Sirmilik National Park of Canada

Natural Heritage

Sirmilik National Park of Canada is part of Canada's internationally recognized system of national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas. National parks tell the story of Canada's natural beginnings. Sirmilik National Park was established in 2001. Located on the northern tip of Baffin Island near Lancaster Sound, Sirmilik protects 22,252 km2 representing the Eastern Arctic Lowlands and Northern Davis natural regions. The park is divided into four separate parcels: Bylot Island, Borden Peninsula, Baillarge Bay, and Oliver Sound.

Sirmilik is the summer home to the most diverse avian community in the high arctic. The park features more than 70 species of birds, including 45 species of breeding birds.

Points of Interest In and Around Sirmilik National Park

Bylot Island - Akiat

Goose Camp, Bylot Island © Tom Knight
Bylot Island is a Migratory Bird Sanctuary which lies adjacent to the north-eastern tip of Baffin Island, where Lancaster Sound enters Baffin Bay. The nearest community is Pond Inlet, located 25 km to the south, across Eclipse Sound.

Much of Bylot Island is covered by mountains, icefields, snowfields, and glaciers. However, the steep cliffs along the ocean at Cape Hay and Cape Graham Moore provide prime nesting habitat for large numbers of seabirds. As many as 320,000 thick-billed murres and 50,000 black-legged kittiwakes utilize these cliffs. Polynyas and floe edges in the marine waters off the island provide rich foraging grounds for seabirds and marine mammals.

The southwest corner of Bylot Island consists of 1600 km2 of moist lowland tundra - ideal nesting habitat for songbirds, shorebirds, and waterfowl, especially geese. Bylot Island has the largest breeding colony of Greater Snow Geese in the Canadian High Arctic. The geese forage in the tundra polygons, thaw lakes, and ponds, where vegetation is abundant. The area includes a goose monitoring and ecological research camp run by Laval University in Quebec in collaboration with the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Bylot Island experiences fairly high levels of precipitation, which contribute to a diverse flora. More than 360 species of plants have been identified on the island, along with 74 species of birds and 7 terrestrial mammal species.

Lancaster Sound - Tallurutiup imanga

Bowhead whale © Department of Fisheries and Oceans

This very large body of water located between Devon Island and Sirmilik is one of the most productive marine areas in the entire Canadian arctic. It is home to abundant populations of seabirds, as well as walrus, polar bear, and several species of seal and whale. It is also the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage and an important route for marine transportation.

Oliver Sound – Kangiqluruluk

Oliver Sound © Tom Knight
Located west and south of Pond Inlet, Oliver Sound features an immense scenic fiord with excellent opportunities for boating, kayaking, and camping. Its steep cliffs and valley glaciers provide some of Sirmilik's most impressive scenery, and its sheltered waters are ice-free relatively early in the summer season. Several large alpine glaciers come close to the sound, and are ideal places to explore. There are several good camping areas along the shore, and many opportunities for day hikes into the adjacent uplands.

Eclipse Sound – Tasiuja

Eclipse Sound is the main marine transportation route to Bylot Island, Navy Board Inlet and Borden Peninsula. It is often covered by pack ice until mid-summer, and travel can be dangerous due to strong winds, currents, and high waves. There is abundant marine life in the sound, including narwhals and polar bears. Spectacular icebergs add to the local scenery. Some become grounded in shallow waters, remaining in Eclipse Sound for several years before floating into Baffin Bay.

Navy Board Inlet – Nalluata imanga

Navy Board Inlet provides the main access corridor to the park's Borden Peninsula, as well as Cape Hay and Lancaster Sound. The scenery is impressive, and several glaciers descend abruptly to the shoreline just north of Low Point.

Borden Peninsula – Tiuralik

Mala River © Christian Kimber
The Borden Peninsula features some of the best camping and hiking opportunities in Sirmilik. Its scenic high plateaus, and broad river valleys and tundra flats are covered by carpets of beautiful wildflowers in the summer. Of particular interest are the Borden hoodoos – tall towers and spires of sedimentary bedrock sculpted by centuries of erosion by wind and water. The hoodoos are found at several locations, generally within 2 – 3 days travel on foot from Navy Board Inlet. The Mala River Valley, with its open vistas, is another prime backpacking destination. There is an important seabird colony between Elwin Inlet and Baillarge Bay, on the western side of the peninsula.

Polynyas - Sikujuittuq

Polynyas are areas of open water in the frozen sea ice. They are caused by a variety of factors such as prevailing winds, tides, local currents, and upwellings of water from the ocean floor. These areas don't freeze in the winter and are the arctic's version of a marine oasis. Large numbers of wildlife frequent the floe edges around the polynyas, including seals, walrus, beluga whales, narwhals, and polar bears. Polynyas are biologically productive, and support a rich and abundant marine life of plankton, algae, fish, and other smaller ocean species that provide food for the larger predators.

Baillarge Bay Seabird Colony

Colony of common murres © Canadian Wildlife Service
Sheer cliffs plunge to the sea at Baillarge Bay, providing nesting habitat for large numbers of seabirds. Thick-billed murres and black-legged kittiwakes share these spectacular cliffs for nesting in the spring. The seabirds spend the rest of the year at sea in the North Atlantic.