The Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary includes an expanse of 52,000 square kilometres, straddling the border of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Located approximately halfway between Baker Lake and Yellowknife, the sanctuary was established in 1927 to conserve muskox populations.
In the past, the sanctuary drew Inuit inland from such distant areas as Bathurst Inlet, the Back River/Chantrey Inlet, and the Kazan River. All sought the valuable driftwood brought to the shores of Beverly Lake by the Thelon and Dubawnt Rivers. Travelling by dogteam during the winter, these trips likely involved many chance meetings of Inuit from distant and diverse areas of Nunavut in Akiliniq, a trade centre for the central Arctic and provided opportunities to exchange material goods and information.
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.
Kivalliq Air operates flights from Cambridge Bay to Baker Lake (en route to Rankin Inlet), Monday through Friday. Calm Air flies from Winnipeg to Rankin Inlet and then on to Baker Lake daily except Sundays. Please check with the airline for schedule changes.
Due to the very remote nature of the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary, it is still only accessible to those adventurous enough to travel the Thelon River by canoe. The attraction to canoeists is not the technical difficulty of the river, as there is relatively little challenging white water, but the abundant wildlife. Muskoxen are numerous. Caribou may be seen swimming across the river on their annual migration. Other wildlife such as moose, wolves, grizzly bears and waterfowl are also there in plenty.
Access to the Thelon by bush plane can be done from Baker Lake, Fort Smith or Yellowknife. It is an expensive proposition, especially paddling only the sanctuary portion of the river. If your itinerary extends to Baker Lake, scheduled flights are available. Still, the many large lakes along the way can be dangerous due to commonly windy conditions on the barrens. Calculate a few extra days in your trip to allow for being wind-bound.
Visitors should inform the local RCMP of their travel plans. For those uncertain about their ability to pull off such a trip independently, there are licensed outfitters who will arrange everything, including guided trips. Check with Nunavut Parks for information on regulations in the Sanctuary.
There are three hotels in Baker Lake, and the Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Association can help you arrange guiding and camping supplies. You can also camp at Inuujaarvik Territorial Park, located between the airport and the town on the shores of Baker Lake. The campground is equipped with picnic tables, tent platforms, firepit, a cookhouse/shelter and washrooms.
Iglu Hotel – Inns North
Baker Lake Lodge
Hunters and Trappers Association
Edwin Evo Outfitting & Naturalist Tours
Qataq Sports Hunts
Outfitters offering Thelon Heritage River/Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary Trips
Canoe Arctic Inc. has been operating on the Thelon Heritage River and in the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary since the summer of 1975.
The Jessie Oonark Centre and other local galleries showcase the art of Baker Lake’s talented local residents. You will see Baker Lake’s famous carvings of black soapstone, stitched and appliquéd wall hangings, jewellery, and silk-screened prints and clothing.
Jessie Oonark Centre
Baker Lake Fine Arts & Crafts Shop
Ookpiktuyuk Art Gallery
Email Ookpiktuyuk Art Gallery
Qamanittuaq Fine Arts Gallery and Studio
Email Qamanittuaq Fine Arts Gallery and Studio
The Vera Akumalik Visitor’s Centre is located in the restored Hudson’s Bay Store/Trading Post in Baker Lake. The centre features the original store and storehouse areas, counter and shelves, and the fur loft. It provides interpretation of the Caribou Inuit people and the community of Baker Lake; and the cultural and natural heritage of the Kazan and Thelon Rivers. Staff at the centre, which operates from July to September, will also provide you with information on local outfitters, businesses and other local attractions.
Vera Akumalik Visitor’s Centre
A diorama of the Fall Caribou Crossing national historic site is located in the Inuit Heritage Centre, as is a collection of photographs from the Fifth Thule Expedition.
Inuit Heritage Centre
To reach either the Vera Akumalik Visitor’s Centre or the Inuit Heritage Centre, email the Hamlet of Baker Lake.
Thelon Heritage River and Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary Editorial [.pdf – 882KB] – This four page editorial offers information on the Thelon Heritage River and the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary.
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.