Anyone looking for wilderness, adventure and solitude, i.e. not wanting to see another soul for weeks, travels to the Northwest Territories of Canada, called NT for short: a huge arctic-subpolar area full of mountains, canyons, rivers, lakes, tundra and forests. Black spruces to the horizon.
It is the land of animals, millions of caribou, wood bison, Dall sheep, bears, moose and wolves. Protected in huge national parks like Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada's largest.
Others are so far removed from civilization that, according to the park administration, no one visits them in some years: like Tuktut Nogait National Park with its caribou nursery in Canada's Empty Quarter - a zone near the Northwest Passage - or Aulavik National Park , home of the shaggy musk oxen on Banks Island.
Uninhabited land as far as the eye can see. In fact, the Northwest Territories have just 46,000 inhabitants in an area almost four times the size of Germany. Half of them live on the shores of Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife, the provincial capital and at the same time the only city far and wide. It is the starting point for paddling, hiking and camping.
As soon as the lake has frozen a meter thick in winter, it becomes an ice highway for cross-country skiers, skaters, snowmobilers - and ice hockey players for four months. They fly in from Calgary: There is a new daily direct service between Calgary and Yellowknife from Canadian North.
The Canadian region is also easier to reach for visitors from Germany: Condor will fly non-stop from Frankfurt to Edmonton from May 2023, and Air Canada will continue with its new connection from Edmonton to Yellowknife.
Fly in, fly out. In the wilderness, people like to call the bush pilot. Because there are only a few highways and no rails, but many gravel roads - and often no getting through. Locals and visitors therefore use bush planes and seaplanes to get to remote areas. Almost every town has an airport. The famous Nahanni National Park with the Viginia Falls can only be reached by air, preferably from Forth Simpson.
Hundreds of seaplanes from around the world land on the shores of Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife every two years for the Midnight Sun Fly (July 6-9 this year). Then they fly further from lake to lake, happily towards the northern lights: the colorful aurora borealis dance here on a good 200 nights a year.
People around the world are used to rectangular, boring license plates on cars. But there is another way: The Northwest Territories have had the cool outline of a polar bear since the 1970s. This was possible because Canada has prescribed sizes, but nowhere does it say that it has to be a rectangle.
Since then, the blue and white license plate has been a coveted souvenir. There are always new special editions. A car does not have to be registered for this (returning an unused number plate is recommended, but not necessary). Nobody does either. The souvenir signs are available exclusively from Northwest Territories Tourism (17 euros, often sold out). Why, collectors ask themselves, did the rest of the world stick with boring rectangles?
That's a bang! North America's largest rough diamond to date was found in the Northwest Territories in 2018. The yellow gem is almost the size of a hen's egg. It measures approximately 3 centimeters by 5.5 centimeters and weighs 552.74 carats. He comes from the Diavik diamond mine in the far north. Canada's first diamonds were not discovered until the 1990s. In 2024, the productive mine is to be enlarged.
This makes the Northwest Territories the third largest diamond producer in the world. The previous record stone was also found there, in comparison a lightweight with 187.7 carats: the Foxfire diamond. It was cut up into a pair of earrings, polished and auctioned at Christie's. A private buyer paid a good 1.5 million US dollars for it.
The really big fish are guaranteed to be caught here. The photo shows a lake trout weighing about 25 pounds, easily three times as big as those in German waters. One bait, one tug, and the week's ration of fish fillets is heaved on board. In the far north of the Northwest Territories, Great Bear Lake offers some of the world's best fishing for record-breaking lake trout.
This lake is 320 kilometers long, 175 kilometers wide and has a maximum depth of 450 meters. Its crystal clear water is teeming with fish. 80-pounders are also not uncommon. The lake is also worthwhile for the impatient: anglers can expect to pull several big lake trout out of the water in no time. Because they bite well. There are also big pike and delicious grayling.
For the insatiable: you can fish day and night in midsummer. If these fish are still too small for you, you can fly to the Tree River in the neighboring territory of Nunavut: It is full of arctic char, people fish from canoes and spend the night in tents on the bank. In the Northwest Territories, the world's largest char has been pulled from a lake - a 100-pound specimen. And the locals like to say there are monster fish here that are even bigger...
"The Pizzly is a sad but necessary compromise"
The phrase comes from Larisa DeSantis, biologist and bear expert. In the Northwest Territories, the first crossbreed between a female polar bear and a grizzly was shot in the wild in 2006. Since then, other off-white hybrids have been confirmed in the tundra. These pizzlies, also known as capuccino bears, are capable of reproduction, unlike mules, for example.
A freak of nature? More of an instinct, according to a bear study. Due to climate change, grizzlies are migrating to the increasingly ice-free north and hooking up with female polar bears there. Their heat-resistant offspring have better chances of surviving than pure polar bears. By the way, the first Pizzly is stuffed in the town hall of Ulukhaktok.
Two species normally cannot produce fertile offspring, but grizzlies and polar bears provide evidence to the contrary. The "Cappuccino Bear" is becoming more and more popular - with a clear loser.
Source: The World
Bizarre, record-breaking, typical: You can find more parts of our regional geography series here.