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Kamestastin - The Place
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Kamestastin Ekupitats. Photo: Anthony Jenkinson (larger version)
North America's "Near North"
Labrador's geography and climate, heavily influenced by the adjacent Labrador Current, has made it the most southerly and accessible of the "northern" regions. Labrador is home to the most southerly of all the world's Inuit and here typically arctic flora and fauna are to be found in latitudes far south of the arctic circle.

For more than 8,000 years the land we call Nitassinan has been home to the Innu people. It is one of the most remote and beautiful wilderness regions of North America. The Kamestastin region of Nitassinan lies in the heart of the territory of the Mushuau Innuts (The People of the Tundra) the northernmost regional group of the Innu.
 
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During their northward spring migration several hundred caribou pass the Tshikapisk Lodge under construction in early May 2002. Photo: Anthony Jenkinson (larger version)
Natural Beauty and Abundance of Wildlife
Kamestastin is a hauntingly beautiful landscape. Glacial features including relic lake shorelines, eskers, kettlehole ponds and the ubiquitous perched boulders testify to the former presence of glacial ice. In many ways the region is an "island of the Pleistocene", a pristine landscape unblighted by the activities of industrial man. To the north, the unbroken tundra stretches to the arctic coast of Ungava Bay across a roadless, wilderness area home to the largest caribou herd in the world and to the barrenground black bear. The south shore of the Kamsstastin basin supports an astonishing stand of mature black spruce – an isolated relic forecst that survives in the sheltered niche created by the hills surrounding the lake. This forested strip provides habitat for a number of bird and animal species that are otherwise rare in the area. At the outlet of the lake the Kamestastin River rushes six miles downstream to where it thunders over two spectacular waterfalls. Up and down this section of the river, their breeding ground, fly families of the endangered Harlequin duck .

Every year, in the spring and fall and for approximately six weeks at a time, portions of the George River caribou herd migrate through Kamestastin. With a population of over 800,000 animals the George River herd is the largest migration of animals in North America! At these times, the lake resonates to the howling of the attendant wolf packs. In the spring, the ice and snow covered tundra is threaded with innumerable caribou tracks while in the fall the myriad ancient caribou trails scoured into the land are freshly trodden.

Apart from wolves,predatory species include arctic foxes and the barrenground black bear. The concentrated and diverse ecological niches surrounding the Kamestatstin basin support an unusual concentration of arctic predatory bird species including gyrfalcons, peregrines, snowy owls, hawk owls, short-eared owls and rough legged hawks. Ptarmigan, ducks, grey jays and small song birds are common and most nights are bracketed by the calls of loons on the lake.

A joint program by the Quebec and Newfoundland Wildlife Division is planning to introduce several pairs of wolverinesnorth of Kamestastin to buttress the numbers of this legendary lone hunter of the barrens.

Although not seen for a generation or more, the region was formerly the home of barren ground grizzly bears, who yet survive in the memories and stories of elderly Innu, and whose presence, coupled with the spectral beauty of the northern lights, contributes to the mystery and allure of this special place.
 
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The small island around which the large central island in Kamestastin is wrapped, was the center of the impact when a meteor collided with earth around 38 million years ago to form the Kamestastin basin. Photo: Derek Wilton (larger version)
The Kamestastin Crater
The bedrock of the Labrador plateau is among the oldest surviving surfaces on the face of the earth; as such it bears witness to the almost incomprehensible passage of time. About 38 million years ago, during the Oligocene era, a meteor smashed into the earth’s surface, creating the nearly circular Kamestastin Lake basin. In a region characterized by irregular, serpentine and amorphous shaped lakes, Kamestastin is a dramatic anomaly. The crater was subsequently heavily eroded by glacial ice during the last ice age creating a shallow basin sheltering concentrations of wildlife, a sort of biological arctic oasis.

For artist's impressions of the meteor impact event see the Gallery section "The Kamestastin Crater."
 
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Map of Labrador/Quebec Innu territory and neighbouring regions (larger version)
How To Find Us
Labrador is located to the east of Quebec on Canada's Atlantic Coast. Kamestastin is in the heart of the tundra, about 40 miles east of the Mushuau Shipu (the George River). To the east of Kamestastin lies the coast of northern Labrador and the small Inuit and Innu villages which it hosts. The nearest towns are Schefferville 150 miles to the west and the terminus of the Quebec North Shore and Labrador railway, and Goose Bay 220 miles to the south.

There are helicopter and fixed wing air charters available from both Scheffervile and Goose Bay and both Air Labrador and the 51% Innu owned airline Innu Mikun offer daily scheduled air services from Goose Bay to the northern coastal settlements.

Goose Bay is linked in to the major north american air routes with regular flights to Halifax, St Johns and Sept Iles available from Provincial Airlines, Air Canada's Air Jazz and Air Labrador.
 
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