Where the Midnight Sun Burns Bright

Town of Inuvik, NT
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

Located in the Land of the Midnight Sun, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, the town of Inuvik draws visitors from around the world who are fascinated by its rugged beauty and many unique charms. For those seeking a truly unique adventure, the town and surrounding areas have plenty to offer during both winter and summer seasons.
The Northwest Territories occupies almost thirteen percent of the nation’s entire landmass, some 519,743 square miles, and boasts some of the most remarkable landscapes on earth. The varied scenery in and around the Town of Inuvik is a huge attraction for visitors young and old, families with children and the outdoor-minded.

Permafrost – ground which stays frozen year-round – is one of the unique features of the Northwest Territories and requires structures to be constructed above ground. And although the uppermost or ‘active layer’ may thaw in summer months, the ground below remains hard and cold. Trees in the boreal forest, such as tamarack, jack pine, birch, black spruces and white spruce are home to countless wildlife.

It is not unusual to see grizzly bears feeding on plants and fish. The area is full of lakes, rivers, unique plants and animals such as musk ox, caribou, arctic hares, wolves, arctic fox, lemmings and over two hundred species of birds such as ravens, rock ptarmigan and the snowy owl, which is well-suited to cold temperatures.

Rich in culture, the population is comprised of Indigenous peoples such as Inuit, Métis and Dene Indians, along with non-indigenous persons. Ongoing development in Inuvik is often the result of partnerships between companies and Aboriginal neighbours.

The area is a dream for artists and photographers who come to capture nature in all its splendour. No matter what time of year tourists choose to arrive, there is always much to see and do.

In the winter, tour operators such as Arctic Adventure Tours or Tundra North Tours can arrange dog sledding and other packages. Some, such as the reindeer experience and film service have day tours lasting several hours, while other including the ice road adventure package run between three and five days.

One of the most remarkable is Tundra’s eight-day package that combines everything one would want on a once-in-a-lifetime tour, including travelling in one’s own snowmobile from the starting point at the capital of Yellowknife.

The tour is guided by Inuvialuit reindeer herders, and experiences along the way include seeing herds of reindeer, driving on an ice road, being part of dog sledding and more.

And then, of course, there is the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. One of the best places to see these remarkable natural light shows is in the Northwest Territories.

There is much to see and do in and around the town of Inuvik in the summer months as well. This year marks Canada’s 150th anniversary, and to celebrate, admission is free to the nation’s national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas, including those in the Northwest Territories.

People can visit Tuktut Nogait National Park which has the distinction of being Canada’s least-visited national park, though one of the most strikingly beautiful, or Ivvavik National Park which was the first Canadian national park born out of an aboriginal land claim agreement.

Tuktut Nogait National Park 170 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, and was designated a park in 1998 to protect the estimated 20,000 Bluenose-West caribou in their calving grounds. “Tuktut nogait,” in the Inuvialuit language of Inuvialuktun, is the name of the caribou. Ivvavik’s name refers to ‘a place for giving birth’ in Inuvialuktun.

At both parks, opportunities for exploration are practically limitless, and there is plenty of daylight in which to explore. Being this far north means that the area sees fifty-six days of continuous sunlight annually in one of the most spectacular natural settings on earth.

Visitors arrive at the Imniarvik Fly-in Base Camp and from there can take river trips down the Firth River, go on hiking adventures through spectacular open terrain, fly over the Mackenzie Delta aboard a Twin Otter bush plane, hear tales told by their Inuvialuit hosts or hike with Parks Canada guides all under the midnight sun.

Boaters can explore numerous rivers, streams and lakes along the Mackenzie Delta, which originates in the Northwest Territories Great Slave Lake and flows into the Arctic Ocean.

This is a hiker’s paradise. It is possible to explore for many miles along the Dempster Highway, or the spectacular Trans Canada Trail, also known as The Great Trail.

Visitors can seize the opportunity to hike, bike and paddle canoes in the summer along the 21,500-kilometre length of the trail. And for anglers in the family, there are many fishing opportunities to hook Arctic grayling, pike, whitefish and inconnu, a remarkable fish found in the Northwest Territories, northern British Columbia and the Yukon which grows up to a length of one and a half metres.

While other golf courses may be better-known, none can compare to Inuvik’s Roads End Golf Course which was created in 2009 from a former gravel pit. This golf course – the most northern North America – boasts a 250-yard driving range and has played host to celebrity golf tournaments. Instead of the typical markers used in golf courses, Roads End pays homage to its natural wildlife with wooden markers depicting caribou, polar bear, foxes and other animals every fifty yards.

Twenty-four hours a day of sunlight means that golfers can tee off at midnight. However, one of the most unusual aspects of the course is that ravens that will occasionally mistake white golf balls for eggs, swoop down and take them.

Currently, construction is underway on an all-weather link between Inuvik and the Inuvialuit hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk to replace the existing 184-kilometre ice road that connects the two communities. The roots of the project go back to the 1960s with the beginnings of oil and gas exploration in the Beaufort Sea and Mackenzie Delta.

The project has been the subject of numerous reviews, reports and discussions by the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Government of Canada, the Town of Inuvik, the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk and others. Work began on upgrading the access road to Source 177 to become the first nineteen kilometres of the Inuvik Tuk Highway in the winter and spring of 2013.

The project is making excellent progress as thirty people, including fifteen Northwest Territories residents, work on the road. All culverts have been installed, along with six bridges and more.

The town of Inuvik is a welcoming community of approximately 3,400 with much to offer its guests. It maintains its native heritage while embracing a present-day stable and diversified economy, and the town looks forward to greeting visitors and a range of business interests in the years to come.



To Make a Northwest Passage

Read Our Current Issue


From Here to There

April 2024

Peace of Mind

March 2024

Making the Smart Grid Smarter

February 2024

More Past Editions

Featured Articles