Mallikjuaq means “big wave” in Inuktitut, an appropriate name for an island where rounded rock hills and low tundra valleys resemble giant rolling waves. But while Mallikjuaq Island Park derives its name from its topography, it gets its spirit from its human history. A 45-minute walk from the community of Cape Dorset, you’ll find excellent archaeological sites and stone structures here dating back some three millennia.
Typical of the Arctic, Dorset Island and Mallikjuaq Island seem barren yet sustain many forms of life. In July, when wildflowers spray the tundra with colour, birds return for the nesting season and Inuit travel to hunting camps along the shorelines. The trails of Mallikjuaq Island and Dorset Island will take you to these places. On Dorset, you will walk among low mountains to secluded waterfalls, crystalline lakes, or sit and watch the ice floes float slowly by.
History of the Area
A series of rocky islands and inlets – richly colourful in summer, cold and starkly beautiful in winter – rise out of Hudson Strait on the southwest coast of Baffin Island. Two large islands forming Mallikjuaq Park face each other across a narrow inlet. Dorset Island shelters the thriving Inuit community of Cape Dorset, its thousand inhabitants renowned for their art. Across the inlet lies Mallikjuaq Island, unchanged for centuries, its small rocky mountains and sweeping tundra slopes harbouring clues to lives long past found in a number of archaeological sites dating back as far as three millennia.
On Mallikjuaq, the landscape has been imprinted with the stories of northern peoples; Thule from 1000 years ago, Inuit from 100 years ago, and local residents from only a generation ago. A hike through the park will pass by the shapes of an old Thule house, a fox trap or an Inukshuk in the stone, or the bones of caribou or beluga whales hunted on and around the island – artifacts from each of these periods.
Settlement of Mallikjuaq
About 1,000 years ago, the people of the Thule culture lived on Mallikjuaq in low, stone houses framed with whalebone ribs and covered with hides and sod. The east arm of the island boasts the remains of nine winter houses with stone foundations still in place. Scattered throughout the area are the bones of whales, seals and walruses, a vital resource for the Thule. Archaeological evidence indicates that people from the Dorset culture – predecessor of the Thule – also inhabited the island. The point of access to these winter houses is the southeast shore of Mallikjuaq Island. From the beach, a walk on to the tundra toward a large pond leads to where the houses are.
The northwest coast of Mallikjuaq Island boasts a number of more contemporary, though no less interesting, stone features. Tent rings, fireplaces and meat caches here date back between 50 and 200 years. The ingenuity of arctic inhabitants is illustrated by the many self-supporting stone structures they created, such as kayak stands and inuksuit (rocks piled on top of each in the shape of humans). Other stone piles here represent fox traps and burial sites. Local Inuit elders ask visitors to respect their heritage by not disturbing the sites, which are currently protected under Nunavut’s legislation.
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.
First Air flies from Iqaluit to Cape Dorset every day. Please check with the airline for schedule changes.
In summer, local outfitters will take groups of up to three people on the 10-minute boat ride across the inlet for about $75. For an additional $75 or so, the guide will include a tour of the island’s historic sites, wildlife and plants, as well as tea and bannock. Guides may also supply local foods such as caribou, char or seal.
Hiking to Mallikjuaq is a 45-minute trek from Cape Dorset to the northwest tip of Dorset Island and across the tidal flats of Tellik Inlet. This hike – which is only possible at low tide – is recommended for agile walkers prepared for slippery, algae-covered rocks and innumerable puddles. Hikers should plan their trip in keeping with the tides. Check with the Mallikjuaq Park Visitor Centre in Cape Dorset to find out about the tides.
Make arrangements well in advance of a trip to Cape Dorset. Finding a guide on short notice is sometimes difficult – contact the Mallikjuaq Park Visitor’s Centre or Hamlet Office for information on guides, tides and walking trips to Mallikjuaq. If hiking without a guide, inform someone of travel plans, such as the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment or the hotel, if a guest.
Where To Stay
Tel: (867) 897-8863
Fax: (867) 897-8907
Huit Huit Beach House and Guest House
Email Huit Huit
Tel: 867- 897-8806
Polar Lodge Hotel
Aiviq Hunters and Trappers Association
Siqiniq Outfitting Inc./Siku Diving
Arts & Crafts
Visit the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative to see vibrant arts and crafts from the community, or watch local carving and printmaking at the gallery or throughout the hamlet.
Email West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative
Fax: 867- 897-8049
A main stop for cruise ship passengers en route to Mallikjuaq Territorial Park in Cape Dorset, the Mallikjuaq Park Visitor Centre displays artifacts portraying the history of Dorset and Mallikjuaq islands. Start here to arrange your trip to the Park.
Mallikjuaq Park Visitor 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.
Mallikjuaq Territorial Park Editorial – [.pdf – 916KB] This four page editorial offers information on Mallikjuaq 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.