We visited Haida Gwaii this summer and what a place! If you love remote but not too remote, Haida Gwaii is the place for you. There are no easy ways to get to the island unless you fly and rent a car, but if you drive, be prepared for a multi-day trip. Coming from Port Moody, we had to stay overnight in both Prince George and Prince Rupert before catching the 7.5 hour ferry to the island. By the end of the second day of 8+ hours of driving, flying was looking very attractive. I'm glad we drove though because having a truck on Haida Gwaii opens up a lot of opportunities for adventure.
The Magic of Haida Gwaii
Everything you read online about Haida Gwaii mentions how magical the island is. They are not wrong, but be prepared for rain! The First Nations sites, beaches, and views are simply incredible! For the rockhounder, Haida Gwaii offers a lot of cool opportunities, especially if you like agates. They are more plentiful on Haida Gwaii than anywhere else I have been. If truth be told, I was like a kid in the candy store scouring the beaches for agates.
What are agates and why are they on Haida Gwaii?
Agate is a banded form of microcrystalline Quartz meaning that you do not see crystals within the rock. It can be translucent through to opaque. If you find a piece of quartz (cannot scratch it with a pocket knife) that looks glassy and shows layers or bands there is a good chance it is an agate.
The agates on Haida Gwaii are sourced mainly from the Eocene-aged (56 to 34 million years old) Masset Formation, which comprises volcanic rocks (e.g., basalt, andesite, and dacite; 2). The Masset Formation occurs throughout much of northern Graham Island, which explains the prevalence of agates in the region. Agates are eroded out of the rocks by waves and moved eastward where they accumulate as gravel on the beaches.
Agates on Haida Gwaii - Fun for the Whole Family!
I was only on Haida Gwaii for a week, and had no trouble finding agates. In fact, I showed my family and family friends what to look for and in no time, everyone was finding them on nearly every beach we visited east of Masset and north of Tlell. That's a lot of beach given than North Beach between Masset and Rose spit (northeast tip) is 42 km long and the beach along the eastern side of Naikoon Provincial Park in 70 km long. A word of advice though, if you visit Agate Beach by Tow Hill, don't expect to find many agates as the beach has been picked over. With 110+ km of beach, there are other spots that are easily accessible and provide better opportunities.
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2) Mauthner, M., and Whittles, J., 2021, Collector’s Note: Amethyst from Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada: Rocks & Minerals, v. 96, no. 5, p. 460-463.
3) Shellnutt, J.G., and Dostal, J., 2019, Haida Gwaii (British Columbia, Canada): a Phanerozoic analogue of a subduction-unrelated Archean greenstone belt: Scientific Reports, v. 9, No. 3251.