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Date of Submission: 01/10/2004
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Parks Canada Agency
State, Province or Region:
Coordinates: N82 W70
Ref.: 1943

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Encompassing the northernmost lands in Canada, only 720 km from the North Pole, Quttinirpaaq National Park of Canada (37 775 km2) covers the northern portion of Ellesmere Island. The park consists of sedimentary mountains, ice caps, glaciers, ice shelves and fiords. The park borders on the Arctic Ocean and rises to Mount Barbeau (a nunatak), at 2 616 m the highest mountain in eastern North America. Much of the park, including the Hazen Plateau, is a polar desert receiving less than 2.5 cm of annual precipitation. Some areas of highly productive sedge grasslands occur, which support a range of Arctic wildlife including muskox, arctic hare, wolves and the endangered Peary caribou. Lake Hazen is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the circumpolar region, and has attracted great scientific interest as a thermal oasis in a polar desert. Unique physical features are the ancient deposits of 80 m-thick freshwater ice shelves that extend several kilometres out over the Arctic Ocean. The major valleys of the park are central to one of the routes by which early Aboriginal peoples moved from the Canadian Arctic to Greenland. The route contains three major axes of contact during the early Palaeo-Eskimo period (4500-3000 years ago). All pre-contact cultural groups known to have occupied High Arctic Canada, including Independence I (4500-3000 years ago) and Independence II (ca. 3000-2500 years ago), Late Dorset (ca. 1300-800 years ago) and Thule (ca. 900-300 years ago), are represented by archaeological sites in the park. The park has one of the highest concentrations of pre-contact sites surveyed in the High Arctic, including sites associated with the earliest documented human inhabitants of this remote region.