Ukkusiksalik National Park
Ukkusiksalik (pronounced ‘oo-koo-sik-sa-lik’) National Park protects a 20,000 square kilometre (7,722 sq. mi.) area surrounding Wager Bay, a 100 kilometre long (62 mile) inlet on the northwest coast of Hudson Bay. Wager Bay is so huge that many 18th century explorers thought it might be the long sought Northwest Passage. It wasn’t, but it is important for other reasons.
The richness of Ukkusiksalik lies in its very high concentration of wildlife, valuable natural resources and numerous cultural sites. ‘Ukkusiksalik’ means ‘the place where there is stone to carve pots and oil lamps’ in Inuktitut, which refers to the large quantity of soapstone found within the park’s boundaries. This is but one special feature of the landscape that made it attractive to early inhabitants. The plentiful marine life in Wager Bay has drawn Inuit people and their ancestors for many centuries. Evidence of this history is found in the more than 500 archaeological sites within the park boundaries that include tent rings, food cache sites, fox traps and an extensive site called ‘Aklungiqtarvik,’ meaning ‘place of the rope game.’ Notable for a large, distinctive stone feature on the south side of the site, archaeologists believe this area was used prehistorically through to relatively recent times.
In 1925, a Hudson Bay Company trading post was set up at the head of Wager Bay above an area of reversing tidal falls, to take advantage of inland trade potential. It is culturally significant as being the first trading post run by an Inuit manager. Old buildings remain on-site as relics of this bygone era.
With its mudflats, rolling hills, tundra banks and rich tidal and marine areas, Ukkusiksalik represents the central tundra natural region in the Parks Canada system. This landscape provides habitat for a diverse array of wildlife. Polar bear, caribou, muskox, wolf and fox appear in greater numbers here than in the other three national parks in Nunavut. Golden eagles and peregrine falcons can be seen soaring overhead as they scan for ‘sik-siks’ (ground squirrels), lemmings and arctic hares. The marine life is even richer here, so visitors often capture beautiful pictures of seals, whales, fish and polar bears for their seascape image collections.
Seasons & Climate
The best time to visit Ukkusiksalik is during July and August. This is the only time of year when there is boat access to the park. Visitors can also access the park by chartered aircraft or snowmobile earlier in the spring. The sea ice in Hudson Bay usually breaks up in May or June, rendering the park inaccessible by snowmobile (or boat). Visitors should expect and plan ahead for weather delays, especially when travelling by boat.
Getting Here (to Wager Bay)
Boating access to Ukkusiksalik National Park by licensed outfitter is from Repulse Bay, Chesterfield Inlet, Coral Harbour, Rankin Inlet or Baker Lake. The boat ride takes a minimum of seven hours from the closest communities of Repulse Bay and Chesterfield Inlet. Visitors may also access the park by chartered aircraft operating out of Baker Lake and Rankin Inlet.
Regularly scheduled flights to Rankin Inlet are available from Iqaluit and Winnipeg, also from Ottawa and Montreal (via Iqaluit), or from Calgary and Edmonton (via Yellowknife).
- A licensed tour outfitter (guide): Due to the extremely high density of polar bears in this region, for safety reasons it is strongly recommended that visitors use licensed outfitters.
- Marine mammal book: This can be very useful for identifying unique arctic species of wildlife.
- Information on cultural archaeological sites: This information is available from Parks Canada.