Western Arctic Western Arctic - Spectacular Northwest Territories
Tourism and Parks –
Industry, Tourism and Investment,
Government of the Northwest Territories,
Bag Service #1 COM, Inuvik NT X0E 0T0 Canada
e-mail: [email protected]
Phone: (867) 777-7196 Fax: (867) 777-7321
NWT Arctic Tourism –
Phone Toll Free: 1-800-661-0788
National Parks –
Canadian Heritage, Parks Canada,
Western Arctic District Offices,
Box 1840, Inuvik NT X0E 0T0
Phone: (867) 777-8600 Fax: (867) 777-8820
If you are between the
ages of 16 and 65 and
fish here, you must carry
an NWT fishing licence,
available from most
hardware and sporting
goods stores in nearly all
All persons wishing to
hunt or carry firearms in
Canada must obtain the required licence. Revolvers, pistols
and automatic weapons are prohibited entry into Canada.
Non-residents wishing to hunt big game require the services
of an outfitter who will provide a licensed guide.
Our communities celebrate special events year round and
invite you to join them in the fun!
Inuvik Sunrise Festival, first
week of January.
Inuvik Canadian Airlines
International Curling Bonspiel.
Inuvik Muskrat Jamboree,
Tuktoyaktuk Beluga Jamboree,
Inuvik Top of the World Crosscountry Ski Loppet, mid-month.
Aklavik Mad Trapper’s
Jamboree, Easter weekend.
Fort McPherson Peel River Jamboree, last weekend.
Sachs Harbour White Fox Jamboree, first weekend.
Inuvik Petroleum Show, second week.
Ride for Sight, second weekend.
Aboriginal Day and Midnight Fun Run, June 21.
Holman Kingalok Jamboree, mid-month.
Aklavik Pokiak River Festival, month end.
Inuvik Canada Day celebration, July 1.
Inuvik Parks Day, mid-month.
Inuvik Great Northern Arts Festival, third week.
Holman Billy Joss Golf Tournament, month end.
Fort McPherson Midway Lake Music Festival.
Paulatuk Ilhalakpik Jamboree.
Inuvik Music Festival, third weekend.
Aklavik Dizzy Days, Labour Day weekend.
Inuvik Demolition Derby, Labour Day weekend.
Great Northern Arts Festival Christmas Craft and Gift Sale,
Inuvialuit Settlement Area
Gwich'in Settlement Area
Dene peoples have
Sahtu Settlement Area
with the Federal
The result has
been a significant
degree of selfgovernment,
the people, and a strong revival of traditional skills, culture
Arts and crafts, on the other hand, may often be purchased
at the source for significantly less than might be paid to a
southern gallery or dealer.
Two major airlines offer daily jet service to Inuvik
from southern Canada and scheduled service is available
from Whitehorse and Dawson City, Yukon. Travel within
the region can be arranged with local airlines and tour
companies. Scheduled flights into Tuktoyaktuk and Aklavik
are daily, but flights to Sachs Harbour, Paulatuk and
Ulukhaktok (Holman) are limited. Scheduled service to
Ulukhaktok (Holman) is also available from Yellowknife.
We recommend that you
plan your trip to any of these
communities in advance,
and guide services prior to
departure, in order to avoid
You can paddle the
Mackenzie River and cruise
or navigate the Northwest
Passage. These are all
specialized trips and you
should contact us for further
We strongly recommend the use of only licensed
outfitters and lodges and advise that when making bookings
you request proof that such services are indeed licensed.
Whatever the Weather – a Land of Contrasts
The Western Arctic Region enjoys 24-hour daylight
approximately six months of the year, but the weather can
be unpredictable. There is the possibility of chilly, windy or
rainy days and occasionally frost, but on the other hand,
temperatures can rise to 30ºC (86ºF), so be prepared for all
Although it can be cold, the beauty of winter in the
Western Arctic is extraordinary. Temperatures can dip to
minus 30ºC (-22ºF), but the sky is clear, the aurora borealis is
dancing, frost covers the countryside and by March we are
experiencing 18 hours of daylight. Here you can experience
the vast quietude as the wilderness of the Mackenzie Delta
sleeps under a blanket of snow. The key to comfort is to
layer your clothing to suit the temperature.
Drive the ice road to Aklavik or Tuktoyaktuk from late
December to the end of April.
The natural beauty of the Western Arctic seems
unchanged since the beginning of time. In fact, it includes
one of the few areas on the continent that has remained
unglaciated for over 100,000 years, resulting in unique
landscapes and life forms.
Imagine a sea of wildflowers basking in the sun of a
summer day that is six weeks long, above a permanently
frozen layer of earth hundreds of feet deep!
Inuvik is the gateway to one of Yukon’s territorial parks
and several of Canada’s national parks. Each of them offers a
The national parks have no visitor centres, services or
trails – they really are true wilderness. If you intend to visit,
you are recommended to either use the aid of guides, or
come prepared for totally self-sufficient travel. Registration
with parks services and a permit are mandatory.
Herschel Island was
Yukon’s first territorial
park. About 1,000 years
ago the Thule people
inhabited the island.
There is also evidence
to be found of later
seasonal occupations by
Inuvialuit hunters. In the
late 19th century it was
used as a base by American and European whalers. You can
still see the buildings from those turbulent times and the
wooden grave markers of the whalers who died and were
buried there. In July and August, both beluga and bowhead
whales may be seen offshore and sightings of caribou and
muskox are possible. You can also see some 70 species of
birds and 135 arctic flora here. Park wardens and a few
residents live on the island from June to September.
Vuntut National Park – 4,400 sq. km. (1,700 sq. mi.) of
Old Crow Flats, home of the Vuntut Gwich’in people, is a
huge wetlands plain with more than 20,000 shallow lakes,
surrounded by mountains. Year round home to grizzly bear,
beauty of this vast
land, the lifestyles
of peoples that
have lived here for
thousands of years,
and the hospitality
and service that
await you. These
are the things that
provide a refreshing
This vast northern land is far from the bustle of crowded
urban centres and is rich with heritage and culture that
reach thousands of years into the past. There is a natural
flow to the pace of life and an ageless tradition of
hospitality. There are many services available to make your
journey, and your stay, a pleasant and fulfilling experience.
There are many varied activities that we can offer; some
involving significant expense, like tours to communities or
flightseeing tours; but many are free or low in cost, like
walking trails, fishing, birding, viewing the unique flowers
and wildlife, cultural experiences, river trips or just enjoying
our “northern hospitality”.
Arctic is a remote
region and prices do
reflect that food and
other supplies have
thousands of miles.
You will find costs
for travel, food and
may be higher than
in more accessible
Other useful contacts:
Weather forecasts –
Royal Canadian Mounted Police –
Fort McPherson (867) 952-1111
Inuvik (867) 777-1111
Fort McPherson (867) 952-2586
Inuvik (867) 777-8000
Inuvik – www.inuvik.ca, www.inuvikinfo.com
Visitor information centres:
The Dempster-Delta Visitor Centre – Dawson City, Yukon
Open third week of May to third week of September.
The Western Arctic Regional Visitor Centre – Inuvik
Nitainlaii Visitor Centre – Nitainlaii Park
All open from the end of May to mid-September.
welcome to canada’s
moose and muskrat, and summer nesting site of more than
a million migrant waterfowl, it protects the migration routes
of the 170,000 strong Porcupine caribou herd.
Ivvavik National Park is 10,200
sq. km. (3,900 sq. mi.) of mostly
treeless tundra at the lower levels
and alpine tundra toward the
British Mountains. As with Vuntut
Park, most of Ivvavik was untouched
by the glaciers of the last ice age
because the local climate was
just too dry. It forms part of the
‘Beringia Refugia’, the richest area
in Canada for traces of ice-age
animals – woolly mammoth, giant
beavers and even camels! Today you
may see grizzly or black bear while
rafting down the Firth River, through the calving grounds of
the Porcupine caribou. Over 130,000 snow geese stage here
in the early fall, before migrating south.
Tuktut Nogait National Park Reserve protects the calving
grounds of the Bluenose herd of 125,000 caribou. Some
16,340 sq. km. (6,300 sq. mi.) in area, the park includes the
spectacular canyons of the Brock and Hornaday Rivers and
the 23-metre (75 feet) high La Ronciere Falls. It sustains one
of the highest densities of birds of prey in North America.
Aulavik National Park, is located in the Thomsen River
area on northern Banks Island. The Inuvialuit name Aulavik
means “where people travel”. The 12,300 sq. km. (4,750 sq.
mi.) park has some of the highest concentrations of muskox
in the world, 60,000 or more, up to half the total world
population of this unusual mammal.
Bird Sanctuaries – The Bird Sanctuaries at Banks Island
#1 and #2, Cape Parry, Anderson River Delta, and Kendall
flat and estuarine
for thousands of
geese, ducks and
other shore birds.
M E LV I L L E I S L A N D
for an Arctic Adventure!
There are eight communities of the
Western Arctic. You will be made
welcome in any of them.
NU NAVU T
Airport, Sched. Service
Arts and Crafts
La Ronciere Falls
Established on the Peel
River in 1918, not far from
the foot of the Richardson
Mountains, it is the most
westerly community in the
NWT, with a population
of approximately 725
V I C T O R I A I S L A N D people.
It has always been,
and still is, a meeting
place and home for both the Gwich’in and the Inuvialuit
peoples. Many of the inhabitants still follow the traditional
way of life – hunting, fishing and trapping. Aklavik was
the trapping, trading and transportation centre for the
Mackenzie Delta until the establishment of Inuvik, which
was built to take over this function. But many residents of
Aklavik refused to relocate and are now proud to call their
home “the town that wouldn’t die”.
This is the final resting place of Albert Johnson, the
legendary “Mad Trapper of Rat River”. He made national
news in the bitter winter of 1931-32, when he managed to
elude the pursuit of the RCMP for 40 days, but finally died in
a gun battle.
Air and river tours are available from Inuvik to Aklavik,
where tours to the Richardson Mountains can be obtained.
M a c ke
(ARCTIC RED RIVER)
(Tetlit Zheh – house above the river)
And e r
(Aklarvik – place where one gets grizzly bear)
( YUKON TERRITORIAL PARK)
(Uluksaqtuuq – place where one finds material to make ulus)
Dip your toe (or more, if
you’re brave enough!) in the
Arctic Ocean here.
Tuk, as it is commonly known,
was once the traditional home
of the whale-hunting Karngmalit
Inuit. Then it became the
the landbase for oil and gas
exploration that took place in the Beaufort Sea in the 1970’s.
Today it is a blend of the modern and traditional lifestyles, with
a population of about 950.
Over the years, Inuvialuit families moved to Tuk from
Herschel and Baille Islands and Cape Bathurst. By 1934, Tuk
was an established community. In 1937, a Hudson Bay trading
post was established, and in 1970, Tuk was incorporated as a
Tuk is easily accessible by scheduled flights from Inuvik,
where community, cultural, pingo, river and whale watching
tours are available. In winter, experienced guides offer
polar bear and caribou hunting, snowmobile and dog team
(Tuktuuyaqtuuk – place resembling a caribou)
(Paulatuuq – place where one finds soot of coal)
Paulatuk, with a population
of about 300 people, is an Inuit
community and is home to the
nearby Smoking Hills, which contain
perpetually burning underground
coal seams. Established as a
permanent settlement around the
Catholic Mission church in 1935,
Paulatuk is a centre for the sports
hunting of polar and grizzly bear,
muskox, caribou and wolverine, used
to make traditional clothing. There is
good char fishing to be had, in season.
The community is home to internationally renowned
Inuvialuit sculptors and tapestry artists.
The Horton River is a destination for exceptional canoeing
and kayaking experiences, and Tuktut Nogait National Park
lies to the southeast.
Named after the ship Mary Sachs, of
the Canadian arctic expedition of 1913,
the tiny community formed around an
RCMP post, established in 1953. Banks
Island had been inhabited by Pre-Dorset
peoples over 3,500 years ago and Thule
Inuit 500 years ago, but remained
deserted for several centuries, until
Today, with a population of about
135, the traditional lifestyle of hunting, trapping and fishing
is still very much alive and Sachs Harbour is known as the
“Muskox Capital of Canada”. Guided tours to view wildlife,
birds and flowers are available. Outfitting for big-game
hunts for muskox and polar bear can be arranged with
the local outfitters. Local crafts include the spinning and
weaving of qiviut, the silk-like wool of the muskox, into fine
scarves and sweaters.
The 19th century
penetrated as far east
as Amundsen Gulf,
consequently the explorer
was the first qallunaaq,
or white man, to visit the
Copper Inuit people on
the west side of Victoria
Island, in 1911. The permanent community formed around
a trading post, established in 1940, to capitalize on a thenbooming arctic fox fur trapping industry.
Father Henri Tardi came to Holman, from France, as
an Oblate missionary in 1939, and taught the skills of
printmaking. Holman is now famous for its Inuit print artists
and their work.
With a population of approximately 425 people, Holman
boasts a top quality nine-hole public golf course. Local guides
can help you to also enjoy naturalist expeditions, top quality
sport fishing for arctic char and lake trout, and sports hunts.
(Ikaahuk – where one crosses to)
(Arctic Red River – mouth of the river of iron)
setting at the
confluence of the
Arctic Red and
first established as
an Oblate Fathers’
Catholic Mission in 1868. In the early 1870s, a Hudson Bay
Company trading post was established.
Most of the 160 Gwichya Gwich’in inhabitants still follow
a traditional lifestyle of hunting, fishing and trapping, and
many spend extended periods of the year living ‘out on the
land’, just as they have always done. You may notice their
hunting or fishing camps near the highway as you pass
Tsiigehtchic offers access to the Arctic Red Heritage River,
navigable without portage for some 200 km (124 miles)
upstream between early June and late September.
Stop in to visit the Band office and ask about purchasing
renowned Arctic Red River dry fish.
Bird Sanctuary #1
Located on the
east channel of the
Mackenzie River, Inuvik
was founded relatively
recently, in 1955. The
of Canada felt there
was a need for an
in the Western Arctic.
Aklavik, the traditional centre, was subject to flooding and
erosion, so it was decided to relocate to the East Channel
of the Mackenzie River where there was access to lumber,
gravel and flat land to build an airport. It is currently
Canada’s largest community north of the Arctic Circle, with a
population of about 3,300, and offers a full range of services
and facilities. The town of Inuvik is an example of the
Canadian ‘cultural mosaic’, home to people from a variety of
places sharing their cultural roots in the many festivals and
events that take place throughout the year.
Inuvik’s most famous
and most photographed
landmark is Our Lady of
Victory Catholic Church,
known also as the Igloo
Church, because of its
shape. Ingamo Hall, a
friendship centre, is also
noteworthy. It was built
from more than 1,000 logs
rafted 1,370 km (850 miles)
down the Mackenzie River.
The sun sets December 5
and returns on January 5,
when the days lengthen
quickly to provide ideal
conditions for winter
activities such as dog
sledding, ice fishing and snowmobiling right through until the
end of April. We have the only lighted cross-country ski trails
above the Arctic Circle and have produced Olympic champions.
Visit the Western Arctic Regional Visitor Centre, open
June to September, to see outstanding indoor and outdoor
displays of the whole region’s culture and wildlife. Courteous
staff will give you all the help you might need with planning
and arranging your stay with us!
Access to Inuvik is by the Dempster Highway or daily jet
service from southern Canada. From Inuvik, outfitters offer
tours to other communities, Herschel Island, the national
parks, and the Mackenzie Delta. A variety of tours of the
area and the Mackenzie River is also available.
(Inuuvik – place of man)
Bird Sanctuary #2
With a population
of about 900, this is
the largest Gwich’in
community in the
Northwest Territories and
the first encountered
when driving the
Dempster into the
Traditionally the Tetlit
Gwich’in people of the
area lived a seasonally
nomadic lifestyle, moving between the mountains and the
river valleys according to the seasonal hunting opportunities.
The Hudson Bay Company sited a trading post here in 1858,
named it after their chief trader, Murdoch McPherson, and
a community soon grew around it, a pattern typical of many
The Fort McPherson Tent and Canvas workshop offers top
quality canvas products and traditional crafts like beading
and leather work may be found at the craft shop.
The graveyard is the final resting place of the ‘Lost Patrol’
of the Royal Northwest
Mounted Police. In the
winter of 1910-11, they
became lost on a 765 km
(475 mile) sled-dog patrol
from Fort McPherson to
Dawson City, Yukon, in
temperatures of minus
55ºC (-67ºF), or lower,
and carrying minimal
rations. They eventually
turned back, but perished only 36 km (22 miles) from Fort
Nitainlaii Territorial Park is only 10 km (6 miles) towards
Eagle Plains on the Dempster Highway. It offers campsites
and a visitor
way of life.
Learn about traditional Gwich’in lifestyles at the
Nitainlaii Territorial Park Information Centre.