NUNAVUT NATIONAL PARKS: REMOTE, SPECTACULAR AND INCREASINGLY ACCESSIBLE
With jagged peaks, glaciers, sheer fjords and vast tundra dotted with caribou, muskox, polar bears and Arctic foxes, Nunavut’s five national parks are among the country’s biggest, newest and most spectacular. Though at the top of the world, Parks Canada is helping visitors to more easily and affordably access some of these remote gems, sometimes in the company of knowledgeable local Inuit proud to share their culture and unique homeland (www.parkscanada.gc.ca). A GLOBE-TOP ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME
All Nunavut parks are open to the public with most offering scheduled flights to adjoining communities where certified outfitters can take visitors into the park. The experienced can travel on their own (www.nunavut tourism.com), while others can join Southern Canada-based adventure travel groups like Black Feather (www.blackfeather.com).
One of these parks is Sirmilik on Baffin Island’s northern tip near Pond Inlet which is comprised of four diverse areas including glacier-draped Bylot Island, home to towering hoodoo rock formations and a Migratory Bird Sanctuary. The Oliver Sound area is famed among kayakers for belugas, narwhals, seals and birdlife spottings (www. parkscanada.gc.ca/en/pn-np/nu/sirmilik).
Ukkusiksalik is a lush, sub-Arctic tundra landscape surrounding the vast inland sea of Wager Bay. It is known for its wealth of archaeological remains, Arctic wolves and caribou. In spring, local outfitters from Naujaat and Chesterfield Inlet snowmobile intrepid visitors into the park; in summer, boat trips are a safe and comfortable way to watch for belugas and seals (www.parks canada.gc.ca/en/pn-np/nu/ukkusiksalik).
One of Canada’s newest national parks, Qausuittuq, lies on a cluster of islands north of the Northwest Passage off Bathurst Island. It has rolling tundra and features the small, endangered Peary caribou (www. parkscanada.gc.ca/en/pn-np/nu/qausuittuq ).
A visit to the underwater wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic
Site protecting the two legendary ships that sank in 1845 during Sir John Franklin’s quest for the Northwest Passage is only possible via the occasional Northwest Passage cruise ship. However, a visit to nearby Gjoa Haven’s Natillik Heritage Centre reveals how Inuit knowledge helped locate the first wreck site in 2014 (www.parkscanada. gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/nu/epaveswrecks).
WILD, REMOTE AND DIVERSE
Despite their extremely remote locations, Parks Canada is offering affordable “Northern Iconic Experiences” to two of Nunavut’s dramatic national parks, most of which can be enjoyed by the general public.
Auyuittuq is one of Nunavut’s most accessible parks, reached from the hamlet of Pangnirtung, only 30 km away. Every Saturday in April a snowmobile expedition with local Inuit and Parks Canada guides takes visitors into the grandeur of fjords and glaciers with guests travelling on traditional Inuit qamutiks towed by snow machines on a day trip to the Arctic Circle. In summer, a day trip travels the scenic route by boat and includes a short hike to the foot of Ulu Peak (www.parkscanada.gc. ca/en/pn-np/nu/auyuittuq ).
Much further up the globe, a bush plane takes off from Resolute Bay during midsummer on a scheduled Parks Canada charter to Quttinirpaaq, Canada’s northernmost national park, for a two-week backcountry experience among towering peaks, ice caps and raging rivers at the top of Ellesmere Island (www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ nu/quttinirpaaq). Stay at spectacular Tanquary Fiord for a base camp and photography experience with day-hikes, or gear-up for the epic 14-day Ad Astra hike (www.black feather.com/hike/ellesmere-ad-astra-hike).
Can’t travel that far north? Check out Quttinirpaaq’s stunning landscapes on Google Street View instead (www.google.ca/ maps/place/Quttinirpaaq+National+Park)!
DAY HIKING IN AUYUITTUQ NATIONAL PARK • PARKS CANADA/JOVAN SIMIC