Naikoon - Agate Beach and Misty Meadows Provincial Park is in the Haida Gwaii in British Columbia. It is 69,166 hectares of lush rainforest (about the size of Singapore) bordered by over 100 km of sandy beaches along the coastline.
Naikoon is the traditional territory of the Haida Nation and figures prominently in their present lifestyles and history. There are many places of cultural and spiritual importance as well as historic village sites and important food gathering sites throughout the park. Colonial settlement began in the early 1900s; although it failed to prosper, evidence of settlements can still be found within the park.
The area is comprised of a mixture of coastal temperate rainforest ecosystems, wetlands and bogs, sand dunes and approximately 100 km of beaches. Tow Hill and Rose Spit are natural features that are also prominent in Haida traditional stories.
Some facilities in the park are wheelchair accessible. Tow Hill day-use site has 2 wheelchair-accessible tables at the trailhead. Misty Meadows campground has two accessible outhouses and Agate Beach campground has one accessible outhouse. The water standpipes at Agate Beach campground are accessible. The Tow Hill Trail to the blowhole lookout is universally accessible, including the interpretive signs.
In the early 1900s, the provincial government encouraged settlers to farm at Haida Gwaii. There were many who chose to homestead in the area that is now Naikoon Park, growing vegetables, raising cattle and taking gold from the sand beaches. However, difficult drainage, poor access, World War I and the lack of markets caused most people to abandon their efforts before the Great Depression. Many of the place names in the area are reminders of their presence.
Naikoon Park is the traditional territory of the Haida Nation and figures prominently in their present lifestyles and history. There are many places of cultural and spiritual importance as well as historic village sites and important food gathering sites throughout the park.
Naikoon is a corruption of “Nai-kun” meaning “house point” – the Haida name for Rose Spit. This 5-km point of land juts northward from the park separating the waters of Dixon Entrance and Hecate Strait. The park was created to help preserve the natural diversity of this unique coastline.
The park occupies part of the Hecate Depression, a trough between the Outer Mountains to the west and the Coast Mountains on the mainland to the east. The park is largely low and flat. Most of its topographic features are formed by underlying glacial deposits. In the northeast corner, Argonaut Hill, the highest point in the park, rises only 150 metres above sea level. Tow Hill, an outcrop of basalt columns, is a prominent landmark about 100 metres high on the north beach.
Flora and fauna
Wildlife introduced to the region include small mammals such as raccoons, red squirrels, beaver, and muskrat. Wild cattle have also been spotted. Native species include black bears, otter, and martin.
The rainforest is comprised of towering spruce and cedar trees, and many types of ferns and other greenery along the forest floor.
Wildlife is a curious mixture of introduced and native species. Sitka Blacktail deer were brought in about 80 years ago and, with abundant forage and no wild predators, they have prospered. Other species such as raccoons, red squirrels, beaver, and muskrat have been introduced. Small herds of wild cattle, remnants of domestic stock from the days of early settlement, have been seen along the east coast.
Species native to the park area include black bear, marten, river otter, and several other mammals that made the salt water crossing from the mainland. Sea mammals include dolphins and harbour porpoises. Hair seals can be seen regularly at Rose Spit and all along the north and east beaches. Northern fur seals and California grey whales migrate northward during May and June.
The bird population of Haida Gwaii is similar to the nearby mainland although many species have not crossed Hecate Strait. Others, such as the hairy woodpecker, the saw-whet owl and Steller’s Jay, have developed into unique sub-species. A sub-species of pine grosbeak is found only on Haida Gwaii and Vancouver Island. A sub-species of song sparrow is found here and on the Alaskan Islands.
Rose Spit is an excellent spot for observing migrating birds travelling south on the Pacific Flyway. Upwelling currents produce much food along the spit, attracting pelagic species rarely seen from the shore. Sandhill cranes gather here after nesting in the park bogs and shorebirds abound.
The park has a mild climate that is moderated by moist Pacific air throughout the year, but cool, rainy, or foggy weather and high winds can occur at any time. Visitors should always carry warm clothing and wet-weather gear.
There are many points of access along Highway 16 which forms a border with the park for several kilometers. Secondary access to the Rose Spit (Nai-kun) area of the park is provided by Tow Hill Road, which heads east from Masset.
Fees and permits
There are no fees for day use. See Sleep for campsite fees.
See and do
There are many trails to explore in Naikoon. It is recommended that you hike from south to north to avoid prevailing winds, driving rain or sun in your eyes.
- Pesuta Shipwreck Trail: This trail begins at Tlell River day use site just north of the Tlell River Bridge. It winds through a forest setting and then follows the riverbank of the Tlell River to the river mouth and East Beach. The remnant bow of the log barge “Pesuta”, which was beached in December 1928, is all that remains of this 264-foot log carrier. Best to approach this hike on a low or receding tide to avoid walking the riverbank during high water.
- East Beach Hiking: There are 3 rustic shelters along East Beach. These are intended to provide extra cover in the event of extreme weather. The shelters are off the beach in the protection of the dunes.
- Tlell to Cape Fife/Rose Spit: This is a long and demanding wilderness, multi-day hike requiring sufficient preparation and supplies. Tlell to Tow Hill via the Cape Fife Trail – 78 km. Tlell to Tow Hill via the base of Rose Spit – 89 km. Tlell Bridge to Tlell River outfall – 4.5 km. Tlell River outfall to Mayer River outfall – 4.5 km. Mayer River outfall to Cap Ball River – 6 km. Cape Ball River to Oeanda River – 36.5 km. Oeanda River to Cape Fife trailhead – 17 km.
- Tlell to Cape Ball: A shorter hike along East Beach, Cape Ball can be reached within 4-6 hours from the Tlell River day use site. Follow the hike to the Pesuta shipwreck and continue northwards up Tow Hill (North End of Naikoon).
- Tow Hill Loop Trail: This trail starts at the Tow Hill day use parking lot and follows the west bank of the Hiellen River. A sign at the junction will guide you up the boardwalk for the 15-minute hike to two viewing platforms. One platform provides a spectacular view of South Beach, Yakan Point and the interior bogs. Halfway along this trail you will come to a junction directing you to the blowhole which is at the base of Tow hill – another 15 minutes and you’re on the rocky shoreline. Total loop distance is approximately 2 km.
- Cape Fife: Starts just past Tow Hill day use parking lot and the Hiellen River. Signs will guide you to the trail head. The trail crosses the Argonaut Plain and spectacular bog environments. Some portions of the trail are boardwalk. 10 km one way. The Cape Fife shelter is located at the end of the trail on East Beach.
- Cape Fife Loop: A two- to three-day wilderness hike through coastal forest, bogs and along sandy beaches to Rose Spit. Hike Cape Fife trail to East Beach shelter – then turn northwards along the beach to Rose Spit. Follow North Beach back to Tow Hill day use area. Approximately 35 km return trip.
Bring your food with you.
Potable water is available in park campgrounds and at the Parks Headquarters in Tlell. Hikers should carry plenty of drinking water and must treat surface water due to risk of water-borne illness.
The Agate Beach (39 vehicle-accessible sites) and Misty Meadows (30 vehicle-accessible sites) campgrounds are accessible year-round (weather permitting) but may not offer full services such as water, security, etc.). Full services are available and fees are applicable from June 1 to September 30. Campsites cannot be reserved.
Wilderness, backcountry or walk-in camping is allowed, but no facilities are provided.
The campsite fee is $18 per party per night Jun-Sep (2020). During the off season, there are no services and no fees.
Motorized vehicles on Rose Spit Ecological Reserve are prohibited. Rose Spit supports an endangered plant community and is critical habitat for many local and migratory bird species.
Avoid travelling on the sand dunes as disturbance can lead to loss of plant life, increased erosion, exposure and damage to cultural sites. Tire tracks and repeated foot traffic through the sand dunes cause extensive environmental damage. The root systems of plants are broken and wind causes erosion. Once the stabilizing grasses are damaged, the wind continues to shift the dunes, burying the forest, trails, and camping spots.
Be prepared for emergency situations. Carry what you will need to rescue yourself and your vehicle should it become stuck on the beach.
ATV use within Naikoon is limited to North and East Beaches. To minimize your impact, travel high upon the beach but below the driftwood line – Avoid the sensitive lower beach and upper sand dunes.
ATV use is not permitted anywhere else in Naikoon Park; do not use ATVs on Naikoon’s environmentally-sensitive hiking trails. ATVs are not allowed to be used in the campsites and must be moved by trailer to the beach access points. It is illegal to run ATVs on Tow Hill road or any other highway unless they are registered and displaying licence plates. The fine for running non-licenced ATVs on roadways is $600.