Why You Should Explore Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest

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The Great Bear Rainforest is a temperate rain forest on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, Canada and part of the larger Pacific temperate rainforest ecoregion, which is the largest coastal temperate rainforest in the world.

The Great Bear Rainforest was officially recognized by the Government of British Columbia in February 2016, when it announced an agreement to permanently protect 85% of the old-growth forested area from industrial logging.

The Great Bear Rainforest extends from the Discovery Islands in the south to the BC-Alaska boundary in the north and it covers an area roughly 32,000 km2.
The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled temperate rainforest left in the world. The area is home to species such as cougars, wolves, salmon, grizzly bears, and the Kermode bear, a unique subspecies of the black bear, in which one in ten cubs displays a recessive white-colored coat. This is the only place of the planet where you can spot the elusive white Kermode bear.

The forest features 1,000-year-old  western red cedar and 90-meter Sitka spruce.

Great Bear Rainforest
Photo credit: Kathryn Burrington / flickr
The 6.4 million hectares on British Columbia’s north and central coast is equivalent to the size of Ireland with a human population of less than 17,000 outside of the town of Prince Rupert, compared to 4.5 million in Ireland. Hidden from the outside world, it is one of the wildest places left on earth and protected by the region’s indigenous people unchanged for 10,000 years.

The historic agreement that secures the future of the Great Bear Rainforest means more old and second-growth forest will be protected, while still ensuring opportunities for economic development.

Visit Great Bear Rainforest

The Great Bear Rainforest has become a popular destination for travelers seeking first-hand views of the region’s stunning landscapes, waterways and array of wildlife.
You can approach the Great Bear Rainforest by roads using one of the area’s main gateways Bella Coola in central BC or by sea with ferry through BC Ferries’ Inside Passage route and the Discovery Coast Connector.

Sea Kayaking and Wildlife Viewing in regions of the Great Bear Rainforest provides an unforgettable adventure. Touring through this spectacular wilderness in a spacious and beautiful sailboat provides visitors with an intimate and unique experience.

The warmest months to visit the area are from June to August. The best chance to spot bears is during the annual salmon run from late August to September.

Biodiversity

The Great Bear Rainforest is a wildlife location in Canada and it is ideal for Bear watching, wildlife cruises, wildlife festivals, and wildlife photography.

Humpback whale
Photo credit: Brodie Guy / flickr

Marine Life

Off the coast of the newly protected Great Bear Rainforest lies the Great Bear Sea, one of the richest cold-water marine environments in the world. Its pristine, thriving waters are packed with nutrients, supporting an abundance of whales, all five species of Pacific salmon, as well as dolphins, porpoises, sea birds and other marine life.

Salmon are a vital key to the Great Bear Rainforest ecosystem and an important food source for a wide array of wildlife as well as grizzly bears for their survival. The great salmon population attracts a wide range of animals, including killer whales, sharks, sea lions, seals, otters, bears, loons, mergansers, heron, and kingfishers. At the same time, a lot of insects and plants are benefiting from nitrogen from salmon.

Mammals

The Great Bear Rainforest is home to hundreds of species of animals that make up one of the most bio-diverse areas on the planet. and rich in various species especially large predators due to the vast expanse of wilderness, cougars, wolves, black bears, Spirit bears and grizzly bears are the larger mammalian predators, with a wide variety of mustelids such as otters, mink, martins and fishers.

The Kermode (Spirit) bear, a subspecies of black bear with a white coat and British Columbia’s provincial mammal, is found almost exclusively in the Great Bear Rainforest. There are likely fewer than 400 of these rare bears in existence. Spirit Bears are found most frequently on Princess Royal Island which is also the location of the recently created Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy.

Birds

Birdlife includes Bald Eagles in abundance as well as Marbled Murrelet, Blue Herons, reptiles can also be found but in smaller numbers due to the climate and Salamanders are represented in pools and streams.

Plants

The main forest tree species is Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, Red cedar and Western Hemlock. The amount of moisture means that fire is very rare which results in an incredibly damp decomposing habitat filled with mosses and fungi and decaying trees.

Great Bear Rainforest BCPhoto credit: Dru! / flickr

Trees

BC’s coastal temperate rainforests are characterized by some of the oldest and largest trees on Earth, the most common of which are Sitka spruce, red cedar, western hemlock, amabilis and Douglas fir. Trees can tower up to 300feet and grow for more than 1,500 years.

Cultural History in BC Canada
Photo credit: Province of British Columbia / flickr

Cultural History

The Great Bear Rainforest is a land of fjords, islands, and great river estuaries. You have the unique chance to explore the worlds of several northwest First Nations: the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo Xai’xais, Haisla, Gitga’at, and Henaaksiala. Everywhere is evidence of their civilization. You can join tours and you’ll be able to visit modern villages, talk with local residents, and see the ancient art traditions still in place today.

In 2016 the Premier of British Columbia and First Nations of the Great Bear Rainforest region announced a conservation agreement of global significance.

Main photo credit: Sam Beebe / flickr
Want to learn more about other sustainable destination? Check out section sustainable travel destinations.

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