Safety and guidelines

Ivvavik National Park

Ivvavik 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. 

Visitors joining our Ivvavik Base Camp Trips will be accompanied by trained Parks Canada guides and do not need to be self-sufficient like independent visitors. 

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

Visit for tips on how to dress and what to pack.

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

Emergency Contact Information

Emergency assistance can be obtained by contacting Parks Canada at any time throughout the year.

From May to September:

1. Call  867-678-0705. This is a local Duty Officer who is available 24/7.

2. 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:

1. Call Parks Canada Dispatch (located in Jasper, Alberta) at: 1-877-852-3100.

  • Satellite based communications devices like satellite phones, "SPOT" and "InReach" devices are the only method of communications that work in Ivvavik 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 Ivvavik National Park it is necessary to be ready for all extremes. Weather conditions can change quickly. Summer temperatures in the park average 14°C and usually range between 5° and 25°C. Extreme weather can bring snowfall and temperatures as low as -15°C even in the summer, though this is rare. Always bring plenty of warm clothing and food. 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 Inuvik before entering the park. This is done as part of the pre-trip orientation. 

Visitors on our Ivvavik Base Camp Trips travel most frequently with Parks Canada staff, but if they choose to hike independently, routes and plans are communicated to Parks Canada staff.

Water Safety

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 rivers such as the Babbage, Trail, Crow, Spring and Malcolm Rivers and Joe Creek. The seasonal water levels of these drainages vary significantly, depending on snow pack and precipitation. In rainy summers some of the crossings may be dangerous or impossible. Do not attempt to cross the Firth River without a watercraft. Exposure to the cold water temperatures of the rivers and lakes 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

Although there have not been any reported human cases of giardiasis, Giardia microbes are present in the park. Visitors are advised to filter, treat, or boil all drinking water. 

Flash Floods

Water from snowmelt and rain quickly makes its way into the Firth River and can raise water levels very quickly. The volume of water in the river can double in a matter of hours. . River users must remain alert and be prepared to move camp to higher groundduring periods of sustained heavy rain In high water, travellers must use sound judgment when making decisions about entering or remaining in the canyon section of the river. The difficulty and classification of many rapids increases with higher water volumes.  


Aufeis are extensive sheets of ice 2 to 5 meters thick found at the head waters and the delta of the Firth River. These sheets of ice are formed by water from underground springs running over top of existing river ice and then freezing. The ice often becomes so thick that it may not melt completely during the summer.

Aufeis hazards include:

  • Channels of the river can flow into and under the ice. You must remain alert and stay clear of these channels to avoid submersion.
  • Channels of the river can undercut the edges of aufeis. These overhanging sheets of ice are very unstable and should be avoided as they can separate from the main sheet of ice and pin a boat or a person underwater.
  • Chunks of ice that calve off of the main sheets of ice into the river can pose serious navigational problems.
  • Fishing

    Use caution when fishing at the water’s edge as the ground can be uneven, loose or slippery. In areas close to fast moving water such as rapids a fall in could result in exposure to icy water,  being swept by the current, or drowning. When travelling on the shore or river bank, select areas with stable ground. Watch where you step - be sure to use solid, dry, ground to avoid slipping or falling. Fish in areas where the water is calm. Distance yourself from fast moving water. 

    Wildlife Safety


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

    Bear Safety

    Ivvavik is home to three species of bears: black, grizzly, and polar bear. The most commonly viewed of these three are grizzlies.

    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. 

    Please note: Storage for toiletries and food is available for Ivvavik Base Camp Trip visitors in a building at base camp. Bear safe canisters are not required for these trips.

    • 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 devices.
    • 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.

    If a bear acts aggressively toward you , contact the Parks Canada Duty Officer as soon as possible.

    A note on polar bears:
    Polar bear behaviour is very different from that of a grizzly and black bears. Although it is unlikely that you will encounter a Polar Bear in Ivvavik during the summer months, they are occasionally spotted along the park’s coastline. Ensure you read the Safety in Polar Bear Country brochure and 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: (English website)

    Musk ox and Moose

    Muskoxen and moose 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 and Wolverine

    Wolves and wolverine 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

    Back-country camping

    Back-country camping

    Ivvavik 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 Firth River. Contact Parks Canada for a copy of the Firth River Map and Guide.

    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 Ivvavik 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 Ivvavik, 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 extra food, water, first aid supplies, and extra layers of clothing
    • Communicate your hiking plan to Parks Canada staff


    Ivvavik NP is a mountain wilderness. Cliffs, slopes, unstable terrain and highly variable weather and surface water conditions can present significant hazards in some areas. We recommend you do not attempt to enter, climb or traverse steep slopes during rainy periods.

    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.

    Safety is everyone’s responsibility.

    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.

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