Try Tuktoyaktuk, or "Tuk" as its Residents Would Say

Perched on a spit of land at the edge of the Beaufort Sea, the story of this small Inuvialuit community is legendary across the North.  Tuktoyaktuk started after the decline of whaling at Herschel island. It grew as more families moved from encampments to a small community with a trading post and church. Originally called Port Brabant, it reverted to its indigenous name in 1950. It expanded as a Dewline site and boomed as an oil and gas exploration centre. And it will always be known for its fictitious university, the infamous University of Tuktoyaktuk-- emblazoned on hundreds of thousands of T-shirts that travelled the world.     

Tuk is the farthest north you can drive in Canada.  It sits at the end of the 85 mile Inuvik-Tuk highway and is the only place in North America where you drive a public highway to the Arctic Ocean.  And what an ocean it is.  Covered with ice for nearly nine months per year.  A temperature barely above freezing in the middle of summer.  And home to beluga whales, seals and dozens of species of migrating birds.

Once the Arctic Ocean ice around Tuktoyaktuk has melted, the urge to dip at least a toe in the frigid water is overwhelming.  Visitors by the dozen pull off shoes and socks, roll up pant legs and take a step or two into the icy waters.  A few brave souls, plunge right in, mainly to say they have swum in the three oceans bordering Canada.  For those not into “frozen toes”, the next best thing is to take a little Arctic Ocean home with you. Sometimes small bottles of Arctic Ocean water are available to purchase or just bring your own bottle and take a bit of the ocean home.

Tuktoyaktuk sits in the midst of the world’s largest concentration of Pingos (cone shaped hills with a core of ice). There are approximately 1,350 on the Tuktoyaktuk peninsula, about one quarter of the world’s Pingos.  One of these Pingos, named Ibyuk, is the highest Pingo in Canada (160 feet and still growing) and is thought to be over 1,000 years old.  Ibyuk and seven other Pingos make up the Pingo National Landmark.  Local outfitters offer guided services to the Landmark.  Or you can see smaller Pingos right in the community of Tuk, where a building is perched atop one rounded Pingo. Pingos are often used as navigational aids by the locals. 

Although Tuk is north of the treeline, some of its shores are strewn with tangles of driftwood, including large logs and stumps.  Through spring breakup, these logs are ripped from the banks of the Liard and Mackenzie River and are dragged down river by ice and river currents, to be finally caught in the sheltered bays of the Beaufort Sea. As the only Arctic community with a source of wood, originally the people built and lived in sod houses, rather than traditional igloos.  They also used wood for fires.

Pay a visit to an authentic sod house reconstructed in the middle of Tuk.  This type of structure provided a home where people slept, ate, raised their children, told stories and entertained.  The floor is dug into the ground and the dwelling is built from driftwood, covered by blocks of sod and earth. Oil burning lamps kept these houses warm during the cold days of winter.  Sod houses built by early inhabitants were often shaped like a cross, with a central room, three alcoves for sleeping and a long, covered entrance passage.

For more than 20 years the schooner Our Lady of Lourdes braved pounding storms and shifting ice floes to deliver supplies to far flung Catholic missions from Tuktoyaktuk to Cambridge Bay. In 1982 the ship was moved to Tuk’s Catholic mission, and there it has sat, high and dry, for three and a half decades. The ship had a facelift in 2008, but still battles the ravages of weather and time.   

The Northern arm of the Trans Canada Trail (now known as the Great Trail) winds along the Mackenzie River, crosses the delta and ends at the community of Tuktoyaktuk.  Hikers interested in this northerly section of the trail can follow the new Inuvik-Tuk highway, roughly 138 km (86 miles) A monument marks the northern end of the trail. 

Tuk may now have southern style houses, an airport and internet, but culture is still a prevalent part of everyday life. Visitors are welcome to explore the contrast between traditional and modern lifestyles.  Learn more about the Inuvialuit language, traditional arts, crafts, dance, music, clothing, games, subsistence harvesting and country foods.  Local operators can provide cultural tours of the community and surrounding area.  

Plan your visit to coincide with one of Tuktoyaktuk’s annual events. For every changing season, Summer, Winter, Spring, and Fall you will find a celebration in the community. Tuk welcomes back the sun in January, after disappearing for two whole months. Then as it starts to warm up in April the Beluga Jamboree marks the coming of Spring followed by the summer filled with numerous activities & events through to late August and early September where the Land of the Midnight Sun Music Festival completes our four seasons festivities.

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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...

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...

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...

Swim at Long Lake’s sandy beach. Camp, picnic, canoe or enjoy the amenities and attractions of nearby Yellowknife. Hike the four-kilometre Prospector’s Trail, highlighting the gold-bearing geology of the area. Or follow the Jackfish and Frame Lake trail system, leading...

Located on Vale Island in Hay River, (follow the signs; it’s about 10 kilometres past the information centre), this park offers fantastic swimming on the sandy shores of Great Slave Lake, unique views of barges and fishing vessels plying the waters, and great...

Midway between Fort Simpson and Fort Liard on the Liard Trail, Blackstone Territorial Park boasts stunning mountain views and a prime location on the Liard River, downstream from its confluence with the South Nahanni. This is an excellent starting...

This popular park and campground are located at the junction of Highway 1 and the Trout River (Sambaa Deh in the Slavey language). The river was a traditional transportation route before and during the fur trade. The falls forced travellers to portage around...

Located in the heart of Inuvik, this park offers 19 powered and eight non-powered sites, and convenient access to the town’s attractions. The park is situated on a bluff overlooking the east branch of the Mackenzie River, with a view of the Richardson Mountains....

Just outside Inuvik, this park features an observation tower with excellent views of the surrounding scenery and prime bird-watching. Watch for falcons, eagles and ducks, our summer residents. There is an abundance of cranberries, blueberries and cloudberries that...

This park is perched on a cliff overlooking the Peel River and surrounded by stands of white birch and white spruce trees. It's an ideal place to unwind for a few nights on the long journey up or down the Dempster. The visitor centre offers a fascinating glimpse of the...

On the banks of the Mackenzie River in Norman Wells, MacKinnon Territorial Park offers a great view of the Mackenzie Mountains and is a perfect stop for river-trippers. There are eight non-powered campsites, washrooms, firewood, a picnic area and a playground...

Join us for an unforgettable experience on the mighty Mackenzie River. Day trips are available for a full or half day. Exceptional nature and wildlife viewing, fishing, hiking and historical tours are available. We will stop at Green Island and Ghost Island to hear...