Northwest Canada region
WIf you’re looking for wilderness, adventure and solitude, meaning you don’t want to see another human being for weeks at a time, you’re headed to Canada’s Northwest Territories, NT for short: a vast arctic-sub-region full of mountains, valleys. , rivers, lakes, tundra and forests. Black spruce to the horizon.
It is a land of animals, millions of caribou, bison, bighorn sheep, bears, moose and wolves. Canada’s largest is protected in large national parks such as Wood Buffalo National Park.
Others are so far from civilization that, according to park management, no one will visit them in a few years: like Tuktut Nogait National Park with its caribou nursery in Canada’s Galle Quarter — a zone near the Northwest Passage — or Aulavik National Park, home to shaggy musk oxen on Banks Island.
Uninhabited land as far as the eye could see. In fact, the Northwest Territories has just 46,000 inhabitants in an area nearly four times the size of Germany. Half of them live on the shores of Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife, the provincial capital, while also a remote town. It is the starting point for paddling, hiking and camping.
When the lake freezes a meter thick in winter, it becomes a snow highway for four months for cross-country skiers, skaters, snowmobilers – and ice hockey players. They fly from Calgary: There is daily direct service between Calgary and Yellowknife from the Canadian North.
The Canadian side is also within easy reach for visitors from Germany: Condor will fly non-stop from Frankfurt to Edmonton starting in May 2023, and Air Canada will continue its new connection from Edmonton to Yellowknife.
With a seaplane from sea to sea
Fly in, fly out. In the wilderness, people like to call Bush Pilot. Because there are only a few highways and no rails, but many gravel roads – and often impassable. Hence locals and visitors use bush planes and seaplanes to travel to remote areas. Almost every city has an airport. The famous Nahanni National Park with Virginia Falls can only be reached by plane, preferably from Fort Simpson.
Hundreds of seaplanes from around the world descend on the shores of Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife for the Midnight Sun Fly (July 6-9 this year). Then they continue to fly merrily from lake to lake, towards the northern lights: this is where the colorful ones dance. Aurora Borealis Over 200 nights per year.
A polar bear as a license plate
People all over the world use rectangular, boring license plates on their cars. But there’s another way: the Northwest Territories has had a cold exterior of a polar bear since the 1970s. This is possible because Canada prescribes sizes, but nowhere says it has to be a rectangle.
Since then, the blue and white license plate has been a coveted souvenir. There are always new special editions. This does not require the car to be registered (returning the unused number plate is recommended, but not required). Nobody does. Souvenir tokens are available exclusively from Northwest Territories Tourism (€17, often sold out). Why, collectors ask themselves, does the rest of the world stick with boring rectangles?
North America’s largest rough diamond
It was a banger! North America’s largest rough diamond to date was discovered in the Northwest Territories in 2018. The yellow gem is almost the size of a hen’s egg. It measures approximately 3 centimeters by 5.5 centimeters and weighs 552.74 carats. He comes from the Diavik diamond mine in the north. Canada’s first diamonds weren’t discovered until the 1990s. In 2024, the production mine will be expanded.
This makes the Northwest Territories the third largest producer of diamonds in the world. The previous record stone was also found there, compared to the Foxfire diamond weighing 187.7 carats. It was cut into a pair of earrings, polished and auctioned at Christie’s. A private buyer paid US$1.5 million for it.
Great Bear Lake fishing adventure
Really big fish are sure to be caught here. The photo shows a lake trout weighing about 25 pounds, three times the size of those in German waters. One bait, one trawler and one week’s worth of fish fillets are loaded on board. In the north of the Northwest Territories, Great Bear Lake offers some of the best fishing in the world for record-breaking lake trout.
The lake is 320 kilometers long, 175 kilometers wide and has a maximum depth of 450 meters. Its crystal clear waters teem with fish. 80-pounders are also not uncommon. The lake also benefits the impatient: anglers can expect to pull several large lake fish out of the water in no time. Because they bite well. There are also large pike and tasty grayling.
For the unsatisfied: you can fish day and night in the middle of summer. If these fish are still small for you, you can fly to the Wood River in the neighboring territory of Nunavut: it is full of arctic char, people fish from boats and spend the night in tents on the shore. In the Northwest Territories, the world’s largest char was taken from a lake—a 100-pound specimen. And locals like to say that the monster fish here are even bigger.
“Beasley is a sad but necessary compromise”
The phrase comes from biologist and bear expert Larissa DeSantis. In the Northwest Territories, the first hybrid between a female polar bear and a grizzly was shot in the wild in 2006. Since then, other white hybrids have been confirmed in the tundra. Also known as capuchin bears, these bislies are capable of breeding, unlike donkeys, for example.
A freak of nature? According to a bear study, one instinct is more. Due to climate change, grizzlies are increasingly migrating to the ice-free north, mating with female polar bears there. Their heat-resistant offspring have a better chance of survival than pure polar bears. By the way, the first Bisli is housed in the town hall of Ulugactok.
The quirky, the epic, the conventional: here you’ll find more of our regional geography series.
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