Nahanni River, Northwest Territories ©Paul Gierszewski
The vast Northwest Territories of Canada cover more than 386,000 square miles (one million sq km) north of the 60th Parallel, extending far above the Arctic Circle. Inside this icy space are two out of the five largest lakes in North America: Great Bear Lake and Great Slave Lake, as well as some incredible mountain ranges and the ruggedly beautiful Nahanni National Park. Very few people inhabit this immense territory, (the Territories' largest city is the capital of Yellowknife, with a population of less than 20,000) but there are thousands of wolves, bison, bears and caribou on the stark Arctic plains and plenty of whales visible off the coasts of the numerous islands.
This is the land of the long summer days of the Midnight Sun, and the winter phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights in the night sky between late August and January. Adventurous visitors are drawn to this forbidding land for canoeing, hiking, snowmobiling, skiing and dog sledding, as well as for the unique natural beauty and legendary wildlife. It is a harsh region, but very rewarding for keen outdoorsmen and those wanting to experience the Arctic environment.
The climate of the Northwest Territories is diverse, which is not surprising when one considers that the province occupies a large portion of land. The southern part of the province is more temperate, with mild, long summer days and short, very cold winter days. The northern part of the province experiences Arctic and sub-Arctic conditions in winter and temperatures are far more extreme. Temperatures at Yellowknife reach a maximum average of about 68°F (20°C) in July and a minimum average of about -26°F (-32°C) in January. July and August are the wettest months.
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