Baker Lake, the only non-coastal Inuit settlement in the Arctic, is located near the geographical centre of Canada at latitude 64’18’41” North and longitude 96’04’08” West.
A number of major rivers, including Thelon, the Kazan, and the Dubawnt, flow into Baker Lake. The lake is also connected to Hudson Bay by way of Chesterfield Inlet.
Baker Lake is an intriguing example of a modern day arctic community. A walk along the lake shore tells a tale of early settlement and the growth of a community mixing tradition with high technology.
Along the shore, you’ll see the landing areas for Inuit hunters and fisherman. The lakefront is lined with many little sheds, used by residents to store fishing gear, or winter equipment.
Inland, you’ll see the Anglican mission compound, an important part of this little community. Farther along, there’s the Akumalik Visitor Centre, which occupies the old Hudson Bay Trading Post.
To the east of the old post, you’ll see the new Northern Store higher on the slope. This is a retail centre with its roots in the fur trade of old. It stocks its shelves with all manner of goods, from California produce to the duffle cloth used for arctic clothing.
To the east of the store is a landing area for floatplanes. These bring mineral exploration teams, sport fisherman, or other visitors interested in the wildlife and culture of the barrenlands.
Then, there’s the arena and community centre, the swimming pool, RCMP facilities, and the Health Centre.
Beyond the Health Centre are some of the first privately-owned homes in Baker Lake. These represent the future arctic, where home ownership and pride are common to most people.
To the north is the power plant, which converts fuel oil (delivered by barge in the summer) to electricity.
Look to the north, beyond the community. On the hills above the houses, you’ll see a large fence. This is a snow fence, installed to control drifting in the community itself. Even with the fence, the drifts often exceed 3 meters in some areas. Beyond the snow fence is the community cemetery. Because it is impossible to dig deeply in the permafrost, graves are constructed on top of the ground, covered with mounds of rock.
To the northeast corner of the hamlet a new road winds north through rolling country toward White Hills Lake. It’s a lovely place to hike, and you may spot nesting loons, a peregrine falcon, or caribou.