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Herschel Island

The Yukon's First Territorial Park

Herschel Island (Qikiqtaruk) Territorial Park was the first territorial park created by the Yukon Government. The island is the largest on the Yukon North Slope, and lies five kilometres offshore, almost directly opposite the Firth River.

For many years, Herschel Island was used by the Inuvialuit as a base for hunting, sealing and whaling. Today, it is still used seasonally by local people. The buildings first used by whalers at the turn of the 20th century still remain, and are a vivid reminder of important events in the recent history of the Western Arctic.

Many species of wildflowers can be found in sheltered areas and the warmer, well-drained valleys. The wetlands near Pauline Cove are important nesting grounds for shorebirds and waterfowl. Some mammals and birds, such as the arctic fox and the rough-legged hawk, are commonly seen. Others, such as the snowy owl, caribou, or wolf, are also seen from time to time.

Herschel Island Territorial Park has been virtually untouched by modern development. In fact, only a few navigation towers and basic tourist facilities have been built on the island to date. Ecotourists are the biggest users of the island, although its remote location is a considerable challenge for many.

One thing is certain: this is not a place for the faint of heart. Herschel Island is, quite literally, breathtaking.

Cameron Eckert