The unique geology of Fishing Branch River means that it never freezes. Consequently, when the salmon run occurs in the late autumn, the river attracts huge populations of feasting grizzly bears.
The park has an intricate system of underground caves, drainage channels and pinnacles caused by percolating groundwater dissolving the region’s limestone over hundreds of years. During the summer the water that is stored underground is warmed, causing it to filter up into caves, crevices and fractures and eventually resurface in the Fishing Branch River. As a result, the river continues to run all year despite the severe winter temperatures, and the salmon run occurs in autumn here, rather than the summer, attracting the largest population of grizzly bears at this latitude. The area's other wildlife includes moose, grey wolf, bald and golden eagle, caribou and Dall sheep, creating a unique and thriving ecosystem in the captivating wilderness of Northern Yukon.
It is the territory of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, who know the Fishing Branch river as Ni’iinlii Njik: “the place where salmon spawn”. For them this is a sacred place, and in 1999, working with the Yukon government, they established the 6,500 square kilometre territorial park to protect the river. This was one of the first occasions in Canada when a First Nation made a significant contribution towards habitat conservation through the inclusion of its own privately-owned land.
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