Three kilometers off Yukon’s north coast, only Workboat Passage separates Herschel Island-Qikiqtaruk from Ivvavik National Park. The low-lying treeless island of 116 k2 was Yukon’s first territorial park. Herschel Island-Qikiqtaruk has been declared a National Historic Site of Canada in 1972, was classified as a Nature Preserve in 1987, designated a Natural Environment Park in 2002 and as an example of the technologies and techniques used for living and construction over the past several millennia. It is now also on the tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site list!
Itilleq is an important area for Ice Age fossils. Normally snow-covered during winter, the island shows abundant and diverse wildlife, with many migratory birds, including the largest colony of Black Guillemots in the Western Arctic, caribou, muskox, polar bear, and brown bear on land and bowhead and beluga whales, ringed and bearded seals, and occasionally walrus in its surrounding waters.
The Inuvialuit community has used the area for hundreds of years. When Franklin arrived in 1826 he saw three of their camps. Remains of their old dwellings are still visible near Simpson Point. This is where in the late 1800s, American whalers established a now abandoned station. At the height of the Beaufort Sea whale hunting period there were 1,500 residents. Several of the historic buildings by whalers, and later missionaries, traders and the RCMP are still standing – although some had to be moved further inland to escape the rising sea level.