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Arctic Lowlands

Natural Region 36


In winter, this land appears to be almost empty of life. The summer cacophony of bird calls is gone. Of the large mammals, only muskoxen and caribou remain, steadfast in the face of the fiercest Arctic blizzards. Of the birds, only the raven, ptarmigan and a few snowy owls stay to face the cold and darkness. Beneath the snow, lemmings scurry along well-packed tunnels. But the surface of the land is still and silent. In summer the land comes alive under the benevolence of 24-hour sunshine. Caribou and muskoxen get fat and bear their young in sheltered valleys. Flocks of snow geese and other waterfowl nest on the sedge meadows along river valleys.


An agreement for the establishment of Aulavik National Park was signed in August 1992 at a ceremony in Sachs Harbour, the only community on Banks Island.

The park agreement was signed by representatives of the Inuvialuit, the federal government, and the government of the Northwest Territories.

Aulavik National Park comprises some 12,200 km2 of windswept tundra landscape - about twice the size of Prince Edward Island. The Inuvialuktun name was suggested by one of the elders of Sachs Harbour, and means "where people travel".

Natural Region 36
Natural Region 36

The core of this national park on northern Banks Island is formed by the relatively lush Thomsen River and its tributaries. The park also features deeply-cut river canyons and rugged, desert-like badlands. The hills and valleys surrounding the rivers support about one-quarter of the muskox on Banks Island, and some of the highest concentrations of muskox in the world.

Patterned ground, Banks Island
Patterned ground,
Banks Island

Archaeological sites dating from 3,400 years ago are evidence of the area's rich cultural heritage.

The most popular visitor activities in the park are travel by canoe or raft down the Thomsen River, and hiking the vast expanses of tundra in the core of the park.

National Parks System Plan, 3rd Edition

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