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Park Summaries

Park Summaries

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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
Arvia'juaq and Qikiqtaarjuk National Historic Site of Canada
Arviat and Sentry Islands, Nunavut

This national historic site is comprised of two portions: Arvia'Juaq and Qikiqtaaruk. Arvia'Juaq is a traditional summer camp of the Paallirmiut Inuit. It is a 5-km long island with two sections joined by an isthmus, and is located 8 km from the Hamlet of Arviat on the western shore of Hudson Bay. Situated in an area rich in marine wildlife resources, the island contains many ritual and spiritual sites.

Qikiqtaarjuk is a point of land projecting into Hudson Bay from the mainland immediately opposite Arvia'Juaq. It was once a small island and is now joined to the mainland by a narrow strip of land. Rich in evidence of human habitation, it contains tent rings, food caches, kayak stands and graves from the summer occupancy of generations of Paallirmiut. A sacred site associated with the legend of Kiviuq is located at the end of the peninsula.

The heritage value of Arvia'Juaq and Qikiqtaarjuk National Historic Site lies in the wholeness and completeness of this cultural landscape, in the continuity of human habitation that they witness, and in the rich cultural, spiritual and economic role they play in the lives of the Inuit of the Arviat area. Heritage value is embodied in the natural features and resources of the land, in all evidence of human habitation and patterns of Inuit occupancy, and in the ritual and spiritual properties of the many sacred sites.

For centuries the Inuit of the Arviat area have returned to Arvia'Juaq and Qikiqtaarjuk each summer to camp and harvest the abundant marine resources. These gatherings provided an opportunity to teach the young, celebrate life, and affirm and renew Inuit society. The oral histories, traditional knowledge and archaeological sites at Arvia'Juaq and Qikiqtaarjuk provide a cultural focus for future generations since they continue to be centres to celebrate, practise and rejuvenate Inuit culture.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Auyuittuq National Park of Canada
Headquarters: Pangnirtung, Nunavut and Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut

Baffin Island landscapes containing northern extremity of Canadian Shield.

Sweeping glaciers and polar sea ice meet jagged granite mountains in Auyuittuq National Park of Canada. Established in 1976, Auyuittuq - an Inuktitut word meaning "land that never melts" - protects 19,089 km 2 of glacier-scoured terrain. Located in the eastern Arctic, on southern Baffin Island, the park includes the highest peaks of the Canadian Shield, the Penny Ice Cap, marine shorelines along coastal fiords, and Akshayuk Pass, a traditional travel corridor used by the Inuit for thousands of years. Whether you wish to climb Auyuittuq's rugged peaks, ski on its pristine icefields, or hike the scenic Akshayuk Pass, this park offers unique opportunities to experience the beauty and majesty of the Arctic.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Beechey Island Sites National Historic Site of Canada
Beechey and Devon Islands, Nunavut

Beechey Island Sites National Historic Site of Canada is located primarily on Beechey Island, a peninsula connected to Devon Island, in the Arctic Archipelago of Nunavut. It is a bare, windswept island, which rises to a small hill, fringed by a narrow beach. This setting provided suitable flat and sheltered land for Arctic expeditions. The site is comprised of five archaeological sites on Beechey Island, and Devon Island and in the nearby sea, namely the Franklin wintering camp of 1845-46, Northumberland House, the Devon Island site at Cape Riley, two message cairns and HMS Breadalbane National Historic Site of Canada.

Beechey Island Sites is associated with the exploration of Canada's High Arctic. Over the years, many different ship crews wintered here, beginning with Sir John Franklin's team in 1846-47. The party wintered on Beechey Island during its search for a Northwest Passage, but became icebound off King William Island the next year. All eventually perished, leaving scanty records of the exploration. As a result of their disappearance, Franklin's expedition became the cause of a massive survey and exploration of a large portion of the Canadian Arctic. Beechey Island was used as a base and supply depot for these expeditions for the next decade. The search led to further significant discoveries, including the discovery of three Northwest Passages and the mapping of half of the Canadian Arctic. This flurry of activity left a large number of archaeological resources on the island and in the waters adjacent, ranging from cairns and graves to the ruins of wooden buildings and the wreck of HMS Breadalbane.

©Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, A.P. Low, 3406600, 1903
Blacklead Island Whaling Station National Historic Site of Canada
Blacklead Island, Nunavut

Blacklead Island Whaling Station National Historic Site of Canada is located on Blacklead Island in Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Blacklead Island was used by the Inuit as a winter camp and for whaling, and later by Europeans. Situated in the south of Cumberland Sound, the site is comprised of three archaeological sites on the Blacklead, Niantilik and Cemetery Islands, the shipwrecks off Aagotirpazask Island, and the archaeological site at the forks of Ptarmigan Fiord.

Blacklead Island Whaling Station was the site of two permanent whaling outposts dating from the middle of the 19th century. Similar sites were established at roughly the same time at Kekerton Island, and on Hall Peninsula, Baffin Island. An Anglican mission was built at Blacklead in 1895. In 1921, the Hudson's Bay Company built a post at Pangnirtung and a Royal Canadian Mounted Police post was established two years later. As Inuit communities living at Blacklead and at Kekerton began to congregate at Pangnirtung, the whaling stations were eventually abandoned.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Bloody Falls National Historic Site of Canada
Kugluk/Bloody Falls Territorial Park, Nunavut

Bloody Falls National Historic Site of Canada is located within Kugluk / Bloody Falls Territorial Park, on the western shore of the Coppermine River, in Nunavut. The site encompasses pre-contact Aboriginal encampments set on river terraces along the broad, swift-flowing river. These encampments, of which there are no extant remains, were used as Aboriginal hunting and fishing stations for over three millennia, dating to 1700 B.C.E.

The archaeological remains found at Bloody Falls represent the occupations of several Aboriginal and Inuit peoples, spanning thousands of years. Material deposits were documented from the Thule occupation period circa. (1000-1500 B.C.E.). Beneath the bottom-most Thule layer of cultural deposits, Pre-Dorset (also referred to as the Arctic Small Tool Tradition) cultural material was discovered, dating from between 1700 and 1500 B.C.E. The location, away from the coast in the interior, served as a staging area for forays to hunt, fish and to obtain native copper.

In addition to the Thule houses, 10 pre-contact and historic Aboriginal encampments were recorded to the northern end of the site. These encampments yielded stone and bone artifacts from the pre-contact period, dating to 160 C.E. Also documented at the site were materials relating to the early historic occupation of Copper Inuit.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 2000
Fall Caribou Crossing National Historic Site of Canada
Kivalliq Region, Nunavut

Fall Caribou Crossing National Historic Site of Canada spans a section of the lower Kazan River (Harvaqtuuq) between the Kazan Falls and the narrows in Thirty Mile Lake (Quukilruq) in the Territory of Nunavut. In this area, the river has an east-west orientation, and is relatively narrow with gently sloping shorelines. The entire area is criss-crossed with extensive caribou trails.

The heritage value of Fall Caribou Crossing National Historic Site of Canada lies in its witness to centuries of inland Inuit caribou hunt in a cultural landscape with particular natural geographic features, abundant evidence of human occupation associated with the caribou hunt, and animated by oral histories, cultural traditions and archaeological patterns related to long term inland Inuit use, maintenance and activity. For centuries, the fall caribou crossing on the Kazan River was essential to the inland Inuit, providing them with the necessities of daily life and the means to survive the long winter. Once in the water, the caribou were vulnerable to hunters in kayaks who caught and lanced as many as possible. The Inuit cherished and cared for the land at the crossing areas in accordance with traditional beliefs and practices to ensure that the caribou returned each year during their southward migration. To inland Inuit, the caribou was the essence of life. All parts were valuable for food, fuel, tools, clothing and shelter.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Igloolik Island Archaeological Sites National Historic Site of Canada
Igloolik Island, Nunavut

Igloolik Archaeological Sites National Historic Site of Canada consists of nine archaeological sites found on Igloolik Island, located on the north-western shore of Foxe Basin, in Nunavut. These sites, located on the island's raised beaches, date from Dorset and Pre-Dorset occupations from as early as 2000 BCE.

Igloolik Island has been home to Arctic peoples for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence places human activity on the island as early as 2000 BCE, when the Pre-Dorset peoples were attracted to the area due to its excellent fishing and sea mammal hunting. Later occupations include both Dorset and Thule. Archaeological research at the island has provided one of the most complete archaeological sequences in Arctic Canada. Today, the village of Igloolik occupies a portion of the western section of the island.

In the early 1800s, Igloolik Island served as the wintering site of the explorer Edward Parry. Captain of the Fury, Parry was one of several explorers searching for a western passage through the Arctic. During his second year of exploring the northern reaches of the Hudson Bay, he and his crew wintered at Igloolik, where they were in contact with the island's Inuit population. Over a century later, the anthropolgist Knud Rasmussen based his Fifth Thule Expedition (1921-1924) at Igloolik Island. This anthropological expedition was a wide ranging examination of several arctic cultural groups, and the monographs produced from Rassmussen's research are still considered some of the most important work in the areas of Arctic archaeology, physical anthropology and ethnography.

©Lee Narraway, Summer 2008
Inuksuk National Historic Site of Canada
Enukso Point, Nunavut

Inuksuk National Historic Site of Canada is situated on the Foxe Peninsula, approximately 88.5 km from Cape Dorset on the Southwest of Baffin Island, Nunavut. Set on the shore of the Northwestern Passages the site is situated above the high-tide line of the western and eastern sides of Enukso Point. The inuksuit, stone cairns, stand on the headland, a treeless, rocky hill sloping towards the sea. Two groups of Inuksuit exist on this site, approximately 100 of which remain standing. The two groups are set 465 feet apart and the southern cluster is 200 feet across. The Inuksuit consist of carefully piled stones placed to form cairns that can be complex, as large as 6 to 7 feet in height, sometimes figure-like, while smaller inuksuit may be composed of two balanced stones or single standing stones. The grouping of cairns may have been built as long as two thousand years ago.

The heritage value of Inuksuk derives from its scientific, social and spiritual importance. Inuksuk is a word that translates as "likenesses of men." Collectively known as Inuksuit, the cairns are composed of carefully placed and selected stones. These constructions are found across the north individually and in groups. They are purposely created and depending on size and location may fill a variety of roles including landmarks situated on hilltops, cache markers for meat, memorials, kayak stands, pillars supporting drying lines, or elements of caribou fences, as well as ceremonial or spiritual roles. Their composition can vary from a single vertically set stone to complex monuments, some of which at this site reach 7 feet in height. This site contains nearly 100 cairns. The Inuksuit provide a testament to the hard-labour and creativity of the Inuit people who inhabited the North and were able to make use of the resources of their environment in an ingenious and artistic manner.

©Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, G. Drinkwater, C-084687, 1897
Kekerten Island Whaling Station National Historic Site of Canada
Cumberland Sound, Nunavut

Kekerten Island Whaling Station is located in northern Cumberland Sound, in Kekerten Harbour, Nunavut. In the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, the site is spread across three islands, and comprises the remains of a whaling station, as well as a burial ground and a shipwreck. The grassy slopes adjacent to the sheltered harbour served as three hilltop lookouts for signs of whale activity, and were located between the shoreline and the rocky high ground to the south.

Kekerten Island was the site of two adjacent whaling outposts, operated by Americans and Scots, in the latter half of the 19th century. Along with Blacklead Island, it was the most important whaling station in the Cumberland Sound from between 1860 to 1880, during the height of Bowhead whaling. The sloped terrain and rocky high ground offered good lookout posts from which the Sound could be surveyed for signs of whales. Whalers who died at the station were buried in the nearby Penny's Burying Ground.

The ship-wintering site attracted many of the aboriginal inhabitants from the surrounding area, and the culture of the Inuit became adapted more and more to the rhythm of the whaler's year. The ships' captains assumed responsibility for providing imported provisions for hired Inuit and their families, and the trading of firearms, ammunition, telescopes and even whaleboats became an important event at the end of the whaling season. Kekerten was abandoned around 1923 after a decline of whaling and Inuit activity at Kekerten Station in favour of nearby Pangnirtung, an outpost established by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

©Canadian Museum of History / Musée canadien de l'histoire
Kodlunarn Island National Historic Site of Canada
Frobisher Bay, Nunavut

Kodlunarn Island National Historic Site of Canada is situated on Kodlunarn Island in Frobisher Bay, 190 km from Iqaluit. Ruins of a stone house, earthworks and mining excavations created during Elizabethan explorer Martin Frobisher's gold mining expeditions can still be seen on its shores.

The heritage value of Kodlunarn Island National Historic Site of Canada lies in its association with the mining attempts of Martin Frobisher as illustrated by the site and the archaeological evidence it retains to confirm Frobisher's 16th-century presence and activities. Evidence also survives in the oral traditions of the Inuit people who have preserved an account of this first European attempt to exploit the natural resources of the Arctic.

Kodlunarn Island was the site of mining expeditions by British explorer Martin Frobisher during the summers of 1576, 1577, and 1578. Like his predecessor John Cabot, Frobisher was searching for a northwest passage when he found what he thought was gold. His vessels returned to the Arctic for three consecutive years to remove some 1400 tons of worthless ore from several mines. They remained for a period of four to five weeks each of year, exploring the area and making landfalls to extract ore. One of the major sites they visited was Kodlunarn Island, also known as Qallunaat, White Man's Island, and Countess of Warwick Island, where Frobisher planned to leave a large party to mine during the winter of 1578-79. Although his plan was never realized, he did build a stone house for accommodation. Today the ruins of this house together with various excavations, earthworks and scattered artifacts remain on the island. Archaeological expeditions carried out preliminary surveys of the locations related to Frobisher on this island in the 1970s and 1980s.

Port Refuge National Historic Site of Canada
Grinnell Peninsula, Nunavut

Port Refuge National Historic Site of Canada is located in a small bay off the south coast of Grinnell Peninsula, on Devon Island, Nunavut. The site is comprised of two parcels of land: one is located on raised terraces on the western and northern shores of the port, and the other is located at Cape Hornby on the eastern shore of the harbour. Contained within these parcels are a series of archaeological sites dating to prehistoric occupation, including a Thule winter village near the entrance of the bay, and remains of Pre-Dorset dwellings. More recent cairns and markers dot the landscape around the gravel beaches.

Port Refuge contains well-preserved archaeological evidence of early human occupation of the High Arctic on raised beaches, which range in elevation from 15 to 25 metres above sea level. Archaeological remains are visible on the surface around the bay, and are irregularly distributed over an area approximately 900 hectares in size. The area contains a very rich series of pre-contact occupations beginning with the Independence I occupation (2000 B.C.E.), and continuing to the Thule Inuit occupation (1200 to 1500 C.E).

Structures that were excavated provide valuable information concerning spatial and elevational groupings. In addition, the variety of features including objects of Norse and Asiatic origins found at the Thule winter village near the entrance of the bay show evidence of trade with medieval Norse colonies of Greenland.

The most recent remains of occupation at the site exist from Sir Edward Belcher's 1852-1853 voyage in search of the missing Franklin Expedition. Forced by ice to remain in the bay for several days, he erected survey and marker cairns which now remain as several small hills.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Qausuittuq National Park of Canada
Headquarters: Resolute, Nunavut

High Arctic national park, formally enshrining the northern part of Bathurst Island.

The approximately 11,000 square kilometres of Arctic lands and waters protected in Qausuittuq National Park include the northern part of Bathurst Island as well as the Governor General Islands to the west, and smaller islands west and north of Bathurst Island. Seymour Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary is to the north, while the southern boundary of Qausuittuq National Park borders on Polar Bear Pass National Wildlife Area.

The national park includes marine areas in May and Young Inlets, and land that rises from the sea in impressive bluffs. Landscape features range from wetlands and lowlands to plateaux, hills and uplands with elevations up to 411 metres. Underlain by sedimentary rocks such as limestone, sandstone and dolomite, the land shows evidence of past glaciations in landforms such as eskers, moraines and raised beaches.

At 76° north latitude, Bathurst Island is located in one of the coldest and driest regions in the world with temperatures averaging minus 32° C in January and only 5° in July. Annual precipitation is less than 130 mm. This severe climate limits soil development and vegetation is sparse. Patches of purple saxifrage, dwarf willow, sedges, grasses, lichens and mosses provide a precious food source for wildlife.

In spite of the high latitude and harsh conditions, there is a surprising number of species of wildlife inhabiting the area. Qausuittuq National Park protects key wildlife habitat including travel routes, calving grounds and wintering grounds for Peary caribou. The park is also a significant area for muskoxen. Other species adapted to this environment include polar bear, arctic wolf, arctic fox, and numerous birds such as snowy owl, snow goose, king eider, jaegers, gulls and shorebirds. Some of the marine species in the area include ringed seal, bearded seal, walrus, bowhead whale, beluga whale and narwhal.

Archaeological studies have found evidence of human use on Bathurst Island dating back 4500 years. Pre-Dorset, Dorset and Thule Inuit cultures were present in the area, although most sites are to the south or the east of the national park. Within Qausuittuq National Park, there are several archaeological sites relating to the Late Dorset culture (ca. 500 to 1200 AD) along Bracebridge Inlet.

Beginning in 1819, a series of British naval expeditions in search of the Northwest Passage explored in the Bathurst Island area. Later expeditions came searching for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, Sir John Franklin's ships that disappeared after 1845. Between 1850 and 1854, naval search parties put up cairns and supply depots on the islands north of Bathurst Island, within Qausuittuq National Park, including an impressive cairn on Helena Island.

Exploration in the Bathurst Island area continued into the twentieth century. Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier led three expeditions between 1906 and 1911 with the goal of establishing Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic islands. Other Canadian government expeditions followed, including RCMP patrols, RCAF magnetic pole research flights; photography over-flights; as well as surveys of wildlife, geology and hydrology. The 1960s and 1970s brought exploratory drilling for oil and gas and minerals to the area. Various research projects continue to this day, many supported by the Polar Continental Shelf Program.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Quttinirpaaq National Park of Canada
Headquarters: Iqaluit, Nunavut

Most remote, fragile, rugged and northerly lands in North America.

During the brief arctic summer on Quttinirpaaq, the sun remains high in the sky bathing the land in continuous daylight. There is no darkness to mark the passage of time telling you when to sleep and when to wake. There are no trees to remind you of lands further south. The scale of the land is both immense and intimate at the same time. Intricate patterns of rock, frost-cracked ground, willows and wildflowers at your feet extend out from where you stand into endless vistas in the clear, dry air. Glaciers on a mountainside 15 km away seem to be details in a landscape within reach.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Sirmilik National Park of Canada
Headquarters: Pond Inlet, Nunavut

Northern Baffin Island landscape containing Eastern Arctic Lowlands and Lancaster Sound.

As part of Canada's national parks system, Sirmilik National Park represents the Northern Eastern Arctic Lowlands Natural Region and portions of the Lancaster Sound Marine Region. The park will comprise three separate land areas. Bylot Island is a spectacular area of rugged mountains, icefields and glaciers, coastal lowlands and seabird colonies. Oliver Sound is a long, narrow fiord with excellent opportunities for boating, hiking and camping. Borden Peninsula is an extensive plateau dissected by broad river valleys. The park features landforms and superb wilderness hiking and camping, and a major seabird colony in the vicinity of Baillarge Bay.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Ukkusiksalik National Park of Canada
Headquarters: Repulse Bay, Nunavut

The place where there is stone that can be used to carve pots and oil lamps.

Ukkusiksalik National Park is located just west of the community of Repulse Bay and south of the Arctic Circle. The park surrounds Wager Bay, a 100 km long saltwater inlet on the northwest coast of Hudson Bay in Nunavut. Declared a national park on August 23, 2003, Ukkusiksalik became Canada's 41st national park. Named after the soapstone found within its boundaries, the park includes 20 500 km2 of eskers, mudflats, cliffs, rolling tundra banks and unique coastal regions. While Inuit do hunt in the region, the parkland is uninhabited. Inuit had lived in the area from 1000 AD through to the 1960s, and the Hudson's Bay Company had a trading post there from 1925-1947. Over 500 archaeological sites have been identified in the park, including such features as fox traps, tent rings, and food caches. The park protects a representative sample of the Central Tundra Natural Region.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Wreck of HMS Breadalbane National Historic Site of Canada
Beechey Island, Nunavut

Wreck of HMS Breadalbane National Historic Site of Canada is located off Beechey Island, Nunavut well above the Arctic Circle and is the most northerly known shipwreck. The site is comprised of the wreckage of HMS Breadalbane, a 19th-century, 500-ton sailing ship, including the hull, fragments of the vessel and the debris field caused by the sinking of the ship. The shipwreck is also a component of Beechey Island Sites National Historic Site of Canada.

HMS Breadalbane was built in 1843 in a shipyard on the Clyde River in Scotland. It spent the first few years of its existence as a merchant vessel, travelling as far as Calcutta. After the disappearance of Sir John Franklin's expedition, which was searching for the Northwest Passage, HMS Breadalbane was pressed into service by the British Admiralty to supply the vessels which were exploring the Arctic waters in search of Franklin and his crew. It left the Thames River in 1853, accompanying HMS Phoenix, and arrived at the rallying point for the search parties at Beechey Island later that year. However, the Arctic weather did not co-operate and HMS Breadalbane soon found itself surrounded by slow-moving yet implacable pack ice. The ship was quickly emptied of as many supplies and personal effects as possible. On the night of August 20-21, the ice finally broke through the hull, sinking HMS Breadalbane to the floor of Barrow Strait.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Wrecks of Erebus and Terror National Historic Site of Canada
Erebus Bay, King William Island, Nunavut

In 1845, Captain Sir John Franklin sailed from the United Kingdom in search of a Northwest Passage through what is now the Canadian Arctic. He and his crew travelled aboard the 370-tonne HMS Erebus and the 340-tonne HMS Terror, each of which had been refitted and strengthened for polar service and contained equipment to conduct zoological, botanical, magnetic and geologic surveys. Originally designed as sail-powered naval mortar bomb vessels, these wooden ships were of extremely strong construction. For Franklin's expedition the vessels were fitted with iron sheathing at the bow and equipped with a 20-horsepower steam engine and a single screw propeller, capable of moving the ships at 4 knots.

Other than a chance encounter with a whaling vessel in 1845, Franklin, his crew and his vessels were never seen again. There were several unsuccessful search and rescue operations; however, no news of the crew was discovered until fifteen years later. In 1859, Captain William Hobson of HMS Fox found a message in a cairn on King William Island. The message gave the locations of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and stated that in 1846 the crews were preparing to over-winter while the ships were lodged in pack ice. There was also a message penned by the captain of Terror and dated 17 months later. He recorded that the ships had been stuck in the ice for a year-and-a-half, and that Franklin and several crew members had perished. The survivors were making for Back's Fish River, to the southeast, but were never heard from again. Captain Sir John Franklin was designated as a person of national historic significance in 1945 because of his explorations in the Canadian Arctic during the 19th century.

In 2014, the remains of the HMS Erebus were found in the eastern stretches of the Queen Maud Gulf off the western coast of the Adelaide Peninsula. In 2016, Arctic Research Foundation discovered the remains of the HMS Terror in Terror Bay on the southwest side of King William Island, Nunavut.

Last Updated: 19-Feb-2018