Kluane National Park – icy wilderness with huge glacier fields
In the southwest of the Yukon Territory since 1972, the largest national park in Canada with the largest non-polar glacier and icefield (Icefield) in the world. The Yukon Territory borders Alaska to the west and the eastern neighbor is the Northwest Territories. Out of the St. Elias Mountains in the Yukon Territory, a coastal formation in the Rocky Mountains, stands Mount Logan. At 5,959 meters, it is the highest mountain in Canada. It was only in 1925 that two Canadian mountaineers made their first ascent. Hiking in this unique landscape and wildlife generally requires a lot of fitness and perseverance. Equally demanding are the rafting tours on the wild rivers. As a reward, the adventurers expect breathtaking experiences in the ice and snow or on the Tatshenshini River, the most untamed river in North America.
Arrival and climate
While the proximity of the Kluane National Park to Alaska suggests a very cold climate, the summer months (June to August) in the Yukon Territory have average temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius. Also, heat waves with 30 degrees Celsius have already been registered. Since the weather in Kluane National Park is very changeable, the summer temperatures can also fall quickly. In winter, temperatures of minus 20 to minus 50 degrees Celsius are possible. In addition to the tourist summer months, more and more visitors are enjoying the winter vacation (cross-country skiing, dog sledding) in the Kluane National Park, whose main elements are ice and snow. The destination for the journey is the airport in the capital Whitehorse (Yukon Territory), which is small by Canada’s standards.
Tent site as a stopover for demanding tours
The lakes between the turquoise glacier fields are not reachable on foot. You can get into this untamed wilderness only by rafting, canoeing, flying or on horseback. The varied demanding hiking trails are well marked and experienced guides (outfitter) give visitors the uniqueness of the landscape, as well as the diversity of flora and fauna. Kluane National Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980. For most canoe and kayak tours, visitors start from the small town of Haines Junction, located at the intersection of the Alaska Highway and Haines Highway. Especially the Adrenalin-activating Alesk River has been a hit with water sports, but its strong current can be dangerous. Equally scenic is the Alsek pass with high glacial prototypes, which were created 3 million years ago. The Kluane National Park with its many clear lakes have on Highway 3 the fishing camp Klukshu, where the Tutchone Indians catch the salmon in the traditional way from July and August.
Biodiversity in plants and animals at every altitude level
A great area for a campfire break is Kluane Lake in the northeastern Yukon Territory. The lake is named after the national park, on whose border it is located. The diversity of vegetation in the tundra areas differs from the Arctic region. The biodiversity of flora astonishes in the face of the long cold winter. Extensive deciduous and coniferous forests and berry bushes grow up to the tree line of 1100 meters. Particularly interesting is the nearly ninety-meter-high Sitka spruce. In the woods live grizzly bears and wolves. In the alpine tundra (1600 to 2000 meters) dominate the lichens and small shrubs. The caribou herds graze near the camping holidaymakers.
Several hundred meters thick layers of ice – no obstacle to colonization
About 4,500 years ago, the first indigenous tribes, the ancestors of the Southern Tuchones, already settled in the icy glacier field. The attraction was probably the fish-rich water reserves. The Kluane National Park also offers the large animals such as Canadian grizzly bears, moose, and caribou a home in the fissures they can retreat. At some of the sites of the national park, the majestic bald eagle nests. The Mount Logan, named after the geologist Sir William Edmond Logan, comes with almost six thousand meters right after the Mount McKinley (Alaska). He was well camouflaged in a glacier field with quite a difference in altitude only discovered in 1890 by a National Geographic Society expedition. From the ship on the sea, the glacier field looks like a huge wall of icebergs. Within the Kluane National Park, too, the “cold magic” of the ice fields extending to infinity fascinates.
Did you know that …
- the Kluane National Park covers an area of 21,980 km²?
- Kluane National Park has the highest mountain peaks in North America and the largest ice fields outside the polar caps?
- Mount Logan, the highest mountain in Canada at 5959 meters, is located in Kluane National Park?
- Many of the trails and streets in Kluane National Park follow the traditional ways of “Southern Tutchone” that they still use today?
- Kluane National Park is known worldwide for its outstanding recreational opportunities?
- the result of the climatic overlap of the Pacific and Arctic air masses in Kluane National Park, is one of the largest variety of plants and wildlife in northern Canada?
- After all, 150 bird species are noted in the Kluane National Park, 118 of which nest in the park?
- The Kluane National Park is dominated by mountains and ice, which make up 82% of the area?
- Mountain hiking in Kluane National Park is the most popular activity? There are trails for beginners to those for the most experienced hikers.