Haida Gwaii, the
former Queen Charlotte Islands, comprises some of the most beautiful
and diverse landscapes in the world. There are two large parks in
Haida Gwaii: Naikoon Provincial Park in the north, and Gwaii
Haanas National Park in the south, which is comprised of 138 separate
islands, including the southern half of Moresby Island. Naikoon Provincial
Park gets its name from a corruption of the Haida term for 'long nose,'
which was the Haida name for Rose Spit, one of the most prominent
features in the park.
Hill in Naikoon Provincial Park
Park is largely low and flat, covering 72,640 hectares. Most of
its topographic features are formed by underlying glacial deposits.
In the northeast corner, Argonaut Hill, the highest point
in the park, rises only 150 metres above sea level. Tow Hill,
an outcrop of basalt columns, is a prominent landmark about 100
metres high on the north beach. A primary attraction for visitors
to the park are the almost 100 kilometres of sandy beaches that
seem to stretch endlessly to form the eastern and northern boundaries
of this unique and intriguing park.
for Naikoon Provincial Park are located at the southeast extremity
of the park at the community of Tlell, on the highway just south
of the bridge over the Tlell River. The village of Masset provides
the gateway into the park, with road access along Tow Hill Road
to the north coast of the park.
There are two
ecological reserves in Naikoon Park: Tow Hill Ecological Reserve
(5.14 square kilometres) and Rose Spit Ecological Reserve,
a common resting spot for migrating birds at the northeast tip of
Graham Island. Rose Spit is an excellent spot for observing migrating
birds travelling south on the Pacific Flyway. Upwelling currents
produce much food along the spit, attracting pelagic species rarely
seen from the shore. Sandhill cranes gather here after nesting in
the park bogs and shorebirds abound.
landmark on North Beach, at 109 metres (357 ft) in height, is Tow
Hill, a huge outcrop of basalt columns formed when volcanic
rock solidified into faceted basalt pillars about 2 million years
ago. Tow Hill rises from the flat bogs of the Argonaut Plain at
the mouth of the Hiellen River as the second highest point in the
park, after Argonaut Hill (150 metres/492 ft). Enjoy the spectacular
view along the curve of sun-drenched North Beach.
It is from
Tow Hill that legend says the cruel Tow threw boulders to slay the
Haida warrior Hopi. At North Beach on the northern border of the
park, according to Haida legend, raven first brought people into
the world by coaxing them out of a clam shell, making North Beach
the site of creation.
of the park remains undeveloped, with no road access. There are
two campgrounds, available on a first-come, first-served basis (no
reservations): Misty Meadows Campground (30 vehicle/tent
sites and 10 tent pads) near park headquarters in Tlell, facilities
provided include pit toilets, water and a picnic-day use area with
shelter. Agate Beach Campground (32 vehicle and 11 tent sites),
these sites are equipped with cooking shelters, pit toilets and
water. Wilderness camping is permitted throughout the park. Three
rustic wilderness shelters are located along East Beach near
the mouths of Cape Ball and Oceanda Rivers, and at Fife Point.
The park is open all year and fees are collected from May to September.
Campground hosts are often available at the Misty Meadows campground
during the summer months to provide information and assistance to
There are four
trails running through Naikoon Provincial Park, and hiking time ranges
from a few hours to a few days. The longest trail is the East Beach
Trail. It's 55 miles (90 km) from the Tlell River Bridge to Rose
Point, a three- to four-day hike along mostly level terrain. There
are three shelters along the route. It's recommended that you hike
the trail south to north to avoid fighting prevailing winds. Strong
hikers can do the East Beach Trail from the Tlell River Bridge to
Cape Ball River and back (8.5 miles/14.5 km one way) in a day.
Beach, Naikoon Provincial Park
A second trail
runs 3 miles (5 km) one way from the Tlell River Bridge and leads
to the Pesuta, an old log barge that was wrecked here in
1928. Two trails start from Tow Hill on the north side of the park.
The first leads to the summit of Tow Hill, an easy 0.6-mile
(1-km) uphill climb. You can see Alaska from the top. A second trail
leads 6 miles (10 km) to Cape Fife on the east coast. From
here it is possible to hook up with the East Beach Trail, and hike
a two-day, 13-mile (21-km) loop back to Tow Hill.
There are a
number of Lakes in Naikoon Provincial park, the largest of which
is Mayer Lake near the southern edge of the park, just north
of the highway between Tlell and Port Clements. Other lakes include
Hickey Lake, Spence Lake, Clearwater Lake, Lumme Lake, Harelda Lakes,
and a number of others. The park's lakes and streams are the source
of drinking water. Help protect the delicate balance of the water
system by washing yourself, your clothes, and dishes at least 30
metres from lakes or streams, and please don't clean fish in them.
is the most common sport in Haida Gwaii, there being ready access
to superb freshwater and saltwater fishing. Hiellen River, Sangan
River and Chown River all offer good fishing in the park. If you
don't have a fishing rod, you can try your hand (and shovel) at
digging for razor clams at low tide at North Beach in Naikoon
Provincial Park. The clams are found between the high and low tide
lines. Quarter-sized depressions in the sand show where clams most
likely are. If the sand moves when tapped, there's a clam below.
The trick is to dig fast enough to catch up with the clam, which
is burrowing for safety. It takes a few tries to get the hang of
it, and you have to be quick; these puppies are fast. Before clamming,
first determine the applicable catch limit and licence requirement
with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Masset.
here is mild, moderated by moist Pacific air throughout the year.
Cool, rainy, or foggy weather and high winds can occur at any time,
however, so campers and hikers should always be equipped with warm
clothing and wet-weather gear.
In the early
1900s, the provincial government encouraged settlers to farm in
the Queen Charlotte Islands, as they were called then. There were
many who chose to homestead in the area that is now Naikoon Park,
growing vegetables, raising cattle and taking gold from the sand
beaches. However, difficult drainage, poor access, World War I and
the lack of markets caused most people to abandon their efforts
before the Great Depression. Many of the interesting place names
in the area are reminders of their presence.
There: On Graham Island, Highway 16 (paved) runs north from
Queen Charlotte City, the navel of Haida Gwaii, for 113 kilometres
to Masset on the north coast. Access to the park can be gained at
Tlell, on the east coast, or by continuing on past Masset to the
end of the road at Tow Hill, on the northeast coast of Graham Island.
Park headquarters are on the highway just south of the Tlell River
bridge. There is no developed access to the interior of the park.
View a Map of Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte
Year-round air service is available from Vancouver International
Airport to Sandspit on Moresby Island. You can also fly from Prince
Rupert with Harbour Air to Sandspit
on Moresby Island.
Rupert: Take the six-hour ferry crossing from Prince Rupert
to Skidegate Landing on Graham Island. Along the coast, much of
the rhythm of travel is determined by the BC Ferries schedule. Reservations
are strongly recommended.
To get to Prince
Rupert, the following options are available: Drive the Yellowhead
Highway 16 to Prince Rupert, travel by VIA Rail to Prince Rupert,
or sail with BC Ferries from Port
Hardy on Vancouver Island. From Alaska, catch an Alaska State
Ferry to Prince Rupert. View a Map of Prince