Holiday water report 2019
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HOLIDAY WATER 2019 - YUKON NATIONAL PARKS
By Suzanne Forcese
The legendary midnight sun, magnificent vistas, heart-pounding adventures, dizzying heights, fragile beauty, ancient and untrammeled terrain -- WaterToday’s trip to Yukon quite literally placed us on top of the world.
Ivvavik National Park
High mountains, broad river valleys, endless tundra, and the Arctic seacoast lie within the 9750 sq. km of Ivvavik National Park. This wilderness paradise represents the Northern Yukon and Mackenzie Delta natural regions. Ivvavik, means ‘a place for giving birth’. In recognition of the Porcupine Caribou herd, the park protects the herds’ calving grounds along the Beaufort Sea Coast.
Located about 800 km northwest of Whitehorse, or 200 km west of Inuvik, NWT, it is about as far away as you can get from anywhere. Fully above the Arctic Circle and with zero road access this protected place borders the Arctic Ocean, Yukon’s Vuntut Territorial Park and Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Access is by charter aircraft from Inuvik. Due to its isolation it is one of the least visited national parks. The Firth River is the centre piece of the park renowned for its beauty, wild white water rafting, archaeological sites and abundant wildlife. The only extensive non-glaciated mountain range in Canada with its rounded treeless mountains cut by smooth sweeping river valleys runs through this section of the park. As does the treeline. Canada’s most northerly population of moose and Dall sheep call this home and share the park with polar bear, grizzly bear, black bear, gyrfalcon and muskox. The rivers in the park, particularly the Babbage River are important Arctic char spawning areas.
For an expedition that takes you from the park’s interior all the way to the Arctic Ocean you can raft through slot canyons and mountain valleys on the Firth River
slicing its way through the mountainous, unglaciated terrain. It is a 130 km long adventure with rapids, canyons and wildlife. Rafting trips begin by flying into Margaret Lake in the heart of the park to begin the 1-2 week journey. There are opportunities to fish and hike along the way. Organize your own trip with experienced rafters or sign up for a guided trip with a commercial operator.
Or you can fly into a remote base camp for a multi-day Arctic adventure, complete with fishing, hiking and catered meals. To gain an appreciation for the work of the Inuvialuit and Parks Canada you can join them while participating in research programs in a rafting expedition.
If you are in need of a bathroom with a hot shower and flush toilet there is one in the park. Only one. It is at the Arctic Base Camp where you can also enjoy meals on the cookhouse’s screened- in deck in the company of your Inuvialuit host, hearing stories and learning about the culture on traditional land.
Choose your adventure options and book your Arctic Base Camp trip by calling 867-777-8800 or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
While there are no designated hiking trails the opportunities are endless. Your intended hiking route should be thoroughly investigated using topographical maps and air photos. Contact the park office to discuss your plans. You must supply a detailed description of your planned route on 1:50 000 scale before your departure to the park. Air access points for hiking include Sheep Creek, Margaret Lake, Komakuk Beach and Stokes Point.
The rivers and creeks offer great fishing for both fly and cast-rod anglers. The main species are Dolly Varen char and Arctic grayling. A valid national Park Fishing Permit is required. Annual and daily permits are available from the Parks Canada Inuvik office. For complete information on fishing regulations, please go to https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/yt/ivvavik/activ/activ4
Kluane National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
It is a land of extremes with the highest, the biggest, the most. Mount Logan, the highest peak in Canada (5,959 metres); the largest icefield; North America’s most genetically diverse grizzly population – Kluane has it all. Covering more than 20,000 sq. km of Canadian mountain wilderness in southwest Yukon, 160 km west of Whitehorse, with sweeping natural grandeur and untamed wilderness, this national park is one of the planet’s largest protected wild areas. With its dramatic mountains, 2000 glaciers and Canada’s largest icefield, UNESCO calls it “an empire of mountains and ice”.
Ancient glaciers feed the Alsek River that flows through the sprawling Alsek Valley. Dall sheep, mountain goats, caribou, wolves, grizzlies and black bears all roam various part of the massive park. Sheep grazing on the mountainsides can be seen through the telescopes at the Tachal Dhal Visitor Centre. Or unpack your hiking gear and climb for a closer look. The numerous hikes range from short family-friendly trails to epic multi-day backcountry expeditions.
The Kluane National Park and Reserve Visitors’ Centre in Haines Junction and Tachal Dhal Visitor Centre are great spots to get the best advice on activities and insight into the park’s cultural and natural treasures.
Flightseeing tours are a way to get deep into the park and soar past mountains, valleys and up to land on the icefields. Some adventurers choose to experience Kluane on the water by rafting a Canadian Heritage River to see grizzlies, eagles and glaciers.
Bike down single track routes and along old mining roads. Add in some backcountry overnights. For serious cyclists there’s an annual relay from Haines Junction to Haines, Alaska.
Paddling Kathleen Lake is slower paced and includes campsites, a day-use site and access to hiking as well as relaxing lake-side activities. You can stroll the 0.5 km wheelchair accessible Kokhanee Trail that skirts the shores of Lake Kathleen. Or if you just want to chill and take in the view there is a spacious area at the day-use site.
Hiking can be a daring but exhilarating feat as there are no trails, only routes. Hike up to the Cirque of King’s Throne for a stunning view. It is a tough 8 hour vertical slog that reveals dazzling vistas. There is a 39-site (self-registration –first come-first serve) campground with firewood, bear proof storage lockers and outhouses. There are 5 oTENTiks at Kathleen Lake. Potable water taps are nearby.
One of North America’s most fabled treks is the 53 kilometre Chilkoot Trail that crosses the boundary between the United States and Canada and is co-operatively managed by Parks Canada and the US National Service. Bring your passport. This hike should only be attempted by persons who are physically fit and experienced at hiking and backpacking. It is not recommended for children. The trail traverses rocky, very steep and sometimes snow covered terrain. “Crossing the Pass” is the most demanding day taking 12 hours to travel from Sheep Camp to Happy Camp. Some hikers are challenged by vertigo or by balancing on unstable and slippery rocks. Snowfields persist throughout the summer months and weather is highly unpredictable. You are above the treeline and can experience driving rain, sleet, hail or snow, low temperatures, high winds and fog. Avalanche hazards persist into the summer months.
Regardless of the season visitors are responsible for their own safety and may be expected to pay for rescue/medical costs.
Camping along this route requires extensive planning, permits and reservations. There are several sites on the Canadian side as well as the US side. Surface water is the only source of drinking water. There are places to get water at all campgrounds and at Chilkoot Pass. Parks Canada insists that you PURIFY ALL DRINKING WATER. On the Canadian side use wastewater disposal pits located in all campgrounds. Out house are located in every campground and at Chilkoot Pass. (toilet paper is not supplied)
For more detailed information about campsites, trails, requirements and regulations please visit:
The Kluane National Park and Reserve Visitor Centre has a 3D topographical model of the entire region. The giant floor map at the Da Ku Cultural Centre gives another perspective of the many sites valued by the Champagne Aishihik First Nations. The Park is within their Traditional Territory.
Bushwhack and travel cross creek for 2-4 days along the Quill Creek Route. The St. Elias Lake Trail is an easy-going 2-4 hour hike through varied terrain Rent a canoe when you get to the lake or go fishing.
February and March are the best times for dog-sledding, cross-country skiing snowshoeing, snowmobiling and ice-fishing, Kathleen Lake is the wintertime day use area. Remember though temperatures can still hover around -35° C.
Vuntut National Park
Above the Arctic Circle lies one of Canada’s most remote parks for a few daring expedition seekers. Vuntut, a 4,345 sq. km national park was established as part of the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation Final Agreement. With a population of 300 and no road access, Old Crow is the most isolated community in the Yukon. Sweeping tundras, valleys ablaze with wildflowers, thousands of caribou following ancient trails, up to half a million waterfowl migrating north and south and 24 hours of summer sunlight it might lure the most extreme explorers.
Vuntut means “among the lakes”. Thousands of lakes dot the landscape, a water-maze of peat bog. These wetlands are designated a wetland of global significance, supporting hundreds of thousands of waterfowl during the short summer, for breeding, moulting and staging. In addition to waterfowl, the area supports vast numbers of muskrats. The Vuntun Gwitchin depend on the Porcupine Caribou herd for their culture and livelihood. Caribou migration routes and part of the herd’s calving grounds are protected in Canada by Vuntut and Ivvavik National Parks.
The area escaped glaciation in the Pleistocene Era so it has a rich and varied palaeontological and archaeological record stretching back nearly 40, 000 years. The undisturbed fossil beds offer a rare opportunity to look at climatic and environmental changes between the glacial epochs up to modern times. The Vuntut Information and Operations Centre highlights the natural and cultural treasures.
There is a range of wilderness opportunities from canoeing the Old Crow River, to hiking in the mountains, to winter ski trips. Visitors must be entirely self-sufficient and able to handle any medical or weather-related emergency on their trip. There are neither facilities nor developed trails in the park.
Located 60 km south of Vuntut, the Yukon’s northernmost fly-in village of Old Crow offers visitors a window to traditional and contemporary culture of the Vuntut Gwitchin people. There are no services or facilities of any kind in the park.
Please visit Visitor Safety at:
Yukon. Guaranteed to take your breath away.
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