Some essential Kuujjuaq experiences:
- Observing Northern lights
- Dog sledding across the tree line from the boreal forest to the tundra leading to Ungava Bay
- Famed Inuit bush pilot Johnny May’s Christmas Candy Drop
- Atlantic salmon fishing on the Koksoak River
- Cloudberry picking during the Aqpik Jam Music Festival
- Enjoying a traditional throat singing performance by the Kuujjuaq Youth
- Observing prehistoric muskoxen graze amidst autumn colours
- Visiting Old Chimo, the original settlement and Hudson’s Bay trading post
- Discovering Inuit art and crafts at Tivi Galleries
Gateway to Nunavik and to the Arctic for many travelling North from Montreal, Kuujjuaq is the largest Inuit community of this Northern Quebec region and the only one connected to First Air’s network, making it a tourism hub. Whether passing through, in town for business or a visit, Kuujjuaq has a lot to offer to those willing to stay over or make the trip for an adventure out of the ordinary.
Located on the west shore of the Koksoak River, about 50 kilometres upstream from Ungava Bay, the daily life of this bustling community is closely tied to the mighty river. The ebb and flow of its tides are continually altering the landscape, imposing their rhythm on the practice of traditional summer activities, whether fishing, mussel picking or camping.
Settled amidst the remnants of the boreal forest, patches of black spruce and larch stand in marshy valleys, making the area perfect for aqpiit, the delicious cloudberries for which the town holds a music festival each year in August, the popular Aqpik Jam.
Come winter, the tree line also makes a great shelter to enjoy a snowmobile or dogsled ride out on the land, scanning the sparkly white landscape for signs of wildlife along the way such as ptarmigans, Arctic hares, foxes and wolves, or even a small herd of noble prehistoric muskoxen or stray families of caribou.
Since Kuujjuaq is located on the Northern Lights belt, from September to March, the longer fall and winter nights provide ample opportunities to gaze upon the spectacular aurora borealis sweeping across dark blue skies.
Nunavik’s metropolis, population nearly 2,700, was formerly known as Fort Chimo. “Chimo” is the mispronunciation by early fur traders of the Inuktitut phrase, “Saimuk!” which means “Let’s shake hands!” Around 1830, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) established its first fur trading post there, on the east shore of the Koksoak River, about five kilometres downstream from today’s settlement.
Following the construction of a U.S. Air Force base (Crystal 1) in 1942 on the west shore of the Koksoak River, and its occupation by the American Army during the Second World War, the community moved to its present site, once the base was turned over to the Canadian government and a Catholic mission was established, in 1948. A nursing station, a school and a weather station were built soon after. When the HBC moved upstream closer to the airstrips in 1958, the remaining families also relocated and, in 1961, a co-operative was created.
Over the years, Kuujjuaq has become the administrative centre of the Nunavik region, host of regional organizations such as Makivik Corporation and the Kativik Regional Government, both working towards greater political autonomy for Nunavummiut, as well as other institutions such as the Kativik School Board, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services and the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau, all providing essential services.
Buzzing with activity, the Northern village of Kuujjuaq boasts a few hotels, a restaurant and lounge, a bar and sports pub, three general stores, arts and crafts shops, an arena and gym, a new church, and a bank. The municipality’s Katittavik Town Hall also serves as a theatre and a convention centre.