Located on the east shore of Masset Inlet on the site of three ancient Haida village sites, five minutes up the coastal road from Masset, is the Haida village of Old Masset, also known as Haida.
Old Masset is one of 2 villages where the Haida regrouped in the late 1800s, having been forced to leave their ancient villages due to their declining numbers, a severe consequence of smallpox introduced by Europeans. Skidegate on the southern shore of Graham Island was the other location.
The Hudson’s Bay Company operated a trading post at the Haida site from 1869 to 1898. Old Masset is named after Maast Island, a small island in Masset Sound, but the meaning of the Haida name Maast is not known. Today, Old Masset is the administrative seat of the Council of the Haida Nation, and is home to about 700 Haida, including some well-known native carvers. Visitors are requested to be respectful of the culture and privacy of the Haida people.
Location: Old Masset is located near the north coast of Graham Island in Haida Gwaii, 2 miles (3.2 km) northeast of Masset. The Haida Gwaii islands are accessed by ferry from Prince Rupert to the Skidegate Landing Ferry Terminal on Graham Island, by air from Vancouver to Sandspit on Moresby Island (770 km), and by air from Prince Rupert to Sandspit. There are also direct flights to the Masset Municipal Airport from Vancouver and Prince Rupert. Other commercial air services (including float planes and helicopters) are available at Sandspit, Queen Charlotte City and Masset. A 20-minute ferry ride connects Graham and Moresby Islands.
Eagles and ravens are viewed in the shoreline trees in the area, as if to signify their kinship with the Haida people, descendants of the original inhabitants of Haida Gwaii. Look for the eagle and raven totem poles looking out over the ballfield near the museum.
The private Ed Jones Haida Museum, located in an old schoolhouse on the north side of Old Masset, houses exhibits that include historical photographs, pre- and post-contact artifacts, Haida art, and original Haida Gwaii totem poles, including many artifacts from Kiusta and Lucy Island. Check at the Village Office to see if the museum is open.
Haida Carvings: Across from the museum is a carving shed where Haida artists can be seen at work during the summer months.
Haida Crafts: The weathered wooden building adorned with the Reg Davidson totem poles is home to Haida Arts and Jewellery, which offers books on native culture, argillite carvings, handcrafted silver and abalone jewellery, and other Haida treasure.
Most artists work and sell their arts and crafts out of their homes. Please be courteous and phone the artists before visiting. Check with local Haida artists for silver, gold or argillite carvings and jewellery. The local shops carry artwork by many artists, who otherwise work to order.
Look for the intricate spruce root weavings, the carved totem fence, and the new houses in Old Masset that have been carved in the style of the traditional Haida Longhouse.
A fish canning and freezing plant located on the east shore of Masset Sound is a significant source of employment in the community, and a hive of activity during the fishing season. With the downturn in salmon fisheries, the fish plant in Masset was facing hundreds of lay-offs until they switched to processing the lowly Dogfish, locally abundant and a source of high value by-products. The processing plant offers custom processing, vacuum packing, smoking, freezing and shipping for locally caught sport fish. Fresh or frozen fish and crabs are also sold.
The old Haida village of Yan, on the west shore of the mouth of Masset Inlet, is a 30-minute boat ride from Old Masset. The large village of seventeen houses built along the shoreline was established in the late eighteenth century, and occupied by two Haida clans – the Eagles and the Ravens – before the villagers left the site and moved back to Masset. Tours by boat can be arranged at the Visitor Centre.
The Old Masset Village Council Office and Community Hall, located on Eagle Avenue, is the administrative centre for the village. Apply here for permits to visit village sites on Graham Island, and for info about Haida artists in Old Masset. Look for the Robert Davidson sculpture in the lobby.
The largest log barge in the world operates in Masset Inlet and Masset Sound. The self-propelled and self-dumping barge, the Haida Monarch, is 129 metres (423 ft) long and 26 meters (85 feet) wide, and can transport 15,000 tons of felled trees per load – equal to the contents of 400 logging trucks, or 12,000 telephone poles. The self-loading barges are fitted with enormous cranes and water tanks that are flooded during offloading, causing the barge to list and dump its load into the water, to be manoeuvered into log sorting grounds by tugs. The smaller Haida Brave is 121 metres (397 ft) long and 25 metres (82 ft) wide, with a load capacity of 10,000 tons.
The neighbouring village of Masset maintains an RV Park & Campground opposite the scenic Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary. Open year round, the campground is close to downtown and the beaches, with shaded gravel sites, some electric hook-ups, firewood, water, hot coin showers, heated washrooms, a laundry facility, and a summer kitchen. A sani-station is available at the Visitor Centre 1 km away. Some of the lowest rates in BC!
Camping in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands).
Golf: The delightful, oceanfront Dixon Entrance Golf & Country Club is located on Tow Hill Road, 3 miles (5 km) from Masset. One of two golf courses on Haida Gwaii, the 9-hole public course is signposted from the highway and at the road entrance.
Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Beachcombing near Old Masset and along North Beach can be very rewarding for those seeking to combine the excitement of searching for treasures with the exercise of hiking along the vast expanse of beach. Top treasures include Japanese glass fishing floats, sperm whale teeth, shells, sand dollars, and agate gemstones.
Beachcombing in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands).
Masset Sound (25 miles/40 km long) is a fast-flowing connection between Dixon Entrance, the body of water between Haida Gwaii and Prince of Wales Island in Alaska, and the ecologically unique Masset Inlet. The village of Masset is located at the mouth of Masset Sound, and Port Clements sits on the eastern shore of Masset Inlet, which leads into Juskatla Inlet, and the logging camp of Juskatla on the eastern shore.
South of Old Masset is the small village of Masset, the largest town on the Haida Gwaii islands, and the northern gateway to Naikoon Park.
To the east of Old Masset is the fabulous North Beach in Naikoon Provincial Park. Access to North Beach is from Masset, along scenic Tow Hill Road that cuts through a rain forest. At North Beach, 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.
Circle Tours: See the best of Northern BC and Haida Gwaii on one of the Circle Tours that capture the wonders of the north. The Inside Passage Circle Tour and the Native Heritage Circle Tour include Haida Gwaii by catching a ferry from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands).
Circle Tours in British Columbia.