Explore: Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve

If you want a chance to explore the heart, the history and the soul of British Columbia, you need to travel to Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.

Credit: Parks Canada/C. Houston

Location

The Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site encompasses the lower half of Haida Gwaii and includes 138 islands, from Tasu Sound and south to Cape St. James.

Access

Access into the park is by boat or plane. Tours are available and the park can be accessed by helicopter, floatplane or a larger boat. For those wishing to explore the park on their own, you can access the area by kayak or personal boat.

Park size

The park covers 1,470 square kilometres. 

Photo by iStock

About this park

The Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve was established as a provincial park in 1958, and then as a national park in 1988. The park includes a natural hot spring island, as well as the UNESCO World Heritage Site SGang Gwaay.

Wildlife in the area

This park is a Mecca for beautiful and unique wildlife sightings. From bears to bald eagles to seals, you’ll be able to see it all here.

“The wealth of the marine environment is geographically illustrated at Burnaby Narrows, said to contain more protein per square metre than any other place on Earth,” writes canadianparks.com, in their section regarding the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. “The Queen Charlottes are often call the ‘Canadian Galapagos’ because of the number of endemic species that have evolved here, distinct from their mainland relatives. The archipelago is also influenced by introduced species, which are changing the vegetative and animal profile of the islands.”

Why you should go

Nicknamed the ‘Canadian Galapagos,’ what more reason do you need? Gwaii Haanas is the only confirmed nesting site in Canada for horned puffins, there are more eagle nests per kilometre of shoreline than anywhere else in the country, and this area has the highest breeding density of Peregrine falcons in the world. Whales, seals and a myriad of other marine mammals are a common sight here. The largest breeding colony of Steller sea lions on the west coast surrounds Cap St. James, on the southern tip of Gwaii Haanas.

The Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve is also home to SGang Gwaay, one of the last and best examples of a west coast First Nations village. The totem poles here are still standing in their original locations, and the youngest totem pole is about 160 years old. In accordance with Haida Gwaii customs, the village will not be preserved or resurrected, and it is naturally decomposing.

Notable information

All visitors need a permit to enter the park, and are required to attend an orientation in Skidegate or Sandspit.

Photo by iStock

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Michaela Ludwig

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