Herschel Island-Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park
Happily in the middle of nowhere
For the Inuvialuit and their ancestors, Qikiqtaruk (“it is island” in the Inuvialuit language) has been an important hunting and fishing area for thousands of years, and is still their home today. In the late 1800s, American commercial whalers arrived and used the harbour as a base. Traders, North West Mounted Police, missionaries, explorers and offshore oil companies have also set up shop at various times. In 1987, Herschel Island-Qikiqtaruk was designated a park as a result of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, making it Yukon’s first territorial park.
Today, the island continues to be used as a part of the Inuvialuit traditional way of life. Its beauty and uniqueness also draw scientists and researchers each summer, along with adventurous photographers, birdwatchers, and modern-day explorers. The island is a place where grizzly and polar bears exist together. It’s also habitat for muskoxen, caribou, arctic and red foxes. Visitors may spot seals out on the sea ice, while bowhead and beluga whales swim past. A large colony of Black Guillemots nests in Pauline Cove, and more than 100 other species of birds live or migrate here. Even with the wildlife and historic buildings, most visitors can’t resist photographing Arctic wildflowers flourishing in the 24 hours of midnight sun daylight.
Weather is a primary consideration for traveling to the island. Most visitors come by small plane from Inuvik. Others arrive by water. After rafting the Firth River, which cuts through northern Yukon and spills into the Beaufort Sea, some paddlers carry on across the five kilometer-wide Workboat Passage to the island. However you arrive, all plans are firmly in the “weather permitting” category, and visitors must be equipped to deal with delays such as dense fog and pack ice.
Herschel Island-Qikiqtaruk is a trip of a lifetime. Be part of the centuries-old tradition of northern explorers that have traveled to the island, and add your name to the guestbook.