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Interior Plains


Mackenzie Delta

PINGOS AND PERMAFROST

A spongy world of pingos and permafrost, of stunted spruce forests and treeless tundra, of more water than land. A maze of shifting channels, shallow lakes and ephemeral islands. A land, too, where the traditional and the modern exist side by side.

THE LAND:


Natural Region 10 comprises three distinct areas - the delta of the present Mackenzie River, remnants of earlier deltas to the northeast, and the Yukon Coastal Plain to the west.

Mackenzie Delta
Mackenzie Delta
© Parks Canada

The coastal plain, about 20 kilometres wide, slopes gently to the Beaufort Sea. Permafrost is a dominant factor in this region, influenc-ing vegetation and landforms.

Pingo
Pingo
© Parks Canada

The present delta, the largest river delta in the Arctic, is as flat as the sea. It is a tracery of islands and lakes, a labyrinth of channels and oxbows. Scores of pingos (cone-shaped hills with a core of ice) provide the only relief in this flat land. Here is found the highest concentration of pingos in the world.

The tallest, Ibyuk Hill, is 40 metres high. Patterned or polygonal ground, like the pattern of cracks seen on newly dried mud on a giant scale, is a major feature of this region.

This land has traditionally been populated by both Inuvialuit and Gwich'en Dene. With residents in various communione of the most populated of regions - a notable con-the small size of the region. relative richness of the land.

VEGETATION:

Two types of vegetation dominate. Along the Beaufort Sea is the low Arctic or tundra zone; inland and southward is forest-tundra.

The Low Arctic vegatation is typified by dwarf shrubs, sedges and herbs. On well-drained sites, woody species such as dwarf birch, willow, Labrador tea, alder and various species of the blueberry clan are typical; on wet sites, sedges and willows dominate.

The forest-tundra zone, as its name implies, is a mixture of trees and tundra. Here, open stands of stunted black spruce, white spruce and tamarack grow over a ground cover of dwarf tundra vegetation. These are the most northerly trees in Canada. The spruce here are commonly about three metres in height and 250 years old.


National Parks System Plan, 3rd Edition

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