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Ivvavik National Park

Ivvavik, meaning “a place for giving birth” or “a nursery” in Inuvialuktun, the language of the Inuvialuit, was the first national park in Canada to be created as a result of an aboriginal land claim agreement. Representing the Northern Yukon and Mackenzie Delta natural reagons, the park protects a portion of the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. The British Mountains dominate Ivvavik National Park and account for about two-thirds of the park’s area. These mountains, along with the Barn Range to the east, the Alaska Brooks Range to the west and the Old Crow Flats to the south, were not glaciated but formed a vast ice-free land mass called Beringia.

The Firth River acts as a natural corridor both for a variety of wildlife and for park visitors who want to see the diverse arctic landscape. The coastal plain is a band of flat to rolling topography extending from the Buckland Hills north to the Arctic Ocean. The width of the coastal plain varies from 30 km in the east to 10 km in the west. During the last ice age a tongue of the continental ice sheet extended westward from the Richardson Mountains. It advanced along the plain to a point about halfway between the Firth and Malcolm Rivers. As the glacier receded it left in its wake piles of sedimentary deposits.

The Beaufort Sea, a sections of the Arctic Ocean, circles the entire northern Yukon. The ocean is gripped in ice for at least eight months of the year. Open leads start developing along the coast in April, but the land fast ice does not break up and drift away until June or even July. The frozen nature of the Arctic Ocean makes it difficult to study and it is the least understood of all ocean basins.

There are three main vegetation types in the park: arctic tundra, alpine tundra, and taiga, with arctic and alpine tundra being the most common. Taiga is the transition between boreal forest and tundra. It consists of open stands of stunted spruce and balsam poplar. These trees grow close to the Beaufort Sea and represent the northernmost extension of their range in Canada.

Visiting the park is very difficult due to its incredibly remote location and expense. Almost all of the few hundred annual visitors take on the challenge of rafting the Firth River on multi-week expeditions. All trips start in the northern outpost of Inuvik, where an airplane charter is required to fly into and out of the park. Photography in Ivvavik National Park is anywhere you point your camera, with some of the most photogenic locations including the granite tors above Muskeg Creek, Joe Creek, Engigstciak hill, and the coastal planes