Kazan River

Kazan River

[kuh-zan for 1, 3; for 1 also kuh-zahn; for 2 also Russ. kuh-zahn]
The Kazan River (Inuit name Harvaqtuuq, meaning "white partridge"), is a Canadian Heritage River located in Nunavut, Canada. The river rises near Kasba Lake and flows north for about 850 km (528 mi) before emptying into Baker Lake and becoming part of the Thelon River.

Along its course the river flows through several lakes, including Ennadai Lake and Yathkyed Lake (meaning white swan, named by Sayisi Dene, historical caribou hunters of this area), and over the Kazan Falls (25 m {82 ft}), through both boreal forest and tundra. It is this last section of the river, from Ennadai Lake, that is above the tree line and is designated a Canadian Heritage River.

The first European to visit the area was Samuel Hearne (1770) at Yathkyed Lake. However, the river was not mapped until visited by Canadian geologist and cartographer Joseph Tyrrell in 1894. Explorer Knut Rasmussen also visited the area in 1921-24 during the Fifth Thule Expedition

Although many species of wildlife may be observed along the river it is the Barren-ground Caribou (Qamanirjuaq and Beverly herds) for which it is most well known. Over 300,000 caribou migrate through the area and it is said to be the largest migration of any land animal. Other wildlife that may be observed in the area include muskox, wolverine, Peregrine Falcon and many species of fish.

The abundance of wildlife along and close to the river attracted both the Caribou Inuit and the Chipewyan Sayisi Dene for about 5000 years. Originally, the Caribou Inuit did not live in the area but returned to the coast for the winter. In the 18th century Dene use of the area declined and Caribou Inuit, especially the Harvaqtuurmiut ("people of the Harvaqtuuq") and Ihalmiut bands, began to live along the river year round. Remnants of Ihalmiut campsites, and those of the Dene may be found along the river. Although the Inuit today no longer live along the river they do still travel it to hunt and fish.

The river has also become a popular tourist destination for kayaking and canoeists.


Further reading

  • Keith, Darren. Inuit place names and land-use history on the Harvaqtuuq (Kazan River), Nunavut Territory. Thesis (M.A.)--McGill University, 2000, 2000. ISBN 0612641627

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