Why pingos are the North's weirdest secret

Why pingos are the North's weirdest secret
Lean in close. We have a secret to share.
 
It's about the oddest landform you'll ever see:
Frozen eruptions
Bursting in slow-motion from the tundra

For eons they have risen like sentinels:
Viewpoints. Landmarks. Ecosystems. Attractions.
Looming stoically over the polar sea.

 If you promise not to tell, we'll let you in on our secret.
Here's why the pingos of the Northwest Territories will put you on top of the world.
secret 1

“Pingo” is Inuvialuit for small hill. The word has been used by scientists since 1938, beginning with the Arctic botanist Alf Porsild. We’re thankful Porsild popularized “pingo” instead of the alternate name, hydrolaccolith. In fact, Porsild Pingo, near Tuktoyaktuk, is named in his honour.

secret 2

Pingos are a kind of “periglacial” landform, meaning they are created through processes of freezing and thawing. Covered with tundra on the outside, they contain a core of ice. They grow in much the same way that a can of pop expands as it freezes.

secret 3

Pingos can be as big as a football stadium – up to 70 metres tall, with a circumference exceeding half a kilometre.

secret 4

Erupting from the pancake-flat tundra just outside the community of Tuktoyaktuk, this bulbous, ice-filled mound is the second-largest "pingo" on Earth. Called Ibyuk, it rises to the height of a 15-storey building and is 1,000 feet wide at its base.

secret 5

What’s more, Ibyuk is getting bigger: It rises at a rate of two centimetres per year. It is estimated to be 1,300 years old.

secret 6

The Mackenzie Delta has the highest concentration of pingos on Earth – approximately 1,350 of them. Eight, including Ibyuk, are protected by Parks Canada in the 16-square-kilometre Pingo National Landmark outside Tuktoyaktuk.

secret 7

Other than gigantic Ibyuk, the pingos in Pingo Canadian Landmark range from five meters to 36 metres tall. They represent different stages of growth, from budding newborns to elder pingos that are shrinking and slumping.

secret 8

For eons, the Inuvialuit of the Arctic coast have used pingos as navigational aides. They also serve as a useful lookout when searching the tundra for caribou or scanning the sea for seals and whales.

To experience pingos for yourself, plan a trip to Tuktoyaktuk. Day excursion are available by air from Inuvik – or, this fall, you will be able to drive there on the new Inuvik-to-Tuktoyaktuk Highway.

 

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The Dempster Highway serves as a boundary for this 8,800-hectare park, which includes two campgrounds (Vadzaih Van Tshik Campground and Gwich’in Territorial Campground), two day-use areas (Ehjuu NJik and Nihtak) and Tithegeh Chii Vitaii Lookout. The park is home to a...

​Back Bay Cemetery

Back Bay Cemetery, a City of Yellowknife Heritage Site, consists of 35 gravesites from 1936-46. The cemetery is located along the waterfront in Jackfish Draw, adjacent to Back Bay, on Great Slave Lake. It was Yellowknife's first graveyard, associated with many pioneering...

The Old Anglican Church

Built around 1880, this single-storey log church, complete with a gable roof and wooden steeple, is one of the oldest standing buildings in the Northwest Territories. It is located on the former Hudson's Bay lot in the historic centre of the community. The dovetailed log...

Knut Lang’s Place

The trading post known as Knut Lang’s Place is on the Peel Channel of the Mackenzie Delta, about 48 kilometres upstream from Aklavik. The post was built in the 1930s and includes includes standing log buildings, some with sod roofs. It was built by independent trader Knut...

Hay River Mission Sites

The Hay River Mission is a National Historic Site on the Hay River (K'atlodeeche) Dene Reserve. Established in the late 19th century, the site consists of St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Ste. Anne’s Roman Catholic Church, remains of a rectory, and associated cemeteries containing spirit...

Fireweed Studio

Built in the early 1930s as a blacksmith shop, this single-storey log building was originally situated on what is now the Giant Mine property. After being moved to its current location near City Hall it became a tourist information centre (1978-1992), and, now, an...

Canadian Pacific Float Base

Built in 1946 on the waterfront in Old Town, this City of Yellowknife Heritage Site was the city's first permanent floatplane base. Many aviation pioneers once worked out of this building, including Stan McMillan and Max Ward. In earlier years, the large hall was also used for social...

Bank of Toronto Building

Located at 7 Otto Drive on Latham Island, this log cabin is one of Yellowknife's oldest surviving buildings. Built in 1938 as a private residence, the city's Bank of Toronto branch opened here six years later. Allan Lambert, former president and chairman of the Toronto Dominion...

The Old Hudson Bay Warehouse

The Hudson Bay Warehouse in Old Town was built in 1945 to store retail goods imported by river from the south to feed, clothe and support the miners who established Yellowknife.

Our Lady of Lourdes schooner

Donated on behalf of Pope Pius XI in the 1930s, the schooner Our Lady of Lourdes sailed the Beaufort Sea for decades, delivering supplies to far-flung Catholic missions and carrying Inuvialuit children to Cathloic residential schools. Since 1982 the vessel has sat on display...

Traditional Sod House

Built with sawn drift logs covered with sod clumps for insulation, this popular visitor attraction is a recreation of a traditional Inuvialuit dwelling.   

Frame Lake Trail

This seven-kilometre loop around Frame Lake is the recreation trail for activity in the heart of the capital. While the eastern half is paved and passes by residential neighbourhoods, the western half consists of boardwalks over muskeg and wayfinding over rolling, forested-shrouded...

Log Bridges

Foot bridges over streams and gullies on town walking trails are constructed of huge driftwood logs from southern forests. The logs, salvaged along the Mackenzie River, are woven into the supports for some unique and attractive bridges designed by local resident and outfitter Rick Muyers.

Fort McPherson Tent and Canvas Shop

Established in 1970 to stimulate employment in Fort McPherson, this community-based enterprise combines local traditional skills with current manufacturing and production methods to craft a wide selection of products, from canvas tents to cordura nylon travel bags to...

McPherson House

Built in 1936, this one-and-a-half storey squared-log dwelling overlooks the Papal Flats in Fort Simpson. An excellent example of Metis architecture, it is located at the southern edge of the original Hudson’s Bay Company compound and is an icon of the fur-trade ...

Ehdaa National Historic Site

On the flats at the southwestern end of Fort Simpson Island, for centuries Dene gathered at this site during their seasonal rounds to allocate land use, arrange marriages, resolve disputes, hold puberty rites, undertake ceremonies of healing and thanksgiving, and trade goods and ...

Lafferty House

​The Lafferty House is a one-and-a-half storey squared-log dwelling built circa 1929,  located at the north end of the village of Fort Simpson, close to the waterfront. It was built by the Laffertys, a proud Metis family who have been in the Fort Simpson area since 1790 and were...

Old Log School House

The Old Log School House was the first school in Yellowknife. It was built in 1937 by prominent Yellowknife pioneers Ray G. 'Red' McPhie and 'Sleepy Jim' McDonald. Originally used as a mining kitchen and bunkhouse, it became a one-room schoolhouse in 1939, where Mildred Hall presided...

Bristol Freighter

Perched on a pillar near the entrance to town, the yellow and blue Bristol Freighter airplane greets visitors to Yellowknife, reminding them of the region's vital aviation history. Bush planes such as this one fed the development of the town, bringing people and supplies before...

Niven Lake Trail

Direclty across HIghway 3 from the Northern Frontier Visitor Centre, this easy two-kilometre loop explores the shoreline of a small marshy lake in the heart of a Yellowknife residential neighbourhood. Despite its urban location, Niven Lake is rich in wildlife, with beavers, muskrats...

Old Town

One of the most diverse, historic, offbeat neighbourhoods in Canada, Old Town is the beating heart of Yellowknife. Here, where the Precambrain Shield juts into Great Slave Lake, goldseekers 80 years ago pioneered what was to become the North's greatest settlement. Today the area is an intriguing...

Somba K'e Park

On the shores of Frame Lake in front of City Hall, this grassy park is Yellowknife's favourite gathering place. In summer, musical performances are common at the waterfront ampitheatre, and various attractions – the museum, the visitor centre, Firewood Studio, a towering drum-dance sculpture, etc...

The Ramparts

The closest thing to whitewater on the mighty Mackenzie River, this fast-flowing section occurs a few kilometres upstream from Fort Good Hope where the river is choked between 40-metre-high limestone cliffs.

Albert Faille's Cabin

Legendary prospector Albert Faille spent his life hutning for gold in the Nahanni Mountains. Each spring from the 1950s until his death in 1973 he journeyed up the Liard and Nahanni rivers from his home in Fort Simpson, portaging around the great Virginia Falls and...

HAY LAKES CAMPGROUND

This municipal campground is located about four kilometres along the access road to Fort Liard. It's next to a small lake, and offers a kitchen shelter and several campsites.

NIHTAK DAY USE AREA

You'll find washrooms and a boat launch at this Depmster Highway day-use area.   

The Papal Site

On September 20, 1987, on the flats where the Mackenzie and Liard Rivers flow together above Fort Simpson, as many as 4,000 people – mostly Dene – gathered to welcome Pope John Paul II. It was the first time any pope had ever visited an Aboriginal community. His Holiness, wearing a caribou-skin...

Our Lady of Good Hope Church

The oldest and certainly the most ornate place of worship in the North, this tiny cathedral crowns a bluff overlooking the Mackenzie River in Fort Good Hope. Built starting in 1865 by Oblate missionaries – including the famed Father Émile Petitot –­ the church from the outside is whitewashed, steep...

The Mad Trapper’s Grave

In the depths of December, 1931, an enigmatic loner calling himself Albert Johnson shot and injured a policeman near the Rat River, not far from Aklavik. He then led authorities on a two-month goose-chase that was broadcast via radio around the world. As the sign beside his grave says, “With...

Bear Rock

Towering 400 metres above Tulita, sacred Bear Rock is said to be where Yamoria, the great law-giver of Dene lore, confronted a gang of giant beavers that had been drowning hunters. Yamoria killed three of the beavers and draped their vast pelts on Bear Rock – forming three dark circles that...

Fort Resolution National Historic Site

Here, on this rectangular peninsula jutting northward into Great Slave Lake, the Northern fur-trade got its foothold. Parks Canada has designated this 8.8-hectare expanse – long the site of a Hudson Bay Company post – as a national historic site. It and other trading posts in the region began...

North Star Adventures

We offer interesting and fun Day Tours in both Summer and Winter seasons. We also offer multi-day adventure experiences, each showcasing one of many wonderful places to see and experience here in the Northwest... Read more

NARWAL Northern Adventures

Northern and Remote Wilderness Adventures Ltd. (NARWAL) is a small, friendly, majority Aboriginal owned and operated family business. Our reputation as a competent, safety conscious outdoor adventure school is well... Read more

NARWAL Northern Adventures

Northern and Remote Wilderness Adventures Ltd. (NARWAL) is a small, friendly, majority Aboriginal owned and operated family business. Our reputation as a competent, safety conscious outdoor adventure school is well... Read more

Nahanni River Adventures

For over 30 years we have delivered guided natural history/wilderness adventures by canoe and raft. Our qualified and friendly guides are authorities on the Nahanni, Cirque of the Unclimbables and we maintain a low ... Read more

My Backyard Tours

We offer fun and informative professionally guided tours. Participant's interests are incorporated into our City, Capital Sites and Meet the Artist Gallery tours which range from 2-3 hours in length. Our tours also... Read more

Pokiak Guiding and Outfitting

Guided hunting, community tours of Tuktoyaktuk and much more. Visit a local home to enjoy a unique opportunity to appreciate the lifestyle of the Inuvialuit people. Read more

Canoe North Adventures

Since 1987, offering guided canoe trips and hiking expeditions, logistical support and rentals for self-guided clients accessed through Norman Wells in the Sahtu Region of the Northwest Territories including the... Read more

Ram Head Outfitters Ltd.

Commercial air charter service providing air support for hikers on Canol Road, sightseeing in the beautiful Mackenzie Mountains, and fly-in fishing services to fishing lodge.  Read more

South Nahanni Outfitters Ltd.

Outfitting service in the Nahanni region, offering unique wilderness experiences in the mountains. Read more

Strong Interpretation

There are many stories written here on this northern landscape, in the movement in the animals, in the growth of a jack pine, and in the people who live here. Strong Interpretation is here to interpret those stories... Read more

Tundra North Tours Ltd.

Thinking about visiting Canada's North? Let us organize your trip so you can focus on enjoying your #AuthenticArcticExperience! Local tour operator offering tours in the Mackenzie Delta area, including boat and flight... Read more

Old Town Glassworks

Etching popular northern designs on unique 100% recycled glass, since 1994. Visit our gift shop in Old Town or come by for a workshop and make your own souvenir. Read more

Nahanni National Park Reserve

Journey with the spirits of the Dehcho. Paddle through Canada’s deepest river canyons.  Fly Nahʔą Dehé with a legendary northern pilot. Breathe the mist of Náįlįcho. Find your Nahanni.   Read more

Black Feather - The Wilderness Adventure Company

Guided wilderness canoeing, sea-kayaking and hiking adventures. Nahanni, Natla-Keele, Mountain, Coppermine, Hood Rivers. Photography, wilderness camping. Fully qualified guides, outfitted with top quality expedition... Read more

Bathurst Inlet Lodge Ltd.

Escape to an Arctic Oasis at one of Travel and Leisure's "World's 25 Top Ecolodges" and a recipient of Nunavut Tourism's Award of Excellence - Bathurst Inlet Lodge. Remote wilderness lodge with spectacular tundra... Read more

Yellowknife Tours

Come experience world-class Aurora Borealis viewing in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. We are the only guides in the Northwest Territories to offer services in Mandarin, Cantonese and English. With over 20... Read more

B. Dene Adventures

Your Dene Connection in Yellowknife. B. Dene Adventures is a Traditional Dene Culture Camp business which teaches the Dene way of life through our history, our language and our unique connection to the land. B. Dene... Read more

Arctic Tours Canada

Arctic Tours company is a Yellowknife based tour operating company that offer Aurora Hunting tours, Yellowknife sightseeing tours, wildlife viewing (buffalo) tours, Cameron Falls hiking tours, and tour packages in... Read more

North Nahanni Naturalist Lodge

Full service lodge located on Cli Lake 72 miles (115 km) west of Fort Simpson in the Nahanni Mountain Range. Fishing, hiking, birding, wildlife viewing, cultural activities, Aurora viewing and conferences. Access... Read more

Fort Simpson Visitor Information Centre

The Fort Simpson Visitor Centre sells a selection of arts and crafts made by local artists of the Dehcho region. Stop by and see what we have! Read more

Dechenla Wilderness Resort

Remote naturalist'€™s lodge snuggled in the Mackenzie Mountains, in the largest mountain wilderness in North America. Located along the Canol Heritage Trail (Mile 212). Read more

Bob Dunsmore Tours

Yellowknife City tours by Bob Dunsmore, a resident of Yellowknife for 30 years and former Tour Guide of the Year. Read more

Banks Island Tundra Tours

Sightseeing, camping trips, snowmobiling and ATV and boat trips. Banks Island Tundra Tours is mostly for people who like camping. Read more

Arctic Red River Outfitters Ltd.

Arctic Red River Outfitters is a family run business in the Northern Mackenzie Mountains in the Northwest Territories of Canada. We specialize in high quality mountain hunting for big game in a true wilderness setting.... Read more

Arctic Ocean Tuk Tours/ Rendezvous Lake Lodge

We run a small all-inclusive lodge that can handle ten people at a time. From this lodge we organize hunting parties, wildlife tours and photography parties. Hiking, ATV, and custom designed tours are available. Explore... Read more

Sah Naji Kwe Lodge/Rabesca's Resources Ltd.

Book your next training session and/or workshop at our all season day lodge accommodating up to 24 for meetings. Enjoy a natural setting along the North Arm of Great Slave Lake, accessible by road.  Read more

Sahtu Helicopters

Helicopter charter service supporting utility, exploration and eco-tourism including logistical support for rafting expeditions and hiking the Canol Heritage Trail. Read more

Taiga Tour Company

We offer a wide range of tour packages for the adventure enthusiast and invite you to join us for a personalized experience in and around Wood Buffalo National Park. Tour packages range from 3-10 days. Read more

Northwest Territories Parks

To truly experience the Northwest Territories, take your camping gear for a highway driving adventure! Long ribbons of road without traffic jams or urban clutter take you through vast landscapes with unrivaled vistas -... Read more

Northwest Territories Parks

To truly experience the Northwest Territories, take your camping gear for a highway driving adventure! Long ribbons of road without traffic jams or urban clutter take you through vast landscapes with unrivaled vistas -... Read more

Northwest Territories Parks

To truly experience the Northwest Territories, take your camping gear for a highway driving adventure! Long ribbons of road without traffic jams or urban clutter take you through vast landscapes with unrivaled vistas -... Read more

Trans Canada Trail

The Trans Canada Trail is used by millions to experience our country's legendary wilderness. Now 73% complete, the Trail is over 16,800 kilometres long connecting the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic coasts. Comprised of... Read more

Wood Buffalo National Park

Explore the wild splendor of the northern boreal plains, where whooping cranes call and bison roam free. Visitor reception centres in Fort Smith and Fort Chipewyan. Open year round. Read more

Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve

Find extreme outdoor adventure and near absolute seclusion at the headwaters of the South Nahanni River. Naats’ihch’oh protects an undisturbed expanse of river valleys and peaks in the Mackenzie Mountains, home to... Read more

Beaufort Sea Adventures

Live a day in the life of an Eskimo! Specializing in polar bear and muskox hunts for up to four people from traditional camp near Tuktoyaktuk. Also providing scenic Pingo tours, beluga whale watching, bird watching and... Read more

Shehtah Adventures

Call us about our exciting year-round packages and experience the best of the Dehcho region and Denendeh. Read more

Liidlii Kue First Nation

Liidlii Kue First Nation provides day and evening activities, in all seasons. Aurora viewing, cross country skiing, snowmobile tours, canoeing, community tours, hiking/packpacking, kayaking, motorized boat tours, and... Read more