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Tuktoyaktuk, NWT

Posted on July 28, 2022
The end of the Trans-Canada Trail

As the most northern place you can reach by road in Canada, this sleepy little town of 900 people is a mix of the modern and the old. The first thing I did upon arrival is head straight to the “Arctic Ocean” sign for a quick picture and then to find the camping spots. There are a limited number of spots by the water so I’m glad I arrived early.

Once again the miserable weather had followed me to the Arctic Ocean. I’ve had rain every day for six days now, so why should this one be any different, right? At least I had a camping spot right on the edge of the water. Every time the weather eased up, I went for a walk around the shoreline and took a peek around town.

There really isn’t anything to do or see here but people are extremely friendly and seem to like engaging the travelers to their town. The town has grown since the videos I’ve seen from previous travelers and although they have cell service you can see much of how they do things are in the old ways. The traditional Sod House would be a good example. It’s just a wood shed really but it’s covered in sod (the stuff your lawn is made up of), which is used for gatherings.

Many times on my trip around Canada, I have often been wondering why the native people of these lands choose certain spots to set up at and call home. So much of the territory further south is simply inhospitable, and far too dense with trees and shrubs to make for a good place to settle, but here…in this place…it’s clear why they settled here. Wide open space on the ocean, with just enough of a sheltered Harbour for fishing boats, and easy access to Caribou migrations. Also, the tundra is frozen year round but it’s just pliable enough to dig into to store their stocks (fish, seal, and of course whale). Once smoked, the food can be stored long-term underground. Now though, they have electricity and fridges so those old ways aren’t needed, but they are still used. 

All the houses, buildings, huts, etc are on stilts to avoid damaging the permafrost. 

This also one of the many “Dry” communities, so we’re allowed to bring in a small amount of alcohol for our personal use, but there is no alcohol sales in most of the NWT or Yukon. It is available in the large cities like Whitehorse, or at some small shops that are far from major town.

For the record, you are NOT allowed to swim in the ocean in Tuktoyaktuk. It’s a fishing ground and come on…show some respect to the community! They do have a spot where you can put your toes in the ocean if you really feel compelled. They established this spot just to appease the silly tourists who come here just to do that. Well since my camping spot was right on the water’s edge, I did go sit on the rocks of the shoreline and place my hands in the ocean.

One of the coolest features of the area are the Pingos, which are very distinct landmarks of the Tundra. There are about 1300 of them and they are basically mounds of tundra with an ice core that have been pushed up due to an old thaw and re-freeze cycle.

I only stayed the one night. The weather just wasn’t cooperating and the bugs were relentless. I really do hope to return one day. Ideally in September though. Less bugs.

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