Baker Lake is Nunavut's only inland community, situated on a large lake at the mouth of the Thelon Heritage River, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the exact geographic centre of Canada. The nearby Kazan Heritage River also feeds into the same body of water. Known as 'Qamani'tuaq' in Inuktitut, 'where the river widens' is an ancient non-coastal home location for eleven branches of the Inuit family. The tundra landscape with its rich plant life is also home to massive herds of caribou. Baker Lake is the Kivalliq community located nearest to the great Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary, an arctic wilderness refuge created especially for muskoxen, making this gifted hamlet an excellent place for northern ecotourism adventures!
- Ethnic distribution
- 92% Inuit
- Inuktitut, English, French
Longitude 96° 10’ W
Latitude 64° 20’ N
Baker Lake sits on the shore of a huge lake, surrounded in all directions by pristine tundra landscape.
Sunny summertime temperatures in Baker Lake average 15°C, occasionally rising to 20°C. Bug jackets are required in the tundra wetlands because of mosquitoes. Winter temperatures can feel very cold, as low as -50°C at times because of the extreme wind chill factor. Blizzards occur throughout the fall, winter and spring months.
Baker Lake is home to eleven distinct Inuit groups:
- Ahiarmiut/Ihalmiut — from the Ennadai Lake and Back River area
- Akilinirmiut — from the Akiliniq Hills and the Thelon River area
- Hanningajurmiut — from the Garry Lake area
- Harvaqtuurmiut — from the Kazan River area
- Hauniqturmiut — from Whale Cove, Sandy Point and Arviat area
- Illuilirmiut — from the Adelaide Peninsula, Chantrey Inlet area
- Kihlirnirmiut — from the Bathurst Inlet to Cambridge Bay area
- Natsilingmiut — from the Taloyoak, Kugaaruk, Repulse Bay area
- Paallirmiut — from the Baker Lake to Arviat area
- Qaernermiut — from the Chesterfield Inlet to Whale Cove area
- Utkuhiksalingmiut — from the Back River and Gjoa Haven area
Baker Lake was given its English name in 1761 by the British explorer William Christopher after his employer, Sir William Baker, the 11th Governor of the Hudson Bay Company (HBC). In 1916 a permanent HBC trading post was built here, followed by the arrival of Anglican missionaries in 1927. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were present from the earliest days of the HBC trading post, but only established a police station here in 1930. A small hospital was constructed in 1957, followed by the first school in 1958.
In 2010, Agnico-Eagle Mines began operation of the Meadowbank gold mine, located 86 kilometres (53 miles) north of Baker Lake. Construction of the mine employed 300 local Inuit workers from the Kivalliq region. The mining company helped build cellular telephone towers that connect the hamlet of Baker Lake to the Northwestel cell phone network. The arrival of hundreds of gold mine workers from across Canada has also greatly increased tourism in this region.
Activities & Wildlife
Outdoor enthusiasts who visit Baker Lake enjoy a range of activities that are very popular here, such as hiking, camping, canoeing, hunting, fishing, dog sledding and snowmobile riding. The flowering tundra wetlands, freshwaters and fertile valleys of the Kazan and Thelon Heritage Rivers support an abundance of wildlife including muskoxen, caribou, arctic hares, jackrabbits, arctic foxes, arctic wolves, wolverines, marmots ('siksiks'), geese and lake trout. A fishing derby is held in May. Local celebrations with traditional games and feasts take place in early May and at Christmas.
Arts & Culture
Baker Lake is home to talented carvers, printmakers, jewellers and seamstresses producing artworks and handicrafts that include wall hangings, basalt sculptures, stone cut prints, specialized tools and caribou skin clothing. The Jessie Ooonark Arts and Crafts Centre is an art studio and sales outlet for local carving, printmaking, sewing and jewellery. The Pangnakit facility produces handmade clothing, footwear and tools. The Inuit Heritage Centre records oral histories recited by elders, teaches traditional culture and way of life to Inuit youth and also showcases a large collection of art and historical artifacts, including special displays on loan from other museums.
Inuit Heritage Centre
Contact: Jacob Ikinilik
Ph: (867) 793-2406
Jessie Oonark Arts and Crafts Centre
Ph: (867) 793-2428
Fax: (867) 793-2429
Inuujaarvik Territorial Park
Inuujaarvik Territorial Park is a pleasant campground area that provides a pretty place to stay when visiting this region. Located close to Baker Lake, it is an ideal location for canoeists wishing to explore the nearby Thelon and Kazan Heritage Rivers.
Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary
The Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary is an enormous arctic oasis that straddles the border of Nunavut with the Northwest Territories of Canada. It is the largest wildlife refuge on the North American continent, with 52,000 square kilometres (20,077 square miles) of protected lands for muskoxen, caribou, geese and grizzly bears.
Vera Akumalik Visitors Centre
Ph: (867) 793-2456
Fax: (867) 793-2175
Offices of the Hamlet of Baker Lake
Ph: (867) 793-2874