Haida gwaii

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  • #20536
    Sandra Waddle

    A friend and I are thinking of paddling Haida Gwaii this summer. We are both intermediate paddlers. We are hoping to get dropped off at the south islands and do about a weeklong trip. We are looking at Morsby explorers as they have gear and itineraries.  For anyone who’s gone there, what is the difficulty level?



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  • #20941
    Sandra Waddle

    My sincere thank you to everyone who replied to this query. This information has been super helpful for me and my friend planning our trip. In the end, we have decided to go with a guided tour as the south island is slightly out of our skill level. Very excited!!!!

    Kevin Amos

    As Nick pointed out its best to do the Orientation before you go. It looks like you can do it remotely now.



    Nick Heath

    I concur with others here. In approx 2005 I and 3 intermediate level companions paddled for 12 days in SE Moresby I. My info is likely out of date.  Moresby Explorers were excellent – dropped us at Ross I and picked us up at Kunga I. Since then, the company has changed hands, but I’ve heard they are still v. good. Their rental gear is fine and unless you drive there (a time waster) you’ll need some of their gear in addition to a boat – such as stove fuel, flares & bear spray, which cannot go on a plane.

    Assuming that orientation is still mandatory, you should do the Parks Canada orientation here in the lower mainland – offerings for yachties in spring usually – rather than waste a day while there.  A trip of less than a week seems insufficient time.

    Camping opportunities are excellent. Unless you join the mob at Raspberry Cove, you probably won’t need to share any campsite.  Haida Watchmen in the various former village sites are v good but they are not tour guides so do you own preparation to better understand what you are looking at. I recommend pre-reading and copying bits from Haida Monumental Art: Villages of the Queen Charlotte Islands Paperback – Jan. 1 1983 by George F. MacDonald. It’s too big and expensive to carry in a kayak.

    VHF radio communication is essential to establish landing permissions and to communicate with your pickup crew. To be reasonably sure of them working, each crew member should carry one, plus a PLB for emergencies. I wouldn’t trust the VHF for an emergency there – I got no outside contact in many locations and the Parks Canada much-touted repeaters did not work.

    Water conditions will vary. We had unexpected rough conditions in Houston Stewart Channel, plus the usual wind, fog etc. In early July, it rained heavily every day except one and there were 4 separate storm fronts transiting from the SW, but your weather could be lovely and it will be mostly a matter of luck. All we carried became rather damp after 5 days or so…

    Every paddler should do this trip!

    Steve Best

    Hi Sandra,

    I am the Haida Gwaii Region Manager for BC Marine Trails. I echo what George and Tony have said. The east coast of Gwaii Haanas Park Reserve north of Kunghit Island is within the capabilities of intermediate paddlers. Please note that an orientation is required before paddling in Gwaii Haanas. The best guidebook is Neil Frazer’s Boat Camping Haida Gwaii, A Small-Vessel Guide, Second Edition.

    I paddled the east side of Gwaii Haanas with two friends in 2019, from the north park boundary to Burnaby Narrows, eleven days, dropped off and picked up by Moresby Explorers. Highly recommended. Looking forward to paddling the southern half, SGang Gwaii to Burnaby Narrows, in the future.

    I paddled the west coast of Graham Island solo in 2015, Masset to Queen Charlotte, three weeks; and the west coast of Moresby Island and around Kunghit solo in 2016. Expert only territory.

    Tony Clayton


    I have paddled in Haida Gwaii on four occasions. Our very first kayaking experience in 1986 was in Gwaii Hanaas with a commercial group. Subsequent trips have covered the area from the South Moresby area up to Moresby Camp and have been of 16 to 18 days duration.

    As intermediate paddlers and if you have some experience of wilderness camping I suggest that with careful planning you can have an interesting and worthwhile trip. I would recommend something more than a week even if you stay in the area between Raspberry Cove and Skangwaii ( Anthony Island).

    I agree with George about the plentitude of potential camp sites and the reliability  of Moresby Explorers. If you would like to talk person to person  you can reach me at 778 888 3829.

    Tony Clayton

    George Prevost

    Hi Sandra.  I highly recommend Moresby Explorers.  They can arrange pretty much everything you might need, from airport pickups and B&B stays to boat rentals and water taxi pickups.  As for difficulty level, the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC rates most of the southern portion where you’re planning to paddle as “Class III: Exposed water, sparsely populated areas with more committing crossings, moderate to strong currents with turbulence, moderate to strong wind effects, ocean swells, difficult landings, surf beaches.”  The rest of the southern portion – the west coast and the southern tip – is rated as Class IV.  As for length of days, etc. the SKGABC guide doesn’t include a classification for that.  However, but I’d say it’s a B in terms of length of days – campsites are fairly frequent so you don’t necessarily have to paddle for a full day to get to the next one – and a C in terms of length of crossings, time exposed, etc.

    Unless you have some experience with your own self-guided trips in relatively remote areas with some open coast line, surf and current, you might want to consider hiring a guide or joining a guided trip.

    I’d be happy to chat with you about this if you want.

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