Port Clements:


In Masset, this is the public hitch-hiking bench, carved out of cedar:


On our last day we visited the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate, where we all learned about the culture of the Haida. We watched a totem pole being carved, and viewed a pole carved in 1978 by Haida carver Bill Reid. The frog played an important role in Haida Culture. The poles were carved and then left to rot into nature. At 40 years old the Bill Reid pole is showing significant weathering.


As we had time to use up before our ferry ride home we did a 5 kilometer hike up to Spirit Lake. The first one and a half kilometers was uphill so we took a rest at a picnic table at the top.


We ended our day with a special meal. Supper with the Kings, in Queen Charlotte City. This is a husband and wife who host meals in their home. It was a lovely experience and a great way to finish off our stay on the islands.

Since we travel on a budget, this was a splurge for us. It is relatively expensive to visit Haida Gwaii, and to get to the really good spots will cost more money. If you can afford it you would need at least a week here to see enough to truly understand the scope of these islands

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 05:53 Archived in Canada Tagged haida_gwaii

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


It was a great trip. Strike one more off the bucket list! So wonderful meeting up with Tony and Jenny again. Already planning our next rendezvous on this road trip.

by Karmen Reid

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.