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It's a great time of year to ...
IF YOU FIND yourself travelling along the Alaska Highway south of Whitehorse this summer,
take a half-hour detour to Carcross, Yukon, to wiggle your toes in the sand of what locals
call the world's smallest desert.
The dry climate and strong winds in the 260-hectare area make it feel like a real desert,
but the Carcross Desert is actually a series of sand dunes (which technically have too
much moisture to be classified as a desert). The "desert" stretches from Bennett Lake to
Caribou Mountain, an area roughly three kilometres long. Every year, sand is carried from
Watson River to Bennett Lake, where it settles. When the water level of the lake drops or surface
ice melts, winds blow the exposed sand, creating the dunes.
They are host to a number of unique and at-risk plants, including the Baikal sedge, and
the Yukon lupine.
In 1992, the territorial government sought environmental protection for the dunes but
encountered some opposition from community members who use the area for recreation.
In the summer, people ride all-terrain vehicles, sandboard and hike on the dunes and in the
winter, they snowmobile and cross-country ski on them.