On the Water
Take a guided boat tour to explore the Arctic wilderness. Travel the Mackenzie River and visit historic Reindeer Station, or wind your way to Aklavik through the Mackenzie Delta. This is a prime summer opportunity to view an amazing variety of bird life, from swans to ducks, songbirds to shorebirds.
Drive the Dempster
Rent a a car and visit four scenic Territorial parks. Jak Park, in Inuvik, has a viewing tower overlooking the surrounding area. Visit Gwich'in Territorial Park, featuring a pretty lake, trails, fishing and boating. Then drive the Dempster to Tsiigehtchic, a Gwich'in community located where the Arctic Red River joins the Mackenzie River. Take the ferry to Tsiigehtchic and cross the Mackenzie and the Arctic Red rivers. There's a visitor centre here that offers insights into the Gwich'in way of life. Drive on to Fort McPherson, for a self guided tour, and visit Nitainlaii Park, where a visitor centre explains traditional Gwich'in lifestyles.
From Inuvik, fly out to tiny Beaufort Sea communities, where Inuvialuit and Inuit traditions are maintained. Tuktoyaktuk, half an hour by air from Inuvik, is famous for the 1350 pingos that dot the flat Beaufort shoreline, and for tours that offer a chance to dip a toe in the Arctic Ocean. At Ulukhaktok, there's a rugged tundra golf course overlooking the Beaufort Sea. Anglers can explore the coastline at Ulukhaktok and Sachs Harbour with Inuvialuit families, visiting their camps to fish the spring and autumn Arctic Char runs.
Visit our Arctic Parks
Travel by air to one of three National Parks, Aulavik, Ivvavik or Tuktut Nogait, or to Herschel Island, once home of an American Beaufort Sea whaling fleet. Each one offers unique insights into the Arctic ecosystem. The national parks offer hiking and camping opportunities, as well as extreme canoeing and kayaking. Herschel Island is offered as a day trip from Inuvik.
See the Mackenzie Delta from the Air
Fly out over the Mackenzie Delta by fixed wing or helicopter. Best seen from the air, the delta is a spectacular maze of rivers, streams, lakes and islands at the mouth of the Mackenzie River, where it meets the Beaufort Sea. The Delta is 210 kilometres long and 62 kilometres wide, about twice the size of metropolitan Toronto. This is a haven for wildlife, and a summer nesting ground for many bird species. At the far northern edge of the Delta, and off limits to visitors, the Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary protects the summer nesting grounds of waterfowl and shorebirds from all the Americas. Large flocks of ducks and geese stage in the delta in autumn, preparing for a long flight south for the winter.
From mid- to late-May to September, the Western Arctic can be a 24 hour a day feast for bird watchers. Birds from both the east and west coasts of America migrate to the Western Arctic to breed. This is the time to see them in their finest mating plumage, often a surprise to birders used to the drab colours of birds common in the south. The abundance of water, and the variety of habitats offer prime nesting areas for a wide range of species, from raptors to swans, geese and ducks, to shorebirds and tiny songbirds. Some prime viewing areas include: the Dempster Highway from mid- to late-May through July; Herschel Island from early June through September; Inuvik, Aklavik, the Mackenzie Delta, and Tuktoyaktuk, from late May to mid June; and Sachs Harbour and southern Banks Island from early June through July. In the communities, local guides will help you find the key locations.
Pingos at Tuktoyaktuk
Some 1350 pingos (ice-cored hills) dot the coastline near Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. The largest, Ibyuk Pingo, is 16 stories high - a real landmark on the flat coastal plain. For centuries, pingos have been used by Inuvialuit for navigation and as lookout points for hunting. Visitors to Tuk can't miss these imposing hills, and eight of these massive hills form the Pingo Canadian Landmark, on the shore of the Beaufort Sea. Community tours may include a hike to the top of a pingo, or a chilly visit to the interior of a pingo, where alternating layers of ice and soil are clearly visible. Pingos originate in drained lakes, where groundwater seeps below the frozen surface, and forces it upward. The largest pingo is growing at the rate of about two centimeters a year.
Golfers and duffers have plenty of opportunity to try their skills on tundra courses in the Western Arctic. Inuvik's driving range tests skills, and Uluktahtok features a tundra course with views of the Beaufort Sea.