Ovayok Territorial Park is located 15 kilometres (nine miles) east of the community of Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island. The central feature of the park is the mountain called Ovayok (Mount Pelly). At 200 metres (656 ft.) in height, it stands out from the surrounding landscape. For generations, Ovayok has been an important landmark and source of legend for the Inuit and their predecessors.
Pre-Dorset Culture ('Saqqaq'): 2500 BC to 500 BC
Dorset Culture ('Tuniit' or 'Sivullirmiut'): 500 BC to 1500 AD
Thule Culture (Proto-Inuit): 1000 AD to 1600 AD
Inuit Culture (Eskimo): 1600 AD to present-day
Since ancient times, Ovayok has been a key stopping place during the seasonal movements of these nomadic peoples. As they moved inland in the summer and back to the sea ice in the fall, they stopped here because of the plentiful fish and waterfowl found in nearby lakes. It was here that they built stone caches to store winter clothing, equipment and food to be picked up on their return journey. Today, this special place features five well-marked hiking trails covering more than 20 kilometres (12 miles) to explore!
The five hiking trails in Ovayok Park are described in detail in a Guidebook that is available at the Arctic Coast Visitor Centre in Cambridge Bay, or through Nunavut Parks. The guidebook locates the trails, camping areas, plus important sites with informative signage panels and posts. Hikers follow coded trail markers to navigate their way through the park.
Arctic Coast Visitor Centre — Cambridge Bay
Ph: (867) 983-2224
Fax: (867) 983-2302
The Cycle of the Seasons Trail is an easy hike over uneven but level terrain. It leads to an ancient dwelling place where visitors can explore the culture and history of the Inuit. There are 27 tent rings, caches and waiting places located along this trail.
The Ovayok Trail leads from the trailhead up to the summit of the mountain. There are wonderful panoramic views in all directions. The first part of the trail is moderately steep and most of the trail is over uneven footing. This trail details the legend of Ovayok. It leads hikers to the Giant’s Ribs and to the Giant’s Head — landmarks that are visible from several places along the trail. As well, at the summit, visitors will find a monument embedded into the rock at its highest point that is dedicated to the Inuit who served in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Regiment. This plaque was unveiled in 1989 in the most northerly ceremony celebrating the Regiment’s 75th anniversary.
The Tolemaqk Trail runs along the southwest side of Ovayok and loops around some small lakes before returning upon itself. Tolemaqk is the Inuit word for ‘ribs’ and the trail runs parallel to the ribs of the giant on the mountain above. The lower slopes are a great place to find arctic plants growing in the shallow permafrost layer, aided by soil washed down the mountain. Where there is vegetation, there is wildlife. The lower slopes of Ovayok are very good places to view ‘umingmak’ — muskoxen — which can weigh up to 400 kilos (882 lb.) and grow to 1.5 metres (five feet) tall. ‘Umingmak’ means ‘animal with skin like a beard’ in Inuktitut. This magnificent animal is called a musk ox because of the musky odour produced by scent glands beneath the bull’s eyes. They usually roam in herds of 10-20 animals and feed on arctic grasses and sedges. They do not migrate, moving relatively short distances between winter and summer feeding grounds.
The Neakoa Trail runs along the southwest side of Ovayok, from the end of the Tolemaqk Trail to the Neakoa feature and to Kellogok (Long Lake) at the south end of the park. There is a camping area at Neakoa and fishing spots at Long Lake. Neakoa means ‘head’ in the Inuit language and is so named because it is the head of Ovayok the giant. From Neakoa to Long Lake is an excellent concentration of archaeological sites — including several that were discovered by local Inuit Elders. Here visitors will see tent rings, hunting blinds, food cache sites and an ancient workshop.
Finally, the Neakoa Kengmetkoplo (Head to Heel) Trail follows the northeast side of the mountain. Visitors can trek around the mountain in either direction, but the Ovayok Guidebook suggests first hiking south to Neakoa and then north along this trail.
Getting to the community of Cambridge Bay
First Air and Canadian North offer regularly scheduled flights to Cambridge Bay from Yellowknife.
Getting to Ovayok Territorial Park
To get to the park, head east from Cambridge Bay. Ovayok is a half hour drive, or a five-hour walk from the community. The road to the park is not maintained on a regular basis, so it can sometimes be rough. On clear days, visitors should be able to see the mountain from Cambridge Bay. There are signs along the road indicating the way. People often see herds of muskoxen and flocks of migratory birds when the travel along the road to Ovayok.
For more information, check the Nunavut Parks website.