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Kluane National Park in the Yukon

 

Photo: Fritz Mueller / ©Parks Canada / Kluane National Park and Reserve

It’s Canada’s 150th birthday this year, and the country is celebrating by giving everyone free entry to all of its national parks, historic sites, and marine conservation areas. Let’s have a closer look at one of these great natural spaces: Kluane National Park in the Yukon.
 

snow covered mountains in Kluane National Park

Photo: Fritz Mueller / ©Parks Canada / Kluane National Park and Reserve

Everything about Kluane National Park is big! It’s a big space — 22,000 square km — made even bigger by being connected to three other parks, British Columbia’s Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park, along with the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Glacier Bay National Park, both in Alaska. Together they make up nearly 100,000 km of wilderness! Kluane (say “kloo-wah-nee”) is also home to Canada’s highest mountain — Mount Logan!

Where is it?

the mountains of Kluane National Park bathed in orange during autumn

Photo: Fritz Mueller / ©Parks Canada / Kluane National Park and Reserve

It’s as far west as you can get in Canada! Kluane National Park is on the very southwestern edge of the Yukon, at the border with Alaska in the United States and the northwestern border of British Columbia.
 

a helicopter that takes you to Kluane National Park

Photo: Fritz Mueller / ©Parks Canada / Kluane National Park and Reserve

To get there you have to drive 160 km west from Whitehorse, or fly in on a small plane. There are some small towns on the edge of the park, including the awesomely named Destruction Bay. It got its name because the wind kept knocking construction tents over, but the town managed to put up a few sturdier buildings!

Why go?

family cross country skiing across the snow

Photo: Fritz Mueller / ©Parks Canada / Kluane National Park and Reserve

Kluane, and the other parks around it, are world famous! The area is an official United Nations World Heritage Site because of its spectacular glaciers and ice fields. More than 80 per cent of the park is ice!


> Like glaciers? Check out Quttinirpaaq National Park in Nunavut!


people hiking on the green mountainside during the summer months

Photo: Fritz Mueller / ©Parks Canada / Kluane National Park and Reserve

Despite the chill, the mountain ranges and nearby sea air make for all sorts of different environments. There are forests, alpine tundra, rivers and lakes. People come to hike, climb mountains, go rafting, or just to look at all the views and wildlife.
 

a porcupine up in a tree

Photo: Fritz Mueller / ©Parks Canada / Kluane National Park and Reserve

The park is home to a huge number of animals, including grizzly and black bears, caribou, moose, mountain goats, sheep, porcupines, beaver, wolves, coyotes and wolverines. Look up and you might see eagles, bluebirds, ptarmigans or owls.

What to look for!

grizzly bear in the grass

Photo by Geoff Fandrick licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Kluane is home to one of the most diverse and concentrated grizzly bear populations in the world. The grizzlies eat mostly berries and plants, but definitely enjoy fish and animals when they can get them. Bears should only be viewed from a distance, so hikers are told to make lots of noise and carry bear spray when they’re in the park. Fortunately there are lots of less scary animals to look at.
 

close up of a Dall sheep

Photo by G MacRae licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

The park is one of the few places in the world to see Dall sheep, a kind of bighorn sheep that lives in very steep places. Kluane National Park also has amazing mountain ranges — they’re the highest in Canada and still growing! The whole landscape of the park is constantly changing, with the glaciers causing rivers to surge and releasing icebergs into the lakes in the spring and summer.

The Aurora Borealis over Whitehorse

Northern Lights over Schwatka Lake near Whitehorse. Photo by Pete Lytwynluk licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

In the fall and winter, the Northern Lights may be seen in the night sky over the park. These bright bands of electromagnetic particles in the atmosphere make for a spectacular sight, usually appearing as green, yellow or purple. There’s lots of time to look for them too — in the winter, the area only gets about 4 hours of daylight!
 

Family cooking at an outdoor barbecue in the winter

Photo: Fritz Mueller / ©Parks Canada / Kluane National Park and Reserve