Like a long green ribbon the Soper River winds its way from the highlands of the Meta Incognita Peninsula to Soper Lake and the salt waters of Pleasant Inlet along the south coast of Baffin Island. Meta Incognita – The Unknown Place – was the forbidding name given to this land by Queen Elizabeth I in 1576, after explorer Martin Frobisher described it to her. By 1931, when Canadian biologist and Arctic explorer, J. Dewey Soper, travelled up the river, it was still largely unknown to the outside world.
The Inuit who live here call the Soper River Kuujuaq, “the Big River”. Although it is navigable for only 50 kilometres by canoe, the Soper is a major river by Baffin Island standards. It is designated a Canadian Heritage River, one of a select group of Canada’s most outstanding rivers. The land the river flows through is protected as Katannilik Territorial Park meaning “Place of Waterfalls”, for the water that tumbles down the steep valley walls.
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.
There are several ways to get to Katannilik Park from Iqaluit. The simplest is to take a scheduled flight with First Air or Kenn Borek Air to Kimmirut, which both fly regular schedules during the week throughout the year. It is always best to confirm these flight schedules before arrival. Those travelling in larger groups may want to consider chartering a plane to Kimmirut.
The park is only minutes from Kimmirut, although it is a good three hours hike into the Soper Valley around Soper Lake. Boats can also be hired in Kimmirut to cross Soper Lake to Soper Falls at the south end of the valley. Contact the Katannilik Park Visitor Centre in Kimmirut to co-ordinate these services.
The most popular method of getting into Katannilik and the Soper River is by air charter to one of two designated landing strips in the Soper Valley. Hikers should charter to the strip at Mount Joy. Water based charters can land at Mount Joy, or the strip at the Livingstone River, which is on the west side of the river. The cost varies from year to year but should be around $1,000. Contact the Katannilik Park Visitor Centre in Kimmirut or the Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre in Iqaluit to find out about charters to these strips.
There is one hotel in Kimmirut, and the Kimmirut Hunters and Trappers Association can help you arrange accommodations at a local ‘home-stay’. A new campsite at the edge of the community comes equipped with picnic tables, firepit and washrooms.
Kimik Hotel – Inns North
Mayukalik Hunters and Trappers Association
Discovery Lodge Hotel
Email Discovery Lodge
Email Navigator Inn
Rannva’s Bed and Breakfast
Crazy Caribou Bed and Breakfast
Beaches Bed and Breakfast
Accommodations by the Sea Bed and Breakfast
Alt Tel: 867-979-6074
Outfitted trips from Iqaluit offer package tours of Katannilik Park that fly visitors into the park, by boat across Frobisher Bay from Iqaluit to the Itijjagiaq trailhead for hiking southwest to the Soper River Valley and eventually Kimmirut. Local outfitters will also transport visitors to Kimmirut by dogsled in winter and spring. Outfitted trips should be booked well in advance – it’s often not possible to book outfitters by the day. Contact the Katannilik Park Visitor Centre in Kimmirut or the Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre in Iqaluit to find out what might be available.
Mayukalik Hunters and Trappers Association (Kimmirut)
Outfitters offering Soper River Trips
Toll Free: 1-888-781-0411
Visit the Soper House Gallery in Kimmirut to see vibrant arts and crafts from the community, or watch local carving and printmaking at the gallery or throughout the hamlet.
Soper House Gallery
The Katannilik Park Visitor’s Centre is located in the restored Dewey Soper House and provides interpretation for Katannilik Territorial Park, the Soper Heritage River, and the history of whaling in and around Kimmirut. Staff at the centre will also register you in and out of the park (mandatory), and set up home-stays.
Katannilik Park Visitors Centre
Email Katannilik Park Staff
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.
Soper Heritage River Documents
Soper Heritage River Nomination Document – [.pdf – 2.6MB]
Soper Heritage River Management Plan – [.pdf – 2 MB]
Soper Heritage River Management Plan: 10 Year Review – [.pdf – 4.5MB]
Soper Heritage River Editorial – [.pdf – 926KB] This four page editorial offers information on Soper Heritage River.
The Registration Package is available for download for you to review in advance of your trip. You will be required to complete the registration process in person with Nunavut Parks Staff upon your arrival.
Safe and Sustainable Travel – [.pdf – 800KB]
Katannilik Territorial Park Registration Package – [.pdf – 3MB] The Registration Package is available for download for you to review in advance of your trip. You will be required to complete the registration process in person with Nunavut Parks Staff upon your arrival.
Nunavut Territorial Park Firearms Permit Application – [.pdf – 1MB]
Polar Bear Safety in Nunavut Territorial Parks – [.pdf – 900KB]
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.
In addition, Nunavut Parks & Special Places has published a Soper River Guidebook, and an Itiijagiaq Trail Hiking Guidebook, available for sale at the Unikaarvik Visitor Centre (Iqaluit) and Katannilik Park Visitor Centre (Kimmirut).
Blackadar, R.G. 1967. Geological Reconnaissance, Southern Baffin Island, District of Franklin, Paper no. 66-47. Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa.
Kemp, William B. 1984. “Baffinland Eskimo.” In Damas, David (ed.), Handbook of North American Indians. Smithsonian Institute, Washington. pp. 463-475.
Maxwell, Moreau S. 1985. Prehistory of the Eastern Arctic. Academic Press Inc., New York.
Porsild, A.E. 1964. Illustrated Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. National Museum of Canada Bulletin No. 146. Queen’s Printer, Ottawa. pp. 218.
Soper, J. Dewey. 1933. “Solitudes of the Arctic.” Canadian Geographical Journal, Vol 7, No 3, pp. 102-115.
Soper, J. Dewey. 1936. “The Lake Harbour Region, Baffin Island.” Geographical Review, Vol 26.
Header photo © Curtis Jones, 2015