National Treasure #152: Athabasca Sand Dunes

So I was looking for famous Canadian animals – you know, like Northern Dancer – and finding instead only entries for famous Canadian animals – you know, like the caribou, beaver, lynx, and moose. From there it was a short step to lists of Canadian flora and fauna on a site called . . . wait for it . . . Living National Treasures!

Well. Clearly this was Meant to Be. And Be it certainly will, at another time. Because in perusing the list of endemic (i.e. not found anywhere else) mammals, birds, fish, insects, other invertebrates, vascular plants, and moss (just one), I followed a link to “an area especially important for endemic plants in Canada”: the Athabasca Sand Dunes.

And I had never heard of them. You?

Here are some bits about this unique geological feature from the entry about them in the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, about which I had also never heard. You?

What They Are

Sand dunes reaching heights of 30m and lengths from 400m to 1,500m

Where They Are

NW Saskatchewan on the south shore of Lake Athabasca

How Long They Are

About 100 km

When They Were Formed

About 8,000 years ago during the last glacial period

Why Anyone Cares

More than one reason:

  • Size – the largest area of active sand dunes in North America
  • Location – the most northerly active dunes in the world
  • Beauty – spectacular and expansive dune formations, many of which are unstable (i.e. prone to shifting with the wind)
  • Physical variety – braided river channels, beach ridges, inland river deltas, desert pavement, moraines, eskers, and kettle lakes
  • Ecological variety – as many as 70 rare plant species, 10 of which are endemic

How They’re Being Protected

1973 – Government of Saskatchewan made them a Crown Reserve.

1992 – The Reserve was given Provincial Park status: the Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Wilderness Park encompasses 1,925 square km.

Today – Parks Canada deems them one of the most significant natural areas in the country.

How to Get There

By float plane from Uranium City, Stony Rapids, and Fond du Lac, according to Tourism Saskatchewan

Read more about them and see cool photos, here.


This is a continuation of my sesquicentennial project –
completely unauthorized, possibly even rogue –

to document 150 Canadian National Treasures
during Canada’s 150th year.

This entry was posted in Appreciating Deeply, Through Canada and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.