Aulavik National Park
Aulavik, meaning “place where people travel” in Inuvialuktun, protects more than 12,000 sq km (4,633 sq mi) of Arctic lowlands on the north end of Banks Island. The park encompasses a variety of landscapes from fertile river valleys to polar deserts, buttes and badlands, rolling hills, and bold seacoasts.
At the centre of Aulavik is the Thomsen River, which offers visitors an opportunity to paddle one of world’s most northerly navigable waterways. In this park live both the endangered Peary caribou and the largest concentration of muskoxen in the world. The wildlife and land have supported aboriginal peoples for over 3,500 years.
Visible in the winter sky is the spectacular Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). The tundra is frozen and snow-covered from September until June. Summers are brief and cool. The sun does not set between mid May and late July, and there is never true darkness from late April until late August.
Snow and freezing temperatures can occur at any time of the year. Aulavik is considered a polar desert. The total annual precipitation for the park is approximately 300 mm, one-third of which falls as rain during the summer.
In the past, glaciers covered the majority of the park, resulting in such features as terminal moraines, eskers, and drumlins. However, in the northwest corner of Aulavik National Park, these features are lacking, suggesting that it had not been covered by glaciers.
The earliest archaeological sites found within Aulavik National Park are near Shoran Lake. These date back to almost 1600 B.C and are characterized by oval dwellings, usually outlined by a ring of stones that held down the edges of a tent.
From about the 13th Century AD onwards, Thule peoples occupied several sites along the coast of Banks Island and made some use of what is now Aulavik National Park.
Aulavik became a national park in 1992.
See map of the park.
See also: National Parks of Canada.
(This page was updated in November 2012.)