Mackenzie Delta prepares for Sunday reindeer crossing

The annual Swimming Point reindeer crossing takes place this Sunday, and organizers are expecting a large crowd. This year, the crossing will include sections for media, elders, crowds and vendors.

'It's one of a kind across the world,' say organizers; event expected to draw large crowd

The 3,000 strong reindeer herd outside of Inuvik makes its annual crossing of the Mackenzie River over the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk ice road in 2014. The herd's 2015 crossing is scheduled for Sunday morning. (Zoe Ho/Inuvialuit Communications Society)

The town of Inuvik, N.W.T., is celebrating eighty years of Canadian reindeer herding this week, with the marquee event — Sunday's Swimming Point reindeer crossing — expected to draw a crowd.

Over 3,000 reindeer make the trek each year, as a team of spring herders moves the reindeer from their wintering grounds at Jimmy Lake to their calving grounds on Richards Island.

To get there, they cross the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk ice road over the east arm of the Mackenzie River.

"The steam coming out from the herd was very beautiful," says Jirri Raska, one of the organizers, who saw his first crossing five years ago. "It was something I wasn't expecting to see."

This year, the crossing will include sections for media, elders, crowds and vendors, who will sell traditional foods like dry meat. Raska and other organizers will manage the human traffic so the crowds don't spook the animals.

Other events taking place throughout the week will mark how herders first brought reindeer from Russia, through Alaska, to the territory's Mackenzie Delta.

"It's one of a kind across the world," says Anne Kokko, who manages tourism in the Beaufort Delta for the territorial government, adding the government is hoping the event will be a tourism draw in the future.

The herd will cross Swimming Point  named because the reindeer used to cross in summer, when the ice has melted  Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Mountain Time.