The Western Arctic region centres on Inuvik and encompasses the mighty delta of the Mackenzie River – North America’s second longest river – and reaches across the Beaufort Sea to the border with Nunavut. The region also includes part of Victoria and Banks islands, the most westerly of Canada’s Arctic islands. The delta ranks as one of the continent’s great bird habitats, with swans, cranes and big raptors among the hundreds of species that either nest in or overfly the region during the spring and autumn. It also offers the chance of seeing pods of beluga whales and other big sea mammals, while local Inuit guides on Banks Island should be able to lead you to possible sightings of musk ox, grizzly bear, wolf and arctic fox.
After Inuvik and the two villages on the short NWT section of the Dempster Hwy – Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic – the area’s other four settlements are fly-in communities reached from Inuvik. Two of them, Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk, are near – by NWT standards – and are the places to fly out to if you want a comparatively accessible taste of aboriginal northern culture. Sachs Harbour (on Banks Island), Holman (on Victoria Island) and Paulatuk (on the coastal mainland) lie much farther afield, and are bases for more arduous tours into the delta and Arctic tundra. Inuvik, along with Yellowknife and Fort Smith, is one of the key centres of the accessible North, and one of the main places from which to take or plan tours farther afield (see Tours from Inuvik). It’s well worth taking one of the shorter tours to the fly-in communities for a taste of Arctic life, and to enjoy the superb bird’s-eye view of the delta.