Few adventures in the world can compare with a trip deep into the diverse Arctic nature and geography of northwest Yukon.
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The Arctic tundra’s brown, green and rust shades don’t get the attention they deserve. Covered by snow for nine months of the year, they are overshadowed by the brilliant bloom of wild flowers that dance in short-lived merriment during June and July. However, if you look closely at the mosses and grasses that form the foundation here, you may never want to look away again.
Located in Yukon’s northwest corner, adjacent to Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Ivvavik’s diverse geography contains much more than permafrost and fragile natural carpet. The abrupt peaks rise above river valleys, the tundra gives way to the trees in the taiga (boreal forest) and the coastal plain spreads to Beaufort Sea.
The colours shift throughout the short season: verdant after the snowmelt followed by a canvas of wildflowers, blueberries, cranberries and cloudberries, the latter a tasty source for Arctic jelly. The myriad flower heads, often dark to absorb additional heat or cup-shaped to capture the sun’s focus toward the central seed heads, abandon their chlorophyll in late August, as the pigment kaleidoscope rotates to reveal orange, yellow and red hues.
Visitors fly in to this three-decades-old park via Inuvik, NWT, from Edmonton, AB, or Whitehorse, YT. The 10,000-km2 area is part of the Beringia region, which comprises parts of Yukon, Alaska and even Siberia. The landscape avoided glaciation during the last ice age, so several species of plants, unhampered by the glacier’s heavy snow, are unique to this environment. Ivvavik is also the only national park protected because of a land-claim settlement by the Inuvialuit.
The Parks Canada expedition utilizes the Sheep Creek Station for base camp. Originally built as a gold-mining camp, park rangers and researchers took it over. Today, visitors, staff and visiting researchers live alongside Inuvialuit employees from families who have populated this landscape for millennia.
Plants aren’t the only natural wonder here. “Tors,” granite fins shaped by thousands of years of harsh winds and temperature changes, stand like deformed giants upon the landscape. The park also protects the large calving habitat of the porcupine caribou, a subspecies endemic to Yukon and Alaska. Wolves and bears prey on the migratory herds of caribou, musk oxen and Dall sheep.
Daily hikes lead to local landmarks such as the breathtaking Inspiration Point, dramatic Wolf Tors, the narrow Sheep Slot and Halfway to Heaven, the latter a walk that speaks for itself. Back at camp, Inuvialuit hosts prepare traditional meals, teach ancient games plus share stories and lessons passed down among generations for centuries.
Visitors depart this excursion with intimate knowledge of Ivvavik National Park’s fascinating nature and local culture. Few adventures in the world can compare with Parks Canada’s five-day, catered base-camp experience here.
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