About the Islands
Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) is 300 km long, in a rough triangular shape from 100 km wide across the top, tapering to a point at Cape St. James at the south end. Tucked under the coastline of islands that form the Alaska panhandle, we are 75 km from the American border, approximately 120 km west of the outer islands of the northern BC coastline and 770 km by air from Vancouver, BC.
The climate of Haida Gwaii is very mild. The annual temperature is a balmy 8°C (46°F). The summer temperatures are similar to those in Northern and Central BC. It is the winter temperatures, which are moderated by the Japanese current, that are much higher than winter temperatures of inland BC and the rest of Canada. The Islands have a reputation for rain. In reality, the rainfall on the east side of the islands is similar to Vancouver and south coastal BC because the mountains on the west side of Haida Gwaii create a significant rain shadow. The average annual rainfall is about 125 cm (50 inches). The west side of Haida Gwaii is similar to the west coast of Vancouver Island and has some of the highest rainfalls in Canada at about 450 cm (180 inches).
Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) is a collection of about 150 islands resting on the western edge of the continental shelf. There are two main islands, Graham Island to the north and Moresby Island to the south. About 5,000 people share these islands, most residing on Graham Island in the communities of Queen Charlotte, Tlell, Port Clements, Masset and the two Haida communities of Skidegate and Old Massett. The community of Sandspit is located on the northeastern tip of Moresby Island. A 20 minute ferry ride and 130 kilometers of pavement connect the two islands and their communities. Each community is unique and collectively they offer a wonderful insight into island living.
The southern part of Moresby Island is Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve/Haida Heritage Site. The area, unique because of its spectacular west coast scenery, rich ecology and Haida culture is cooperatively managed by Parks Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation – the Archipelago Management Board, plans, operates and shares the management of Gwaii Haanas. These islands have been home to the Haida for thousands of years. A recent archaeological inventory of the area has documented more than 500 Haida archaeological and historical sites. The village of SGang Gwaay, located at the southern end of Gwaii Haanas is considered to have the world’s finest display of Haida mortuary poles, all over one hundred years old. In consultation with the Haida, UNESCO declared Nan Sdins Illnagaay (Ninstints) a World Heritage Site in 1981. Gwaii Haanas is considered a wilderness park and is accessible by air or water and reservations and participation in an orientation are required if traveling independently. To make a reservation or request an information package please contact Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site at 1-877-559-8818 or in the Queen Charlotte area call 250-559-8818.