Haida Gwaii – Queen Charlotte Islands – a visit in the 80’s.

In the late 80’s I worked for a developer/investor that wanted to build a major tourism facility at Tlell, on Graham Island in The Queen Charlotte Islands. This man loved the Islands, and really just wanted to do something good for the area, more than a money-making venture.

I found an old album, and that rekindled found memories. We made several trips to this unique area, called the Canadian Galapagos by some. The fauna and wildlife is very special, and so is the fishing, miles of beaches, nature and the people.

We had many meetings with the Haida people, from Skidegate to Masset. All were in favour, and had valuable input, and some great ideas that we never thought of. We also met with some non native in various management roles, but they just wanted to see the final proposal, and what that would do to their areas of interest.

Jack …… Phil …. and Bob ….. at the proposed site   ( Bob Pollock and Jack Greenwood )

The one tourist project was based on a major Lodge, many smaller cabins, with sports fishing, beach combing, and a golf course as the major activities. The facility was also to service as a home base for the many possible local trips to take, to South Moresby Island, west cost and old trails and logging roads. Old and abandoned Haida villages, one now a UNESCO site, totem poles all over the place, rivers and creeks laden with fish, and the beaches like you never seen anywhere.

At this time there was a very special Spruce Tree, The Golden Spruce, every needle on this huge tree was golden, not green as every other spruce in the world.

Golden Spruce Tree Trail: A once tall, vibrant Golden Spruce Tree stood on the banks of the Yakoun River near Port Clements on Graham Island in the Queen Charlottes. The tree attracted many visitors to the shores of the Yakoun so to view the magical golden “freak of nature” – The Golden Spruce Tree. The tree was, by all the rules of nature, a dead tree. The golden needles should have not have been able to absorb sunlight creating food and energy. It is only the green trees who have this ability to harness the sun’s energy. The Golden Spruce defied the odds and the logics of nature. It was thriving under insurmountable odds dominating the shoreline amongst the family of green trees.In 1997, a self-proclaimed “nature loving” forestry worker (some say mentally unstable, naive or crazy), cut the magical tree down as part of his protest against the current logging practices implemented at that time. Plus various other reasons.The significance of the Golden Spruce Tree to the Haida First Nation people and to the Port Clements’ tourism industry was huge. The act of killing the golden wonder sent shock waves through the Queen Charlottes and the world creating international headlines covering three continents resulting in a massive man hunt. This was not any normal tree eh!

I, and everybody else visiting the Haida, walked the trail to see this wonder, and take pictures, it was unreal. Until a crazy logger felled it. Now it is still a popular trail to the site.

Not far away, on another trail, you would see a huge cedar log, 1,5 m. half way completed to become a war canoe. One must wonder, how in the world would they get it to the ocean, if and when completed, hundred years ago. I suspect that might be the reason it is still there. Pictures

On the east side of Juskatla Road, a few kilometres south of the Golden Spruce site, watch for the signs to a partly carved Haida cedar canoe, abandoned more than a century ago. The bow of the canoe points toward the stump of the cedar from which it was cut, with the stump clearly showing the adze marks of the Haida canoe builders. Many unfinished Haida canoes lie in the forests on the islands, but this 15-metre (50-ft) canoe is the most accessible of them, with a boardwalk and trail into the canoe site.

Lots of nice canoes , some unfinished.


Another project was a coastal freighter service, from Vancouver to all the islands destinations, servicing also the points in between. Carrying a sea truck that could enter any beach. This was an early attempt to help keep this pristine wilderness clean. At the time, every old car, battery, oil barrel etc, was left on the islands, this service vessel would bring all this garbage out in a proper way, one could not always bring these items on the ferries, so they were left at roadside and on the beaches.


This project is just as viable today. Using the right vessel it could be combined with adventure tourism, and doing a huge service to the communities.

At one visit, we came right to a celebration

To witness a Haida Gwaii Celebration was a spiritual experience for me. If you travel there by yourself make sure you visit the living museum.

Totem Pole and a future Chief . A live Eagle perched on top of the pole.

 visit Skidegate

Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands  … info from BC Tourism

Haida Gwaii beach, Tourism BC photo

Haida Gwaii beach, Tourism BC photo

The Queen Charlotte Islands/Haida Gwaii are a remote and serene locale where visitors can enjoy any number of outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, camping, and surfing.

Check out the welcoming arts scene or vibrant First Nations culture. Of Haida Gwaii’s total population of approximately 5,000, at least one-third is Haida and Aboriginal culture and heritage is thriving here.

Enter the incredible raw beauty of the islands’ parks. Experience the national reserve Gwaii Haanas’s UNESCO World Heritage site, SGang Gwaay, one of the last authentic examples of a west coast First Nations village. Gwaii Haanas also has a natural hot spring island.

War Canoe Races and everybody on the beach following

Haida Gwaii, a must place to visit, a bike or canoe/kayak  is all you need. At low tide you see the razor clams, pull your sleeves up to the armpit, tread carefully to the clam hole, jab your hand down in the wet sand, all the way to the armpit, grab the shell and pull it up. They are not called razor clams for nothing, there will be some bleeding, but with the evening meal of clams, that is only a show and tell.

On the mile long beaches, you can find opals everywhere, some of high quality, but all as collector stones. Agate Rock, Queen Charlotte Islands  Beach combing you will find lots of items from Japanese and Korean fishing fleet, glass balls most interesting, but also various corks from old fishing gear.

In future years, starting now, and coming to a climax in about 2015, much of the debris from the large earthquake and subsequent Tsunami in Japan will hit these shores, that is going to take a major effort to clean up. These massive square km’s of debris, will also damage the fragile herring spawning areas, if have you ever tasted herring spawn on kelp, a local delicatessen, then you would be very concerned.

This debris will also clod many narrows and inlets, make the inaccessible for any vessels, including ferries and floatplane, somebody should start the planning now, how to deal with this, it is on the way in the Pacific, and nothing will stop it. I will be around to tell you: I told you so !

Found this in a newsclipping:

Jack Jr. — another adventurer
Jack Greenwood, Cypress Park Estates founder
Jack Jr.
Greenwood’s son, Jack Jr., lives in Queen Charlotte
City in Haida Gwaii where he owns the Rainbows
Art Gallery. He is 74. Like his grandfather, he is also
married to an aboriginal princess. Jack Jr. wrote a
thesis in March 1959 for the partial fulfillment of his
Bachelor of Commerce degree at UBC. In it, he told
the story regarding the financing and development
of the subdivision known as Cypress Park Estates.
Greenwood’s grandson Jay lives in North Vancouver.

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