Gulf Islands Canada

glflndWhen you look at the Gulf Islands in British Columbia in winter it’s not obvious why a group of Hawaiians would want to leave their tropical paradise to settle there, but the promise of work can be a powerful incentive to leave paradise and venture north where the cold takes hold.

According to historians there were at least 1,000 Hawaiians who ventured to the Pacific Northwest between the late-18th and mid-19th centuries. Many went there to work in the fur trade or as seamen. After the work ended, some preferred to remain in the Gulf Islands and many of them settled on Russell Island whilst others chose the south end of Salt Spring Island, which was home to the largest Kanaka community, as expat Hawaiians are known.

The Hawaiians knew a good thing or two about islands and recognised in the Gulf Islands land that was bountiful enough for hard work to reap its rewards. The islands are located in the Strait of Georgia with the Vancouver Island town of Nanaimo near the northern edge of the islands.

In 2003 the southern group of the Gulf Islands were incorporated to form the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve because they are representative of the Straits of Georgia lowlands and because there was a risk, thanks to the impact of settlement and industry, that the ecology of the islands was in danger of being ruined. This was caused by the influx of Europeans from the 1870s who cleared and settled the land for farming and logging.

There are some fantastic landscapes to enjoy in the Reserve, particularly as much of the area was carved by the immense pressure of moving glaciers grinding the land during the last ice age. As well as having glaciers that were as much as a mile thick, the local sea level has fluctuated too, with the sea level reaching a level about 150 metres higher than present sea level following the ice age.

There is abundance of life both on land and in the waters of the Strait for visitors to enjoy, and a great deal of activities in which to participate, depending on fitness and interests. Not all island facilities are open to the public all year round. Camping is allowed on most islands during the warmer months, with the facilities being closed during the rest of the year. BC Ferries operates passenger and car ferries to several islands, and a walk on ferry only from the town of Sidney, where the park headquarters is located.

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