Pack up your gear and get ready for the outdoors in the Western Arctic.
The ancient, eroded surface of the mountains of the Western Arctic provides excellent opportunities for hiking, but there are few marked trails. Maps and GPS are essential safety tools. Suggested locations include Gwichin Territorial Park, and both Ivvavik and Tuktut Nogait National Parks. Or simply stop at a pull-out on the Dempster Highway, and head for the ridgeline.
Once out on the land in the Richardson Mountains in the Caribou Hills, along the Dempster, or cruising one of our northern rivers, you may camp where you wish. Be prepared with a range of clothing and gear that will protect you in our changeable weather. River travellers will notice cabins and outbuildings - these are summer fish camps belonging to northern residents. Families often spend one or more months along the river, fishing and making dryfish for winter. If the family is at home, visitors are generally welcome, however, if no one is about, it is best to leave the camp without disturbing anything.
Each year, more cyclists and motorcyclists head up the Dempster Highway for adventure. This is a wilderness camping trip, unless you are travelling with backup. There is only one hotel along the 735 km route. It is gravel all the way through spectacular scenery - mountain passes, across the Arctic Circle, through the rolling Richardson Mountains, then on down through the Mackenzie Delta to Inuvik. Be prepared to spot lots of wildlife.
Visitors sometimes bring their own 16- or 18-foot aluminum boats up the Dempster Highway - to explore the historic rivers fueling the Mackenzie Delta. The delta, actually, is a challenge for boaters due to the maze of the ever changing channels, lakes and islands. Areas to explore by boat include the lower reaches of the Peel and Arctic Red River, and Campbell Lake - part of the Gwichin Territorial Park on the Dempster Highway, south of Inuvik. Maps are essential.
The Western Arctic is the original home of the wilderness river - canoe or kayak the Peel, the Arctic Red, the Firth, the Hornaday, the Horton or the Thomsen - Arctic rivers with scenery, wildlife and extraordinary wilderness. Most wilderness canoe trips start with air transport from Inuvik or Norman Wells to a spot on a remote river, although some are accessible from the Dempster Highway. The Peel and Arctic Red were the routes to winter camps for the Gwich'in people. Today, the upper reaches of the Peel can be accessed from the Dempster Highway.
The Firth is a wild river flowing through Ivvavik National Park, suitable for experienced kayakers or rafting trips. The Hornaday in Tuktut Nogait National Park is also suitable for experienced white water kayakers. The Thomsen is one of the most northerly navigable rivers in the Americas, and flows through Aulavik National Park. Each one of these northern rivers offers opportunities for wildlife encounters, as well as rare and fascinating archeological sites.