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The Land

The Yukon North Slope - A Natural Gem


As the Yukon North Slope is inaccessible to most, the area remains pristine and unspoiled. Shaped by the ancient forces of wind, water and ice, the Yukon North Slope boasts an array of landscapes and geological wonders. The area, which is part of the polar world, is one of the most severe environments for people and wildlife - and, consequently, one of the most interesting.

The unglaciated Yukon North Slope, which is the area west of the Firth River, is believed to be one of the few surviving patches of Beringia.

Today, the most potent reminder of the Ice Age, and Beringia itself, is the presence of permafrost in parts of the Yukon North Slope. The permafrost is an important characteristic of the area, and extends far out into the Beaufort Sea Bed. Every year, remnants of the Ice Age return to the Yukon North Slope in the form of the shore and pack ice on the Beaufort Sea.

The Yukon North Slope of today is home to a number of mountain ranges, including the British, Barn and northern Richardson Mountains. The many different elevations of the area are reflected in vegetation patterns, and provide important migration routes for animals.

The Yukon North Slope derives its name from the gently sloping coastal plain. The passage of the glaciers on the eastern portions of the plain makes these areas quite different from the western portions. Again, these unique coastal plains offer a variety of habitats for all kinds of wildlife, adding to the undeniable beauty of the region.

The land itself is not marred by roads and towns. The only real indicators of human presence are several drilling sites and isolated North Warning System radar sites, as well as seasonal hunting camps occupied by the Inuvialuit people.

Beringia

Beringia is an enormous tract of land that is now most of the Yukon and Alaska.

Together with beds of the Bering Sea and Chuckchi Sea, and the easternmost peninsula of Siberia. Beringia was one of three regions which served as refuge for life at the time of the final glaciation of North America, know as the Wisconsinan Age.

Permafrost

Permafrost is permanently frozen water, soil and rock that descends deep into the ground.

The top later of the permafrost soil is known as the active layer, which freezes and thaws each year. The deeper permafrost layer remains frozen year round. In the case of the Yukon North Slope, the active layer melts during the short northern summer and provides water and nutrients for wildlife. In some places, the active layer is only a few centimeters thick. Elsewhere, especially along the braided rivers and streams, the active layer is thicker, enabling diverse wildlife to thrive.