Northwest Passage Trail
The Northwest Passage Territorial Trail is not a park in the conventional sense. Located in and around the hamlet of Gjoa Haven on King William Island, it is an informative walking tour that provides historical details about the famous quest of numerous European explorers to discover the Northwest Passage and their search for answers concerning the disappearance of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition of 1845.
This journey of discovery leads visitors through the community to learn about the past and the local Inuit culture, with stories of the 1903-1905 period of interaction between Inuit people with famed Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen as told by Elders who shared their memories of the years when Amundsen and his crew lived in Gjoa Haven before sailing on to become the first Europeans to successfully navigate the Northwest Passage.
Long before Europeans arrived in Gjoa Haven, Inuit travelled the coastlines and waterways of the Arctic. They explored the region, navigated the land and the sea, while hunting food and building shelter. Inuit knowledge of the Arctic was learned through experience and passed down through oral tradition. It would take centuries of European exploration and many failed voyages to achieve similar knowledge.
From the Hamlet Centre, walk to the Northern Store and see the old Hudson Bay Company Trading Post, the first permanent building in the community of Gjoa Haven. The signage at this site discusses the local history of trade and commerce.
From this location, visitors then proceed along the beach to the rock-lined path that leads to the cairn dedicated to Roald Amundsen, commemorating the one hundred year anniversary of his successful discovery and transit of the Northwest Passage. The cairn features a bronze memorial plaque that describes the life of this famous explorer, his ship the Gjøa and his journey from Norway to the harbour of Gjoa Haven. The only evidence remaining today of Amundsen’s temporary buildings are earth mounds from his subterranean construction methods. Visitors can easily locate these building sites by consulting the Northwest Passage Trail brochure.
For more information, check the Nunavut Parks website.
Getting to Gjoa Haven
The community of Gjoa Haven can be reached by air from Cambridge Bay and Yellowknife on First Air and Canadian North.