Parks Canada History
Park Summaries

Park Summaries
Northwest Territories

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All text and photos are copyrighted by Parks Canada or the Canadian Register of Historic Places (except as noted) and were extracted from either the Parks Canada or Canada's Historic Places Websites. Parks with a grey background are managed by Parks Canada.



©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Aulavik National Park of Canada
Headquarters: Inuvik, Northwest Territories and Sachs Harbour, Northwest Territories

Over 12,000 km2 of arctic wilderness on Banks Island.

Aulavik, meaning "place where people travel" in Inuvialuktun, protects more than 12,000 square kilometres of arctic lowlands on the north end of Banks Island. The park encompasses a variety of landscapes from fertile river valleys to polar deserts, buttes and badlands, rolling hills, and bold seacoasts. At the heart of Aulavik is the Thomsen River, which offers visitors a chance to paddle one of the continent's most northerly navigable waterways. This pristine arctic environment is home to both the endangered Peary caribou and to the highest density of muskoxen in the world. The wildlife and land have supported aboriginal peoples for more than 3,400 years, from Pre-Dorset cultures to contemporary Inuvialuit.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1980
Church of Our Lady of Good Hope National Historic Site of Canada
Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories

The Church of Our Lady of Good Hope is a small (45 feet by 20 feet), single story, wooden church, built in the late nineteenth century. It sits on a bluff above the Mackenzie River in the community of Fort Good Hope. The church is remarkable for its interior painted decoration.

The Church of Our Lady of Good Hope was designated a national historic site in 1977 as an example of a mission church in the Gothic Revival Style.

The heritage value of this site resides in its illustration of northern mission churches in a simplified version of the Gothic Revival Style and in its interior decoration.

Begun in 1865 and largely completed by 1885, this building influenced the design of later Oblate mission churches in western Canada. It is one of the oldest surviving buildings of this type and its design, particularly the interior detail, offers a fine and unique example of church decoration in the northwest. The building is further distinguished by its association with Father Émile Petitot, renowned ethnologist, linguist and geographer of the Canadian northwest, who lived at the mission from 1864 until 1878 and was responsible for the design and the partial execution of the building's interior decoration.

Déline Fishery / Franklin's Fort National Historic Site of Canada
Deline, Northwest Territories

Déline Fishery / Franklin's Fort National Historic Site of Canada is situated on the western shore of Great Bear Lake in the Mackenzie River drainage basin 550 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife in the North West Territories. Now located within the small community of Déline, the fort was constructed on the site of a traditional seasonal Déline fishery at the headwaters of the Bear River. This was the wintering site for a group headed by Sir John Franklin, who, starting in 1825, mapped part of the Arctic coast of Canada. The fort provided a staging area and winter quarters for two years, from 1825 to 1827, during his second overland expedition. There are no known above ground remains.

Constructed to provide a wintering place for nearly 50 people in Sir John Franklin's second overland expedition from 1825 to 1827, Fort Franklin was sited to take advantage of a highly productive Aboriginal fishery. Factor Peter Warren Dease of the Hudson's Bay Company selected one of the most productive Déné fisheries in the Mackenzie River drainage area, parts of which remain ice free, as the location of the Fort. Historic prints of Fort Franklin show a cluster of small structures including a small tower. During 1820's the Hudson Bay Company re-opened its store in order to supply Franklin's expeditions. The second expedition came into close contact with the Dogrib who wintered there, and with the Hare-Slavey and Gwich'in who journeyed from along the north shore of Sahtu to trade meat and furs. Great Bear Lake and Great Bear River became important trade routes. The Sahtu Déné supplied the post with food and guided the mapmakers during their stay from 1825 to 1827.The trade for meat and fish with the Déné of Great Bear Lake was crucial to the expedition's food supply and survival. This exchange enabled the expedition to avoid the supply difficulties faced during the first expedition. Dr. Richardson a Naval surgeon provided the local population with medical care in exchange for supplies and aid.

The discovery of pitchblende at Port Radium and oil at Norman Wells encouraged growth around the site at Fort Franklin in the 1920s, and further development occurred in the 1940s and 1950s when a period of construction centred on the Roman Catholic Mission, the Federal Day School and the post of the Hudson Bay Company. The community become a permanent settlement in 1952. In 1993, Fort Franklin officially changed its name to Déline, which is now largely inhabited by people of the Déné and Métis communities. The present-day community of Déline has had a long-standing interest in Old Fort Franklin and in the site's power to explain its own past.

©Culture and Communications, Government of the Northwest Territories, A Promise Fulfilled: The Visit of Pope John Paul II (Yellowknife: Government of the Northwest Territories, 1989), 59
Ehdaa National Historic Site of Canada
Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories

Ehdaa National Historic Site of Canada is the traditional Dene meeting place on the flats at the southwestern end of Fort Simpson Island that contains facilities built for the 1987 visit of Pope John Paul II.

The heritage value of Ehdaa National Historic Site of Canada is reflected in the landscape features that support its traditional role as a seasonal gathering place for the Liidlii Kue Dene, including its easily reached central location and relics of Pope John Paul II's 1987 visit which represent a recent use of the site in its traditional role that is significant in repairing the wholeness of Dene culture and its history.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Fort McPherson National Historic Site of Canada
Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories

Fort McPherson National Historic Site of Canada is located in a hamlet at the centre of the Peel River / Mackenzie Delta region of the Northwest Territories, just off the Dempster Highway. The site consists of the site of the Hudson's Bay Company trading post as it was in the 19th and early 20th centuries, including an Anglican and a Roman Catholic mission and the post of the Royal North-West Mounted Police. Official recognition refers to the boundaries of the community of Fort McPherson as it was mapped in 1898.

According to oral tradition, the Gwich'in ("people of the head waters") population has been present on the Mackenzie Delta for over 20,000 years, where they survived by hunting, fishing and trapping. In 1840, the Hudson's Bay Company established Fort McPherson, the first trading post north of the Arctic Circle, six kilometres upriver from traditional Teetl'it Gwich'in lands, and Chii tsal dik Hill, to trade meat and furs with the Gwich'in and Inuit. Fort McPherson was moved to its current location in 1848 and was the principal trading post in the Mackenzie Delta region for over 50 years. The settlement that grew around the fort became a centre of Roman Catholic and Anglican missionary activity after 1860, and the site of the Western Arctic's first North West Mounted Police post in 1903. By the 1930s much of the fort's former importance had passed to newer settlements such as Aklavik. Fort McPherson is now the largest Gwich'in settlement in the Northwest Territories.

©Government of Canada / Gouvernement du Canada, D. Mulders, 2007
Fort Reliance National Historic Site of Canada
Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories

Fort Reliance National Historic Site of Canada is located at the eastern end of Great Slave Lake, near the mouth of the Lockhart River in the Northwest Territories. The fort, built as a wintering site in the early 19th century, is set back from the shoreline, on a raised green terrace. Found within the site are the remains of four fireplaces and chimneys, as well as traces of foundations from cabins, piles of rubble, and other shallow pits and mounds resulting from the occupation of the site.

Fort Reliance was built by Alexander Roderick McLeod of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1833 on the easternmost edge of Great Slave Lake. Its original purpose was to serve as a base of operations for an expedition led by Captain George Back, R.N., who was charged with locating Captain (later Sir) John Ross after he failed to return from his 1829 Arctic voyage. Captain Back wintered at the fort between 1833-1835 and from this base explored much of the Thelon and Great Fish Rivers during the summers. The fort was abandoned in 1835 when the expedition ended, but was rebuilt and operated as a Hudson's Bay Company post for a brief period in the 1850s. The remains of the four stone fireplaces with their wattle and daub chimneys are unique relics of the history of exploration and commerce in Canada's north.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1907
Fort Resolution National Historic Site of Canada
Fort Resolution, Northwest Territories

Fort Resolution National Historic Site of Canada is located in the community of Fort Resolution, on the southeastern shore of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. The site is a small, rectangular-shaped peninsula on which stood the fur post and subsequently a Hudson's Bay Company store during the early 20th century. There are no visible remains of the original fort. Official recognition refers to the irregular 8.8-hectare footprint of the Hudson's Bay Company post as it stood in 1895.

The first fur trade posts on Great Slave Lake were established at the end of the 18th century by Cuthbert Grant Sr. of the North West Company and his rival Laurent Leroux of the "Little Company". These included Grant's Slave Fort, which was twice moved westward, finally settling near the mouth of the Slave River in 1791. This post remained largely unchallenged by competing traders until, in 1819, Aualay McAulay of the Hudson's Bay Company built a competing post nearby, which he named Fort Resolution. After the union of the two companies in 1821 the two forts were merged, and were moved to a small peninsula facing the Resolution Islands. Fort Resolution became the Hudson's Bay Company's principal post on the lake, and remains an active community.

Fort Simpson National Historic Site of Canada
Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories

The junction of the Liard and Mackenzie Rivers has always been important in the spiritual life of the Dene. This meeting place became a focus for the fur trade in the Deh Cho Region. In 1804 the North West Company built Fort of the Forks nearby; the Hudson's Bay Company built Fort Simpson in 1822. Dene people from the Liard and Mackenzie valleys, the mountains to the west, and Lac La Martre traded here regularly. Their descendants make up the present Dene and Métis population. Pope John Paul II's visit here in 1987 celebrated the continued spiritual significance of the rivers' junction.

©Hay River Dene Band / Bande des Dénés de Hay River, 1991
Hay River Mission Sites National Historic Site of Canada
Hay River Reserve, Northwest Territories

Hay River Mission Sites National Historic Site of Canada is situated on the old Dene village site within the Hay River Dene Reserve on the east side of the community of Hay River, which is itself at the head of navigation of the Mackenzie River of the Northwest Territories. Established in the late 19th century, the site consists of St. Peter's Anglican Church, Ste. Anne's Roman Catholic Church, remains of a rectory, and associated cemeteries containing spirit houses. These missions are situated on either side of the site of the old Dene village proper. Official recognition refers to the individual buildings and their associated landscapes.

In 1868, an Oblate Mission and a Hudson's Bay Company fur trading post were established at Hay River. The trading post closed in 1878. A small group of Slavey people led by Chief Chiatlo settled permanently at the location around 1890. Thomas Jabez Marsh established an Anglican mission in 1893, that worked alongside the Roman Catholic mission. By 1909, Marsh and his successor A.J. Vale had completed St. Peter's Church, which eventually included a large school. Around 1900, once the missions were established, they were located approximately at the centre of a 4000 kilometre inland water route that extended north of Edmonton from Athabaska Landing to the Arctic Ocean. This route was the main means by which the western Northwest Territories were opened up to Euro-Canadian influence and development. This meeting of cultures between the local Dene and the two churches have shaped this northern community. The heritage value of Hay River Mission Sites National Historic Site of Canada lies in the physical integrity of the extant buildings and cemetery features as a whole, including the spirit houses, together forming a cultural landscape, in their symbolic importance and in their spatial inter-relationships.

©Library and Archives Canada/Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, Department of Indian and Northern Affairs/Ministère d'Affaires indiennes et du Nord Canada, 1932
Kittigazuit Archaeological Sites National Historic Site of Canada
Inuvik Region, Northwest Territories

Kittigazuit Archaeological Sites National Historic Site of Canada is located on the island of Kittigazuit at the mouth of the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories. The site, set in and around the present-day village of Kitigaaryuk, encompasses a number of archaeological features, including the ruins of winter houses, a collapsed log cabin and ice house and remains from the old village of Kittigazuit. On the high ground to the north and south of the village, a number of traditional graves are visible by their marker stones.

The heritage value of Kittigazuit Archaeological Sites lies in its historical associations with the Inuit populations who used the site for beluga whale hunting, as illustrated by the site and its archaeological remains. Archaeological evidence shows that the Kittegaryumiut have occupied Kittigazuit continuously for over 500 years, between 1400 and 1900. The site was used for summer beluga whale hunting by Inuvialuit populations living in the area, who took advantage of the estuary as a natural trap for the whales. Approximately 1000 people used Kittigazuit and the neighbouring village of Kupuk during the summer months, making it the largest traditional Inuit community known in Arctic Canada. Remains of six large winter houses and the number of traditional aboriginal graves are still visible today. The site is also the place where Sir John Richardson, a member of Sir John Franklin's second Arctic expedition, first met the Inuit. Additionally, it was the location of the first Hudson's Bay Company trading post operated on the western Arctic coast. The remains of a log house and ice house used by the Hudson's Bay Company are still visible.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve
Headquarters: Tulita, Northwest Territories

Measuring 4,850 square kilometres, Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve adjoins Nahanni National Park Reserve and it touches the Yukon boundary to the West.

Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve is named after Nááts'ihch'oh the mountain — a powerful place for the people of the Sahtu. Near the Yukon-Northwest Territories border, the park is in the traditional lands of the Shútagot'ine (Mountain Dene), and home to grizzly bear, Dall's sheep, mountain goats, and woodland caribou.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Nagwichoonjik (Mackenzie River) National Historic Site of Canada
Tsiigehtchic, Northwest Territories

Nagwichoonjik (Mackenzie River) National Historic Site of Canada is the cultural landscape along the section of the Mackenzie River that traverses the traditional homelands of the Gwichya Gwich'in of Tsiigehtchic (formerly Arctic Red River). This historic place extends from Thunder River on the southeast boundary of their country to Point Separation in the Mackenzie Delta, a 175-kilometer section of the river.

The heritage value of Nagwichoonjik (Mackenzie River) is reflected in the cultural landscape along the river that reflects the river's role as a principal repository of the stories (oral histories) that suffuse with meaning the history of the landscape as the Gwichya Gwich'in know it. The traditional lifestyle of the Gwichya Gwich'in has been shaped by their close connection with the land and the river, and many points along the river play an essential role in the transmission and survival of Gwich'in culture. Nagwichoonjik represents the complex sets of relationships between the Gwich'in people, their traditional lands and their past, before and after the arrival of the European explorers.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada
Headquarters: Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories

Northwest Territories' UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada protects a portion of the Mackenzie Mountains Natural Region offering the adventurous visitor a wilderness experience. A key feature of the park is the Naha Dehé (South Nahanni River). Four great canyons line this spectacular whitewater river. At Nailicho (Virginia Falls) the river plunges in a thunderous plume. The park's sulphur hotsprings, alpine tundra, mountain ranges, and forests of spruce and aspen are home to many species of birds, fish and mammals. A visitor centre in Fort Simpson features displays on the history, culture and geography of the area. The park was inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1978.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1976
Parry's Rock Wintering Site National Historic Site of Canada
Melville Island, Northwest Territories

Parry's Rock is a large sandstone rock, approximately 5.5 metres long and 3 metres high, located at Winter Harbour, Melville Island, N.W.T. (latitude 74°46'00" N, longitude 110°38'00" W). The top of the rock is 52 feet above sea level. The rock contains a number of carvings and a plaque mounted in 1909.

Parry's 1819 expedition arrived in the area in mid-September and spent the winter in Winter Harbour. Before leaving the area, the ship's surgeon, J. Fisher, inscribed the names of the two vessels, Hecla and Griper, and their captains on the large sandstone rock located on the beach. Parry continued on, sailing farther west, but was stopped by ice near Cape Dundas. Had he been able to sail on through the McClure Strait he would have entered the Beaufort Sea and been able to pass through the Bering Strait to the Pacific. Parry's expedition had demonstrated that Lancaster Sound opened a passage towards the west that later explorations would show was the Northwest Passage.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Pingo Canadian Landmark
Inuvik, Northwest Territories

Pingo Canadian Landmark protects a unique arctic landform: ice-cored hills called pingos. Rising out of the flat tundra, these hills provide a distinctive backdrop to the community of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. Pingo Canadian Landmark features eight of the 1350 pingos found in the region including Ibyuk Pingo, Canada's highest. Reaching 49 metres (160 feet) in height and stretching 300 metres (984 feet) across its base, Ibyuk is also the world's second-tallest pingo.

For centuries, pingos have acted as navigational aides for Inuvialuit travelling by land and water and as a convenient height of land for spotting caribou on the tundra or whales offshore.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Saoyú-Ehdacho National Historic Site of Canada
Grizzly Bear Mountain and Scented Grass Hills, Northwest Territories

Expression of cultural values through the interrelationship between landscape, oral histories, graves and cultural resources.

Sahoyúé-§ehdacho National Historic Site of Canada, also known as Sahoyue-Edacho (pronounced saw-you-eh-da-cho), is a large cultural landscape made up of two peninsulas, located south of the tree line in the Northwest Territories. The two peninsulas, Sahoyue and Edacho, reach into Great Bear Lake from the west and south. Both landscapes rise gradually over a number of kilometres to broad, relatively flat summits covered with open boreal forest. Official recognition refers to the two peninsulas, an area of 5,565 square km, and their associated features and buildings.

Sahoyue-Edacho was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1997 because: its cultural values, expressed through the interrelationship between the landscape, oral histories, graves and cultural resources, such as trails and cabins, help to explain and contribute to an understanding of the origin, spiritual values, lifestyle and land-use of the Sahtu Dene.

Its heritage value lies in the cultural landscape as a whole, its environmental quality, which allows traditional lifestyle and land use activities, and the cultural values of the Sahtu Dene expressed through the inter-relationship between landscape, oral history, graves and cultural resources. These are outstanding landscapes that blend the natural and spiritual worlds of the Sahtu Dene and help define them as a people. The extensive oral tradition brings the history of the Sahtu Dene alive and signifies the importance of these sacred lands to them and to the heritage of Canada.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Tuktut Nogait National Park of Canada
Headquarters: Inuvik, Northwest Territories and Paulatuk, Northwest Territories

Calving ground for the Bluenose caribou herd.

With rolling tundra, wild rivers, precipitous canyons, and a variety of unique wildlife and vegetation, Tuktut Nogait ('young caribou') is one of Canada's undiscovered gems. This remote park is located 170 kilometres north of the arctic circle and is home to the Bluenose West caribou herd, wolves, grizzly bears, muskoxen, arctic char, and a high density of raptors. The wildlife and land have supported aboriginal peoples for thousands of years, from the Copper and Thule cultures to contemporary Inuvialuit.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada
Headquarters: Fort Smith, Northwest Territories and Fort Chipewyan, Alberta

UNESCO World Heritage Site larger than Switzerland.

As part of Canada's system of national parks and national historic sites, Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada is our country's largest national park and one of the largest in the world. It was established in 1922 to protect the last remaining herds of bison in northern Canada. Today, it protects an outstanding and representative example of Canada's Northern Boreal Plains.

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Last Updated: 26-Jan-2015