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    Park reopened to tourists

    Carolyn Sloan
    Northern News Services
    Published Monday, August 11, 2008

    PANNIQTUUQ/PANGNIRTUNG - After a reassuring report from glaciation and hydrology experts, Parks Canada reopened Auyuittuq National Park's Akshayuk pass, from Overlord to Windy Lake, on Friday.

    The section was closed and 21 people were evacuated from the area on July 28 when severe erosion around Crater Lake posed the threat of flash flooding.

    Last week, park staff recruited Eric Mattson, chair of geology and glaciation at Nipissing University, from a nearby Students on Ice learning expedition. A expert in on Canadian glaciers, Mattson flew over the park on a coastguard helicopter Aug. 3. Staff were also able to obtain the expertise of hydrologist Megan Leach, who also happened to be in the area.

    The experts determined the area around Crater Lake has now stabilized, though there are other areas of the park where the erosion is cause for concern. From the aerial view, Mattson and Leach, along with park staff, also ascertained that the initial erosion was the result of the same heavy rains that caused the flash flood in Pangnirtung last June.

    According to Pauline Scott, communications manager for Nunavut's national parks, two weeks of hot weather, followed by rain, caused the water level to rise at Summit Lake. The lake then released a big burst of water, which took out the bridge at Windy Lake before passing through Crater Lake.

    "The water (passing) through created the initial melting of the permafrost, which created erosion ... continuing for days afterward," Scott said. "This was sort of a symptom of the earlier pulse of water."

    Due to the loss of the Windy Lake bridge, visitors must choose to remain on either the east side or west side of the Weasel River since there is no way to safely cross the Weasel River.

    -with files from Herb Mathisen