Sylvia Grinnell Park

(continuer en français) – Published: October 7, 2020

Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park begins one kilometre / 0.6 mile from the city of Iqaluit in Nunavut. Given the short distances, it is easy to walk to the park by the dirt road that branches off before arriving at the airport and then skirts the end of the runways. Before reaching the park, the road passes through Iqaluit’s small industrial area, offering views that are the opposite of what is expected of a natural park. Continuing towards the end of the peninsula, the road would lead to the waste dump, which tends to attract hungry polar bears, rarely, but it happens.

There is a small car park at the entrance to the park, but don’t be fooled, the cars parked there are not those of visitors who love natural areas, but mainly fishermen who can be found further on, fishing rod in hand, on the bank of the river. Apart from the fishermen, there are generally not many people, a few walkers who have come to walk around the rocky croup, perhaps a class who have come to get some fresh air and to add a little liveliness.

Reception is minimal compared to Canadian parks, a discreet pavilion can serve as shelter in case of sudden bad weather, a few information boards, a picnic terrace, visitors are left to themselves for the rest.

Before heading down to the river, it is good to climb the small slope which allows a general view. The view quickly falls on the Sylvia Grinnell River which gave its name to the park. At low tide, two small waterfalls can be spotted, inevitably attracting attention. Around the riverbed, an area devoid of vegetation indicates the usual extent of spring floods, when the winter snow mass gradually melts. Beyond the next rocky bar, there is Frobisher Bay.

The river is a popular spot for char fishing. Char is quite close to salmon and trout, it is often the only fish encountered this far north. A fishing licence is required except for the Inuit of Nunavut.

The river’s shallow water at low tide may cause problems for boats venturing into the estuary.

Living in tents was the summer routine for the Inuit, returning to their nomadic habits. As the ground was too hard to stick stakes deep into, the practice was to attach cables to the rocks, with large stones also being used to fix the base of the tent. Generations of Inuit have left these stone circles all over the most popular spots.

Today the Inuit are settled but still enjoy occasional summer camping. It is possible to camp freely on the tundra, but many have developed the habit of setting up their tents for the summer on the banks of the Sylvia Grinnell River in the park, taking advantage of basic logistics and supervision. Normally there are about thirty sites, but the number of tents can easily reach a hundred, with no one being turned away.

In the tundra, the subsoil is permanently frozen, the permafrost, while the surface can unfreeze in summer. Due to the frozen subsoil, water cannot penetrate and remains on the surface, forming numerous lakes and marshes.

The flowers have little time for flowering in the tundra. Cottongrass is very common in swampy areas and can be found in the park. Their tuft was gathered by the Inuit, used to start a fire, make candle wicks or as stuffing.

Charles Hall was the first European to explore this area in 1861, and it was he who named the place. As his expedition was financed by Henry Grinnell from New York, Hall used the name of his sponsor’s daughter, Sylvia Grinnell, for the name of the river, and the park retained the name.

The park continues beyond the river, but this part is restricted to visitors. Archaeological remains have been identified here, nothing very spectacular, traces of dwellings which are of interest mainly to specialists seeking a better understanding of the way of life of those who managed to adapt to this extreme environment. Occasionally, caribou and polar bears pass through the area.

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7 comments

    • It is true that the fact that there are no trees or bushes gives the impression that you are always out in the open. Quite rightly said, tundra landscapes are a part of Canada, even though few people live there.

      Liked by 1 person

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