Guests of Parks Canada’s #ArcticDream base camp trips fly from Inuvik, over the tangled channels of the Mackenzie Delta and through the British Mountains. Cameras are at the ready, to capture the scenery that unfolds beneath the wings of the Twin Otter bush plane. Suddenly, the emerald water of the Firth River appears, threading its’ way through Ivvavik National Park. Then, there’s a cluster of tents on the landscape. The group lands at a comfortable base camp in the heart of the park, where a worn red sign at the end of the gravel airstrip welcomes everyone to “Sheep Creek International Airport.”
The Inuvialuit people have travelled this land for generations, hunting, trapping and harvesting. Ivvavik, which means “nursery” or "place of giving birth" in the Inuvialuktun language, protects a portion of the Porcupine caribou’s calving grounds. In 1984, Ivvavik became the first national park in Canada to be created through an Indigenous land claim agreement. The park is managed cooperatively by Parks Canada and the Inuvialuit.
At 9,750 square kilometres, the park is nearly twice the size of Prince Edward Island. From tent rings to more modern gold claim posts, cultural sites throughout the park are a testament to the ways in which the Thule, Inuvialuit and, later, more modern-day travellers journeyed across and used this area. Today, the park sees fewer visitors than the base camp at Mount Everest.
With no phone or internet access, this base camp offers a true digital detox experience. Parks Canada’s five-day trips include flights between Inuvik and the park in a Twin Otter bush plane, accommodations in mountaineering tents or comfortable prospector tents, flush toilets, quick showers, home-cooked hearty northern fare and samples of traditional local food. Parks Canada guides take guests on hikes through a landscape untouched by the last ice age. Inuvialuit cultural hosts are on hand at the base camp to share their personal stories and culture.
There’s something magical about hiking under the midnight sun to places like “Inspiration Point” or “Halfway to Heaven”. Photos are especially dramatic with extended “golden hours” and craggy tors lining the backs of ridges (rocky outcrops characteristic of a Beringia landscape).
There’s something equally magical about arriving back at base camp, with dinner already on the table – complete with traditional Eskimo doughnuts.
Complete your Arctic adventure with a visit to Herschel Island - Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park on the Yukon Arctic coast. During a two-hour stop, join the Yukon Territorial Parks rangers for a tour through this former whaling station. Immerse yourself in a land of desolate beauty and northern history. Keep an eye out for a passing whale. For the brave – this is your chance to dip your toe (or more!) in the Arctic Ocean.