Quttinirpaaq National Park of Canada
© Christian Kimber / Parks Canada
Welcome to the top of the world! Quttinirpaaq National Park is Canada’s second-largest national park and the most northerly protected area in the world. The park occupies the northern third of Ellesmere Island, in a land of extremes and surprises. Much of the park is a polar desert, with winter temperatures plummeting to -45ºC.
Some of the largest ice caps in Canada splay across Quttinirpaaq, including the 900m thick Grant Land Ice Cap, a remnant of the last continental glaciation. In some areas mountain peaks – called nunatuks – protrude through the ice cap at elevations of over 2500m. Mount Barbeau, elevation 2616m, is the highest mountain in eastern North America. Along the park’s northern coast, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf has been a traditional starting point for expeditions to the North Pole.
The park’s central interior features Lake Hazen, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the circumpolar world. Tucked within a valley of south-facing slopes, the Lake Hazen region is a lush oasis of biological productivity. 150 species of plants, 192 species of moss, and 44 species of lichen nestle in this tundra oasis, along with a rich diversity of arctic wildlife. Other places of interest in the park include the exquisite Tanquary Fiord at the park’s southwestern boundary, and Fort Conger – a site of historical significance, which was used by early explorers and scientific expeditions.
A visit to Quttinirpaaq National Park is a serious adventure into a remote and unforgiving landscape. It is difficult and costly to get there, and can be a dangerous place to be. Proper trip preparation is crucial. Please contact the Parks Canada office in Iqaluit for complete trip-planning information.