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The Highliners

The Queen Charlotte Islands

Home | Highliners | Perils of The Perfect Storm | History of the Haida First Nation | The Fishing Tradition of the Haida First Nations | The Queen Charlotte Islands | Message in a Bottle | A Treasure Chest of Links

Where is the Haida Gwaii?

                        Location of the Queen Charlotte Islands

First visited by Juan Perez in 1774 and Captain James Cook in 1778, the Queen Charlotte Islands were surveyed by Captain George Dixon in 1787. The islands are a collection of 150 mostly small islands located about 720 kilometers (450 miles) north of Vancouver, British Columbia and 128 kilometers (80 miles) west of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The islands are about 240 kilometers (150 miles) long from north to south and approximately 46 kilometers (40 miles) wide from east to west. The islands are grouped into 3 distinct groups, the Queen Charlotte Ranges, the Skidegate Plateau and the Queen Charlotte Lowlands. The main islands are Graham and Moresby. The town of Masset, located on Graham Island is the main settlement. Of the approximately 5700 residents of the Islands, 2000 are members of the Haida First Nations. The ancient village of Ninstints has been designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.

Link to British

Link to map of Queen Charlotte Islands

Link to information and maps

Photograph by K. McNamee

                                       Terrain Features

The Queen Charlotte Islands are typical of a northern latitude area. The Islands attract many scientists and tourists because they escaped glaciation making them a biologically unique area in Canada. The rocky and rugged combination of mountains, old forest, muskeg and beautiful beaches are the focus of interest. The geographical area of the islands is over 1 million hectares. Reserves and parks account for approximately 22 per cent of the land while timber harvesting accounts for another 32 per cent of the land.

Link to Gwaii

Link to Haida Gwaii terrain website

Link to Hiking and Backpacking

                                      Birds and Animals

Some of the animals unique to the area are a sub species of the North American black bear , the pine marten, dusky shrew, short tailed weasel and the Queen Charlotte goshawk. The beaver, eagle, fox and deer are also among the wildlife who make their home on the islands. The location of the Islands make it a natural stop for the migratory birds, such as the wandering tattlers, which travel from Alaska to Mexico. It is also a prime nesting area for bald eagles, tufted puffins, auklets and thousands of other sea birds. Inland, the lush old-growth forests provide nesting sites for sharp-shinned hawks and other raptors. Peregrine falcons nest on cliffs near the shore.

Link to the National Geographic website

Plants and Trees

The Islands largely escaped the ravages of glaciation because of the steep cliffs and are home to huge stands of old growth forests. Red and yellow cedar, giant sitka spruce, and western hemlock are the towering giants providing a canopy for the mosses, ferns and wild berries that are abundant on the forest floor. Unfortunately, clear cut logging has destroyed almost half of the forests on these islands which leaves them prone to landslides and erosion. The clearing of the forests also provided an attractive area for the black tailed deer which eats the native forest species before they can regenerate. Beavers, who have been introduced to the area, are also causing some problems with their natural tendency to build dams along small streams. This makes it difficult for the coho salmon to travel upstream to spawn. Other introduced species such as squirrels and raccoons have reduced the size of seabird colonies by eating the eggs and young birds.

The World Wildlife Foundation is the source for some of the information contained on this webpage. I would encourage you to visit their website or that of The National Geographic Society to learn more.

Planning a visit to the Islands?

                                Trips to the Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands)
The Queen Charlotte Islands are known as the "Canadian Galapagos" because of the rugged beauty of the terrain, abundance of wildlife, and untainted historical setting. Whale watching in the sea around the islands, fishing, hiking and camping on the rugged landscape, exploring Haida history and visiting local artisans are popular tourist activities.

Via Rail Train Website.

Link to Maple Leaf Adventures.

Link to the Copper Sky Schooner Adventures

Link to the Bluewater Adventures Coastal Cruises