Aulavik National Park

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Aulavik National Park is a hidden gem located in the far north of Canada, on the banks of the Thomsen River valley on Banks Island. With an Inuvialuktun name that translates to “where people travel,” the park was set aside in 1992 and covered a vast 12,200 km2 / 4710.44 mi2. The name was suggested by one of the elders of Sachs Harbour, the only community on the island.

Access to the park is by charter aircraft from Inuvik, a remote town located 800 km / 497.09 mi southwest of the park. Despite its breathtaking natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, Aulavik National Park remains one of the most miniature-visited parks in the country. Adventure seekers can raft or canoe the Thomsen, Canada’s most northerly navigable river, and explore the park’s rugged wilderness.

Muskox Skull

The Thomsen River valley is a natural wonder, known as the most productive area in the world for muskoxen. Approximately 25% of Banks Island’s population of these shaggy beasts, numbering at least 47,000, roam the valley’s wetlands of dwarf willow, sedges, and grasses.

The Lower Thomsen River, with its adjoining lakes and tundra ponds, is designated as a migratory bird sanctuary, attracting large numbers of Brant geese. An arctic version of badlands flanks the west side of the river – a landscape of deep, branching ravines providing breeding habitat for peregrine falcons, gyrfalcons, and rough-legged hawks.

To the east of the river lies a geological treasure trove, where beds of sand, shale, and silt with occasional seams of coal and carbonaceous shales contain fossil plants and trees from the end of the age of the dinosaurs, over 65 million years ago.

Aulavik National Park also has a rich human history, with archaeological sites dating back to 3400 years ago, providing evidence of the area’s rich cultural heritage. It is a unique and spectacular destination for those looking to experience the wild beauty of the Arctic and explore the history of the Inuvialuit people.

Did you know about the Aulavik National Park?

  • Aulavik National Park is a remote and rugged wilderness located on Banks Island in the Northwest Territories of Canada.
  • The park is known for its access to the Thomsen River, one of the most northerly navigable rivers in North America.
  • The park is only accessible by charter plane, and currently, the park has four landing sites.
  • Aulavik is considered a polar desert and often experiences high winds with an average precipitation of about 300mm per year.
  • The park has the highest concentration of muskoxen on earth, with an estimated 68,000 to 80,000 animals on the island, approximately 20% of which are thought to reside in the park.
  • Aulavik National Park is home to the endangered Peary caribou and the more common barren-ground caribou, as well as Arctic foxes, brown and northern collared lemmings, Arctic hares, and wolves.
  • The park has 150 species of flowering plants and is completely treeless, with Ptarmigan and ravens as the only year-round birds.
  • Marine mammals along the north coast include polar bears, ringed seals, bearded seals, beluga whales, and bowhead whales.
  • Aulavik National Park was visited by the Copper Inuit of Victoria Island in the past to salvage materials left by McClure’s party; they also hunted the caribou and muskox in the area as evidenced by a large number of food caches.
  • The park has a rich history, and Inuvialuit people have lived in the area for centuries. The park is also home to Sachs Harbour, the only community on the island.

Google Maps of the Aulavik National Park

This embeddable Google Map generated for free on Canada