Great Canadian Parks / Nunavut

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The Parks / Nunavut / Auyuittuq National Park




The buckling of bedrock by continental drift forces formed the Precambrian granite peaks of the jagged Penny Highlands which reach 2100 metres and range over 6ooo square kilometres of the park’s landscape. The ice cap produced by the compression of accumulated snow into glaciers covers the highlands to depths of 300 metres. The remaining 2/3 of the park is mainly covered in ice that melts only at its edges and then only during the brief summer. The peninsula’s coastline is cut deeply where glaciers shaped the valley floors below sea level, chiseling narrow fjords with 900 metre-high vertical walls. Glacial action that gave the valleys, such as the 97-kilometre Akshayuk Pass, their characteristic U-shape, is still actively shaping the land. 25 kilometre-long glaciers, spawned from the massive ice cap, slide down from the high plateau to the sea at Davis Strait pulled by gravity and their own weight. Glacial moraines - huge mounds of eroded rubble pushed by a moving glacier, and sandy areas where rock was ground into particles have become part of the landscape.

 


 

Three of the park’s lakes, Crater, Summit and Windy, were created about 100 years ago when moraine ridges of gravel and boulders formed a natural dam that held back the meltwater when the glacier retreated. Much of the land is in the permafrost zone, where the earth’s moisture, just centimetres belowground, is frozen solid for all time. In summer, the surface can become a slurry of sand and gravel, a hazard to hikers who must also beware the Owl River valley, where thawing is capable in some sections of creating waist-deep quicksand-like quagmires.


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