Akilasaaryuk Trail

Akilasaaryuk Trail is at the mouth of Prince River, about 8 miles east of town. For local residents, Prince River is a place of fishing and recreation in the spring and summer. You’ll travel here by boat in summer or by a combination of snowmobile, sled, and boat in May or June. The archaeological remains are of the historic Caribou Eskimo period (1700-1900 A.D.). There are a wide variety of things to see and do (remember your fishing gear!) and we know you’ll enjoy your day.

Sirluaq Site
The trail starts at the sign and inukshuk on the western shore of the river mouth. From there you walk to the nearest hilltop, where there are stone structures which were used for fax traps, cooking areas, and food and caribou-skin storage. The site is named after its “sirluaq”, the open conical structure at the centre of the hilltop. It was used in the summer to store dried meat or fish while the family and their dogs lived inland and carried all their belongings from place to place. The sirluaq would be covered with large stones and the food inside would remain safe from predators, to be picked up in the winter and used to trap foxes, which could not climb out once inside. A smaller box-trap on this hilltop operated by dropping a stone to block the exit.

As you have noticed, the view from this hilltop is magnificent. The rapids are below you and Akilasaaryuk Hill is across the river. You can see Nunareaq Island to the south, and Okpiktuyoq (Big Hips) Island is probably just visible behind and to the left of Nunareaq. Okpiktuyoq Island was the site of the first Hudson’s Bay Post at Baker Lake, built in 1916.

Morning, November, in the year 1810.
A middle-aged man packed a frozen fox onto his sled. Back at camp he would thaw the fox inside the iglu and prepare the skin to be traded. He and his family with their two dogs would begin a journey to the white traders at Churchill later in the spring when the days lengthened. He had been making such trips since he was a young man and now did the trading for many of his relatives along the way. He hoped to have enough foxes for a rifle and maybe some needles for his wife.

Kuviaqarvik Site
Now walk to the next hill to the south. At its nearer (north) side you’ll see the remains of a “qaqmaq” shelter. The historic Caribou Eskimo and modern Inuit sometimes used these small shelters made of stones, snow blocks, or ice with a tent roof. A “qaqmaq” would most often be used in the fall until the snow was deep enough to build snow-houses. Or a hunter might sleep in a tiny structure like this with a caribou skin over the top if away from home without a tent. On the southern end of the hilltop is the “kuviaqarvik”, a small square pit about 1 foot across. When lined with the skin of a freshly-killed caribou, hot caribou fat from a pot of cooked meat would have been ladled into the pit to harden. The cooking area is nearby.

Evening, July, in the year 1898.
A woman knelt by the outdoor hearth feeding willow branches into a fire under her enamel cooking pot. When they had cooked long enough she placed the pieces of ribs and cooked meat onto a wooden tray to cool. Then she carried the pot to the kuviaqarvik nearby and lined the pit with the newly-killed caribou skin. Using a musk-ox horn ladle, she skimmed off the hot fat and ladled it into the pit. Once the fat hardened, it could be eaten with their dried meat or saved to burn in the lamp during winter. That done, she called her family to come eat.

Before you go back to town, we hope you have a chance to try fishing under the rapids or at the sand bars at the river’s mouth. The best time is June or early July, but it’s worth a try anytime!