Safety and guidelines

Aulavik National Park

Aulavik National Park

Aulavik is one of the most isolated parks in North America, and rescue services and facilities are limited. Keeping this in mind, it is important for visitors to be self-sufficient, self-reliant, and capable of handling emergencies. Parks Canada has a search and rescue team based in Inuvik, however, rescue operations are conditioned by weather, aircraft or staff availability. Response times could be anywhere from 1-2 days or more depending on the circumstances.

All visitors to Aulavik National Park must register and de-register with Parks Canada in Inuvik, NT and will receive an orientation before entering the Park.

For important information about staying safe while enjoying Aulavik National Park, please explore the topics below:

    Emergency assistance

    Emergency assistance can be obtained by contacting Parks Canada at any time throughout the year.
    From May to September:
    Call 867-777-4893. This is a local Duty Officer who is available 24/7.

    If you are unable to reach the local Duty Officer, call Parks Canada Dispatch (located in Jasper, Alberta) at: 1-877-852-3100 From September to April:
    Call Parks Canada Dispatch (located in Jasper, Alberta) at: 1-877-852-3100

    • Satellite based communications devices like satellite phones and "InReach" devices are the only method of communications that work in Aulavik National Park. There is no cell service or land lines.
    • Be familiar with your device before you start your trip. Understand the SOS/Emergency and messaging functions. Enter messaging and a contact list before your trip and be sure to include the Parks Canada Duty Officer number.
    • Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) are an alternate device that are available, these devices send out a distress signal and are for emergency use only.



    When preparing for visiting Aulavik National Park it is necessary to be ready for all extremes. Weather conditions can change quickly. Long spells of rain, ice-cold winds and occasional snowstorms or frost are not uncommon, even in mid-summer. Due to the usual presence of sea ice in M’Clure Strait, fog is a frequent companion in the north end of Aulavik. There is no natural protection in the open tundra terrain and no firewood. Always bring plenty of warm clothing, rain gear, food and fuel for your stoves. Your tent and other shelters should be able to withstand strong winds

    Visit for tips on how to dress and what to pack. Visitors venturing into the park on their own must provide a detailed route and travel plans to the Parks Canada office in Invuik before entering the park. This is done as part of the pre-trip orientation.

    River crossings

    Small creek crossings are a common part of any hiking or rafting trip in the park, and should be done with caution. Creek crossings are usually straightforward but can lead through knee- deep, fast-flowing water.

    Extreme caution is necessary when crossing the major rivers of the park (such as the Thomsen) which may be difficult early in the summer. Exposure to the cold-water temperatures of creeks and rivers can quickly lead to hypothermia.

    When crossing creeks, we recommend you:

    • Cross early in the day when water levels are at their lowest;
    • Wear boots or sandals to prevent cuts from sharp stones and to give you better footing;
    • Avoid wearing hip waders as they may fill with water during crossing attempts;
    • Undo the waist belt and chest strap of your backpack;
    • Use a walking stick, positioned upstream to provide more support;
    • Move across the stream in a diagonal fashion, facing upstream and yielding to the current; and link arms with one or more people.
    Water Quality

    Visitors are advised to filter, treat, or boil all drinking water.

    Wildlife Safety

    One of the strong appeals of Aulavik is its wilderness setting. We want to ensure that our visitors understand how to keep Aulavik a place where wildlife roam comfortably and untouched by our presence in the Park.

    Bear Safety

    Aulavik is home to polar bears. Although most common along the north coast of the park, polar bears have been known to wander considerable distances inland on Banks Island. Areas of increased potential for encounters include Castel Bay, Mercy Bay, and along the north coast.

    A Bear safety briefing will be provided during pre-trip orientations where visitors watch Staying Safe in Bear Country and are given You Are in Bear Country and Safety in Polar Bear Country brochures. These resources provide excellent information focusing on prevention and what to do if you encounter a bear.

    Follow these safety tips to avoid encounters with bears:

    • Store and prepare food at least 50 metres away from your camp to eliminate smells that would attract a bear. Never store food or scented toiletries in or around your tent and use bear-proof containers to store your food and toiletries when not in use.
    • Use unscented toiletries to avoid smells that would attract a bear.
    • Pack out what you have packed with you to ensure that bears never learn to associate humans with a food source. Practice leave no trace principles.
    • Travel in groups. The larger the group, the greater the chances of deterring a bear.
    • Stay alert and watch for fresh signs of bear activity such as scat, tracks, and freshly tramped plants. When hiking, announce your presence by calling out, singing or talking loudly, especially near streams and in the dense shrub vegetation along valley bottoms. This helps to alert a bear of your presence and helps to prevent a surprise encounter.
    • If you see a bear, calmly gather group members together. Do not approach the bear for a closer look. If possible, leave the area calmly.
    • Carry bear deterrents such as bear spray and air horns and make sure you know how to use these devises.
    • If you encounter a large dead animal, leave the area immediately.
    • Set up tents in a line rather than a circle and maintain at least 5 metres between them

    Report all polar bear sightings and signs to park staff as soon as possible by calling the Duty Officer.

    For more information on bear safety, please visit:

    Musk ox

    Muskoxen can be found throughout the park at any time of the year. While normally docile, muskoxen and moose can, on occasion, charge humans, especially if they feel threatened or provoked. The likelihood of this increases as the bulls enter the rut towards late July. Remember, these are wild animals. Do not approach them, and where possible, keep a physical barrier such as a ravine, pond or creek between you and the muskoxen.


    Wolves are found throughout the park. It is extremely rare for these animals to pose a threat to humans, but they are predators and may become aggressive in exceptional circumstances. Travel in groups, do not approach these (or any other) wild animals and defend yourself by making noise or deploying bear spray and an air horn in the event of aggressive behavior.

    Biting insects

    Insects are only active during the brief arctic summer, so they pack a lot of activity into their short lives. The numbers of mosquitos, blackflies and horseflies seem to increase gradually in June and begin to decrease in August. July is reliably buggy. Repellent, bug jackets and bug hats are essential equipment.


    Be suspicious of any friendly or unusually bold animals. As a general rule, keep a safe distance from all wildlife.

    Back Country Camping

    Aulavik has no designated campsites. You may camp anywhere you like, except at archaeological sites. Parks Canada has, where possible, identified scenic and appropriate camping sites on the Thomsen River. This information can be found in the Thomsen River Guide, available at the Parks Canada Office.

    In order to protect this pristine wilderness, please practice No Trace Camping. All garbage must be packed out with you.

    The winds can be very strong and prolonged in Aulavik National Park. A good quality tent, able to withstand fierce winds, is crucial for a comfortable visit.

    Please also read the section on bear safety to learn tips on setting up a safe camp.


    While there are no designated trails in Aulavik, the hiking opportunities are endless.

    Follow these tips for staying safe:

    • Wear good hiking boots with strong ankle support
    • Hike in groups
    • Bring bear deterrents such as bear spray and air horns.
    • Carry food, water, first aid supplies, and extra layers of clothing.
    • Communicate your hiking plans to Parks Canada staff
    Terrain hazards

    The topography of Aulavik is diverse. Though the Thomsen River Valley is broad and flanked by gently undulating hills, a variety of other terrain exists. The badlands and canyons in the eastern area, cliffs along the northwest coastline, and steep slopes and high riverbanks throughout the park all have inherent hazards. Stone, mud and snow slides are a potential danger on the steep and unconsolidated slopes in the park, especially in the vicinity of canyons and cliffs.

    Route finding and Orientation

    Most of the park’s hiking routes follow unmistakable natural landmarks such as rivers, canyons, valleys and ridge tops. These landmarks are easily identified in the field and indicated on topographical maps. Navigation and route finding is generally easy, but orientation in the vast landscape can be difficult. Pack a map, compass and GPS and make sure you know how to use them.

At Parks Canada, we do our part to make sure you can have a safe visit by assessing the risks, managing hazards, and making sure that safety information is freely available to everyone. You can do your part as visitors by making sure you seek out the information you need to stay safe and make well informed decisions while enjoying these special places. We encourage visitors to contact our office in Inuvik to speak with our knowledgeable employees for the most up to date information. Make sure you are fully prepared for whatever activities you choose to participate in so you can have a safe, enjoyable and memorable visit.

Disclaimer: There are inherent risks in backcountry travel, and most of the routes described herein. Parks Canada has done its best to provide accurate information and to describe the terrain characteristics typical of each general region. However, it is up to the users of this information to learn the necessary skills for safe backcountry travel, access additional trip planning materials, and to exercise caution while traveling through the backcountry in any national park.

Users of this information do so entirely at their own risk, and the Parks Canada Agency disclaims any liability for injury, death or damage to anyone undertaking a trip into any of the regions described. This information is no substitute for experience and good judgment.

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