Kluane is pronounced “Kloo-AH-nee”
The climate varies depending where you are in Kluane National Park and Reserve, because it lies at the cross-roads of mild, moist air blown in from the Pacific and dry, arctic air coming in from the Yukon’s northern interior. The Kluane Front Ranges (the mountains visible from the Alaska Highway) in the northern portion of the park experience a dry, cold, continental climate. They are in the rain shadow of the St. Elias Mountains, as well as being further from the ocean. The southern part of the park is generally warmer and wetter, because of the maritime influence of the Pacific Ocean.
Kluane is tucked into the southwest corner of the Yukon, as far west as you can go in Canada. The park borders on British Columbia to the south and Alaska to the west. Established in 1976, it protects 21 980 km2 of Canada's Northern Coastal Mountains Natural Region. Kluane abuts three other large protected areas: Wrangell-St. Elias and Glacier Bay National Parks in Alaska and British Columbia’s Tatshenshini-Alsek Park.
Together, the parks have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and they form the largest internationally protected area in the world.
Kluane lies within the traditional territory of the Champagne & Aishihik and Kluane First Nations. Parks Canada and the First Nations governments manage the park cooperatively.
Kluane features the highest and most massive mountains in Canada, including Mount Logan, Canada's highest peak. Kluane’s mountains are young compared to others in the Yukon and due to tectonic plate activity, they are still growing. Kluane also contains the most extensive ice fields (outside the North and South Poles) in the world – covering more than 80% of the park. This is a dynamic landscape! Erosion caused by glaciers and glacial streams is evident everywhere. Long valley glaciers are the “escape valve” of the park’s vast central icefields, carving deep U-shaped valleys as they grind their way downhill. Steep slopes and cliffs, as well as outwash plains called “alluvial fans” are dominant landforms. The flow of valley glaciers can become sudden, called a glacial surge.
In the 20% of the park known as the “green belt”, the meeting of Pacific and Arctic air masses over Kluane has resulted in a great diversity of plant life, including coastal, arctic, mountain, and northern prairie species. Lower valleys and slopes are covered by forests of white spruce, trembling aspen and balsam poplar. The timber line is at about 1100 metres, above which you find stunted shrubbery composed mainly of willows, alder, and dwarf birch. Alpine tundra begins above 1400 metres. Over 200 species can be found here, giving Kluane the largest plant diversity north of the 60th parallel.
Kluane’s green belt is prime habitat for many species of wildlife. Dall sheep are the park’s most abundant large mammal, and there are plentiful moose and some caribou and mountain goats. Grizzly and black bears roam the alpine and forested areas. Smaller mammals that live in Kluane include wolves, coyotes, wolverines, marten, marmots, Arctic ground squirrels and red squirrels.
Kluane also provides home to a variety of birdlife. Over 150 species have been recorded, of which 118 nest inside the park.
Kluane is a hiking destination with hundreds of kilometres of trails accommodating all levels of ability. Opportunities for wilderness route hiking for the more adventurous are endless. Mountaineers come to ascend Kluane's considerable peaks, and the Alsek River, which starts in Kluane, offers world-class rafting.
The main park visitor centre is located in the community of Haines Junction. Here, you can learn about Kluane’s natural and cultural treasures, and get details about the many ways to explore and experience this amazing wilderness park.
For more information:
Kluane National Park and Reserve
P.O. Box 5495
Haines Junction, YT Y0B 1L0
Telephone (867) 634-7207
Fax (867) 634-7208