Great Canadian Parks / Yukon Territory

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The Parks / Yukon Territory / Kluane National Park

The Dezadeash / Sakwak valley and the Alsek Pass owe their U-shape to vast glaciers that flowed outward from the Kluane Icefield during the recurrent ice ages of the last 3 million years. Valley-bound in the Alsek River gorge, the massive Lowell Glacier, 65 kilometres in length has, over centuries, moved up and down the river basin causing flood conditions that have had far-reaching effects on vegetation, animal populations, terrain and lifestyle of the native people. In the past, surges of the Lowell have actually dammed the Alsek River to create lakes. In 1850, Recent Alsek Lake drained in two days when the ice dam broke, sending 40 cubic kilometres of water in a raging torrent to the sea. Should Lowell surge again, it could pose a potential flood risk to the Alaska Highway.



Fringing the glaciers and mountains is a narrow Šgreen beltÆ of coniferous and deciduous forests. In the river valleys are the boreal forests of mainly white spruce. On the lakebed of the drained Recent Lake Alsek, grasslands gave way to willow and shrub and, in time, balsam, poplar and trembling aspen began a new forest where spruce would eventually become dominant. At higher elevations of 1500 “ 1800 metres, alpine tundra and meadow grass, herbs, shrubs and dwarf trees are home to woodland caribou and DallÆs sheep.



The largest subspecies of moose in the world, some weighing up to 800 kilograms, range through the park's lower alpine region. Solitary grizzly bears cross between alpine clearings and vales. The Dall's sheep, the park's most abundant large animal, numbers 4000. Woodland caribou, mountain goat, black bear, wolverine, lynx, red fox and wolf populations share the landscape with the smaller muskrat, mink, marmot, otter, beaver, snowshoe hare and squirrel. The Arctic grayling, lake trout and pike abound in lakes and streams. 118 of the 150 species of birds observed in the park, such as the golden eagle, bluebird and ptarmigan, come to build nests and raise their young.




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