The park covers 12,200 km², a bit larger than Jamaica. It was established in 1992.
It is known for its access to the Thomsen River, one of the most northerly navigable rivers in North America.
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Prior to the arrival of the Thule culture in southern Banks Island there were some Pre-Dorset culture people living in what is now the Aulavik National Park. Due to the cooling climate brought on by the Little Ice Age, Banks Island was most likely deserted until the arrival of the Inuvialuit in the 17th century.
Aulavik National Park has two major bays, Castel Bay and Mercy Bay, and lies south of the McClure Strait. Captain Robert McClure, spent two winters in Mercy Bay on HMS Investigator, while searching for the missing expedition of John Franklin between 1850 and 1853. McClure's team abandoned their ship in Mercy Bay and hiked across the sea-ice of the strait to board another ship, HMS Resolute.
The Mercy Bay area was visited by the Copper Inuit of Victoria Island to salvage materials left by McClure's party. They also hunted the caribou and muskox in the area as evidenced by the large number of food caches. In the 20th century the area was popular with Inuvialuit due to the large population of foxes. Until the fur trade went into decline, fox trapping provided a source of income for people from as far away as the Mackenzie Delta and the North Slope of Alaska. This influx of people led to the establishment of Sachs Harbour, the only community on the island.
The park protects Arctic Lowlands at the northern end of the island.
In the southern regions of the park a sparsely vegetated upland plateau reaches a height of 450 m (1,480 ft) above sea level.
Flora and fauna
The park has the highest concentration of muskoxen on earth, with estimates of 68,000 to 80,000 animals on the island, approximately 20% of which are thought to reside in the park. It is also home to the endangered Peary caribou, and the more common barren-ground caribou. Ptarmigan and ravens are considered the only year-round birds in the park, although 43 species make seasonal use of the area.
The park is completely treeless, and Arctic foxes, brown and northern collared lemmings, Arctic hares and wolves roam the rugged terrain. Marine mammals along the north coast include polar bears, ringed seals, bearded seals, beluga whales and bowhead whales. Birds of prey in the park include snowy owls, rough-legged hawks, gyrfalcons, and peregrine falcons, who feed on the lemmings.
Aulavik is considered a polar desert and often experiences high winds. Precipitation for the park is approximately 300 mm (12 in) per year.
The park is accessible by chartered airplanes for only a brief period each summer. The most practical way to visit the park is to charter a plane. The park has four landing sites.
Aircraft charter services are available from Inuvik, on the Northwest Territories mainland, 750 km southwest of the southern park boundary. Inuvik is the largest community in the region and is served by the Dempster Highway and by daily flights from southern Canada.
Fees and permits
- Daily $24.50
- Annual $147.20
- Daily $9.80
- Annual $34.30
See and do
- Canoe on the 160 km of the gentle Thomsen River that runs the length of Aulavik National Park -- a multi-week journey through rich arctic tundra, full of wildlife like muskoxen, hundreds of species of wildflowers and ancient archaeological sites.
- Hike through the low Arctic tundra. There are no marked trails.
Buy, eat and drink
There are no facilities in the park. You must bring everything with you.
There are no designated campsites in the park. You may camp anywhere you like, except at archaeological sites. Please practice "no trace camping". All garbage must be packed out with you. Consult with the Park Office in Inuvik for additional advice on low-impact camping techniques.
The winds can be very strong and prolonged in Aulavik National Park. Bring a good quality tent, able to withstand fierce winds.
Campfires are not allowed in Aulavik. Use a camp stove and bottled fuel for cooking. Scheduled aircraft do not allow passengers to carry fuel. Most types of camping fuel may be purchased in Inuvik, and some are available in Sachs Harbour.
Managing human waste: select a level site well away from any water sources. Dig a small hole within the active layer of the soil. If possible, choose an organic area and afterwards burn the toilet paper before carefully burying what remains. If your group is large, it may be best to choose a communal location as opposed to many scattered sites.