Vuntut National Park is located in the famous Yukon Territory of Canada, which lies in the northwest region of the country. This amazingly beautiful park was established back in 1995 and is just over a million acres in total size. It’s regarded as one of Canada’s most least-visited national parks due to its remote location.
It’s definitely not unpopulated though as the Porcupine caribou herd makes its home in the park and you’ll find about 500,000 migratory birds there. And yes, there are humans there too as the park is the cultural homeland to the Vuntut Gwich’in people. In their native tongue, vuntut means among the lakes.
(photo credit: ourmanitoulin)
Once there, you’ll soon realize why this is a very fitting name for this wonderful Arctic landscape. The park’s filled with rolling mountains, flowing rivers, and fertile wetlands.
Vuntut is one of Canada’s newest national parks and its goal is to preserve the way of life of the local residents. The Gwich’in people reside in approximately 15 different communities that are spread out across the North Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Northeast Alaska. They are united by their unique traditions, culture, and language.
The park sits north of the town of Old Crow, which is a small community of about 300 people that can be reached by small planes. The village was built at the confluence of Porcupine and Crow Rivers. There are other national parks in the region, such as Ivvavik and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The residents rely on the local caribou herds for food and clothing and Old Crow is a favorite stomping ground of the Porcupine herd. In fact, the yearly migration of the herd is one of the world’s largest when it comes to land animals. Some of the herd makes its home in the park at different times of the year.
The Old Crow Flats area is also home to thousands and thousands of migrating and nesting waterfowl as they stop by to visit the series of shallow lakes that can be found there. In addition, you’ll also be able to find muskrats, moose, wolves, grizzly bears, raptors, wolverines, and dozens of small mammals here. Oddly, some regions of Vuntut Park weren’t glaciated during the last Ice Age. These areas were then filled with animals and plants that were attempting to survive.
The only downside regarding Vuntut National Park is the access because it’s so isolated. The nearest road is over 100 miles away. The best way to visit is to get a plane into Old Crow. You can board in Whitehorse, Dawson City, or Inuvik. By air, the park is about 30 miles north of Old Crow. By river, it’s just over 115 miles and you should be able to rent a boat in Old Crow. You need a landing permit if you’re flying to the park and this means you need to get in touch with Parks Canada.
The summers don’t last too long in the Arctic Circle, and the best months to visit are from June to August. Make sure you take some insect repellant, as they’re quite active in the summer. You’ll find that many Old Crow residents visit in the spring and fall to hunt, fish, trap, and pick berries. If you’re hoping to see the caribou, the best time to visit is the spring or fall.
This park isn’t really one for beginners to visit. It’s ideal for self-sufficient adventurers. It’s about as remote as could be and it’s estimated that only about two dozen people visit each year, excluding the local residents. It’s a vast wilderness area, unlike any other on earth. If you visit, you’re basically on your own with Mother Nature.
However, it’s a trip you’ll never forget. You’ll be able to hike, camp, backpack, canoe, and ski to your heart’s content, but everything will need to be carefully planned out. There’s a visitor center to help you out in Old Crow and some residents even offer tours and lodging.