Parc national Kuururjuaq aims to protect a representative portion of the Torngat Mountain foothills.
The Torngat foothills first started to form 1.8 billion years ago, resulting from movement deep within the Earth. When the Nain and Churchill geological provinces collided, mountains were created and rose tens of thousands of meters skyward. The Torngat Mountains then eroded over several million years and eventually took their current shape when the Atlantic Ocean opened. This caused the mountains to rise again and become the highest ridge in Eastern Canada. The rugged Torngat range creates a natural border between Nunavik and Labrador. It’s dominated by Mount D’Iberville, which reaches 1,646 meters high. Feel the presence of this giant while you climb its ridges to the summit.
The Koroc River
The 166-kilometre Koroc River begins in the Torngat Mountains and drains nearly all of the park’s territory before emptying in Ungava Bay. Though often rough, its waters will take you to the spectacular Korluktok Falls, which feature a 30-metre drop. The Koroc’s wide valley was cut by the same glaciers that whittled the region’s landscape into shape. Flanked by walls that are characterized by rust-coloured gneiss, the Koroc River valley is nothing short of grandiose – especially when viewed from one of the local peaks. Mount Haywood looms over the Koroc’s plateau and offers unobstructed views of the land and the Koroc River’s multiple tributaries.
The wildlife within the park is diverse, thanks to a wide variety of habitats. There are 10 different marine mammals, various forest birds, 24 species of land mammals and nearly the same amount of fish species. The ringed seal (natsiq) is the most common of the four seal species seen in the mark’s marine areas. It has a distinctive dark back with light grey rings and a silvery belly. Spring and fall are the best seasons for observing the ringed seal in the George River estuary or along the shores of Ungava Bay. Here, Ungava Bay whales are also present, but only during summer. The young are charcoal grey when born (in late May), but they get paler as they age. When observed at the mouth of the Koroc River, the belugas can be seen feeding on the numerous fish varieties that live in the river.
Arctic char, brook trout, whitefish, lake trout and Atlantic salmon are some of the fish species that inhabit the Koroc River. Arctic char is by far the most common and it is designated by several different names in the Inuit language: aupalajaak describes the fish during the spawning period at the end of the summer when its belly is red, iqalupik is used to refer to the annual migrator and nutillik to their landlocked cousin.
The sheltered valley of the Koroc River nurtures a greater variety of animals than is typically encountered in a northern environment. There are red and Arctic foxes, spruce grouse, willow ptarmigan as well as black and polar bears. Note that since this area is the northernmost tip of the black bear’s reach, black bears are generally only seen here in summer. Meanwhile, polar bears only venture here on occasion in winter.
Caribou (tuktuq), however, are often the main attraction. Two herds may be observed in the park. The George River caribou herd remains one of the largest herds of tundra caribou in Quebec. Meanwhile, the mountain caribou herd that roams the Torngat Mountains is much smaller and less well-known. This herd is being monitored by telemetry to improve general knowledge about it.
Despite the northern latitude, the park boasts relatively diverse vegetation thanks to its physical geography. In the mountainous sections and high plateaus, the Arctic-alpine vegetation is characterized by lichen and moss on the arid soil, while trees and even shrubs refuse to grow.
In the valley of the Koroc River, below 275 meters in elevation, a boreal pocket in this Arctic environment hosts old-growth black spruce and tamarack. In fact, on one of the southward-facing valley slopes, a stand of white birch is the northernmost occurrence of this species in Quebec. These 200 trees – remnants from a past era – are reminders that the landscape is in a constant state of change.
Palsa peat is also present in certain wetland areas. These small heaps of palsa, which are frozen in the middle, are also an important indicator of the consequences of global warming since it’s easy to see how melting ice is causing them to deteriorate.