Ovayok (Mount Pelly) Park is approximately 15 kilometres east of the community of Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island. The central feature of the park is the mountain called Ovayok. At over 200m high, it stands out from the surrounding landscape. For generations, Ovayok has been an important landmark and source of legend for the Inuit and their predecessors.
Since ancient times, Ovayok has been a key stopping place during the seasonal movements of the people. As they moved inland in the summer and back to the sea ice in the fall, they stopped here because of the plentiful fish and waterfowl in nearby lakes. It was here that they built stone caches to store winter cloths, equipment and food to be picked up on their return journey. Today, there are five trails and over 20 km awaiting you!
There are five trails making up over 20 km of hiking. A Guidebook, available at the Arctic Coast Visitor Centre, and through Nunavut Parks, locates the trails, camping areas, and interpretive panels and posts. Follow the coded trail markers to navigate your way through the park.
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The “Cycle of the Seasons” trail is an easy hike over uneven but level terrain. It leads to an ancient dwelling place where you can explore the culture and history of the Inuit. Ovayok provides bountiful examples of the tools of survival. It is also a spiritual place, symbolic of the eternal cycle of seasonal movement, and of the adaptability and ingenuity of Inuit who lived and prospered where others could not survive. Inuit survived within the Arctic environment by moving with the seasons. It is believed that seasonal movements brought people to Ovayok. It is rich in fish and waterfowl in the late spring and early summer, so it was an ideal stopping place for the transition from winter seal-hunting camps to a mid-summer spent on the land hunting caribou. There are 27 tent rings, caches, and waiting places in this area and along this trail.
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The ‘Ovayok Trail’ leads from the trailhead up to the summit of the mountain. There are wonderful views in all directions from the summit. The first part of the trail is moderately steep and most of the trail is over uneven footing. This trail interprets the legend of Ovayok. A long time before people died, there was a family of giants travelling across Gelinik (Victoria Island). Because they were giants they could wade through even large lakes. They had originally come from the sea to the north where they had eaten whales, walrus and seals. When they travelled overland they were unable to find food because they were not used to eating small animals like caribou. Eventually they became weak from hunger and collapsed. The first to collapse was the woman called Amatok (Amaaqtuq). She was followed by the boy called Inuuhutuq and then by the man named Ovayok. All three of them died and turned into mountains.
The second part of the legend has a powerful connection with an archaeological feature found during a 1996 survey. There were other Inuit who lived near where the giants had died. They too were desperate with hunger and so they killed and ate each other. Nearby, another group of starving Inuit were able to bring down a loon with a bow and arrow. They had to cut it up in small pieces so that everyone could have a piece, but it was enough and all were able so survive. In 1996, a small cache of loon bones was found at Ovayok. There has been nothing like this found before.
The interpretive trail will show you the Giant’s Ribs, and the Giant’s head – both visible from points along the trail. As well, at the summit, you will find a survey monument embedded into the rock that at the highest point that is a monument to Inuit who served in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Regiment. The plaque was dedicated in 1989 in the most northerly ceremony celebrating the Regiment’s 75th anniversary.
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The Tolemaqk Trail runs along the southwest side of Ovayok and loops around some small lakes before returning. Tolemaqk is the Inuit word for ‘ribs’, and the trail runs parallel to the ribs of the giant on the mountain above. The lower slopes are also a great place to key out arctic plants that grow in the active shallow permafrost layer, aided by soil washed down the mountain. Where there is vegetation, too, there are more animals who like to feed on the plants. Theses lower slopes of Ovayok are also very good places to view Umingmak, or musk oxen, which can weigh up to 400 kg (900 lbs) and stand up to 1.5 m (4-5 feet) tall. Umingmak means animal with skin like a beard, and is called musk oxen because of the musky odour produced by scent glands beneath the bull’s eyes. They roam in herds of 10-20 animals and feed on arctic grasses and related plants. They do not migrate, moving relatively short distances between summer and winter feeding grounds.
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The Neakoa Trail runs along the southwest side of Ovayok from the end of the Tolemaqk Trail to Neakoa and Kellogog (Long Lake) at the south end of the park. There is a camping area at Neakoa and fishing at Kellogok. Neakoa means ‘head’ and is so named because it is the head of Ovayok the giant. From this site south to Long Lake is a concentration of archaeological features, including many found by local elders that archaeologists had not seen before. Here you’ll find tent rings, hunting blinds, caches, and even a workshop separate from the tent area.
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The Neakoa Kengmetkopolo (Head to Heel) Trail follows the northeast side of the mountain. You can hike around the mountain in either direction, but the suggested direction is to hike shouth to Neakoa and then north along this trail.
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The park guidebook will provide additional information on the features you’ll see throughout the park, as well as information on arctic mammals, plants and birdlife. Southern Victoria Island has a wide variety of nesting habitats and consequently many different birds are seen around Cambridge Bay and Ovayok. This combined with the relative ease of travelling to Cambridge Bay has made it a destination for bird watchers worldwide.
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No roads lead to Nunavut; our Territory is accessible only by air and sea.
First Air and Canadian North both fly regular daily schedules to Iqaluit from four main southern airline ‘hubs’: Ottawa, Montreal, and Edmonton (via Yellowknife and Rankin Inlet). Flights from Winnipeg (via Churchill and Rankin Inlet) are also available.
Travellers from Rankin Inlet can fly Kivalliq Air to Cambridge Bay regularly. Journeys from Iqaluit require an overnight in Yellowknife before going on to Cambridge Bay. Kenn Borek Air operates flights within the Kitikmeot region. All flights originate in Cambridge Bay and service the communities of Kugluktuk, Taloyoak, Kugaaruk and Gjoa Haven. Please check with the airlines for schedule changes.
To get to the park, head east from Cambridge Bay. Ovayok is about a 30 minute drive or a 4 to 6 hour walk. There is a road to the park, but it is not maintained on a regular basis and it can sometimes be rough. On clear days, you should be able to see the mountain from town, and there are signs along the road that will help direct you to the park. Quite often, you will be able to see muskoxen on the way to the park as well as a diversity of migratory birds.
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Arctic Island Lodge
Email Arctic Island Lodge
Green Row Executive Suites
Email Green Row
Inns North Co-Op – Hotel Ikaluktutiak
Quonset – An Arctic Chalet
Contact the Ekaluktutiak Hunters and Trappers Organization for information on local outfitters, information on the local landscape, fishing and other related activities.
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The Arctic Coast Visitors Centre holds a number of activities and events throughout the summer season, and at other times during the year! Contact the centre for information on these, and to locate a guide to take you out to the park.
The Kitikmeot Heritage Society also maintains a library, museum and archives. The Society is located in the May Hakongak Community Library and Cultural Centre.
Nunavut Parks publishes a wide range of documents and reports on the work it does for each park – ranging from master plans, management plans, maps, brochures and other reports and publications. Many of these resources are available here.
Ovayok Territorial Park Editorial [.pdf – 884KB] – This four page editorial offers information on Ovayok Territorial Park.
Visitor information is available from the Visitor Information section of the website, and at relevant visitor and information centres throughout Nunavut. Contact Nunavut Parks for any additional information you may be looking for.