Quadjuk Sandstone Heads and Oldsquaw Bay

Hiking the tundra on Quadjuk Island

There is an explosion of wildflowers on South Quadjuk Island. We land on a sandstone pebble beach and climb up a gentle slope incredibly rich in flowers. Early on, pink rhododendron, mountain avens, lupine, alpine azalea, arctic oxytrope, and white arctic heather carpet the ground below several huge sandstone “heads” carved out by wind and water. Amidst the foliage we find brilliant blue harebells, bog rosemary and many more. The slope makes wildflower photography easy.

Our second week brings the peas, brilliant blue lupine, pink liquoriceroot, delicate lavender alpine milkvetch, pink Richardson’s milkvetch, and yellow Maydell’s oxytrope, along with feathery arctic plantain, Labrador tea, and in wet areas, Sudetan lousewort and arctic cotton. Alpine arnica and wild sweet pea light up the lower slopes. Those who do not have their heads buried in the flowers may be rewarded by golden eagles passing overhead, soaring around the cliffs, or may spot a ringed seal bobbing by the boat. 

Then we cruise north along the sheer cliffs of Quadjuk, to pass flocks of long-tailed ducks, and three species of scoters, with a few red-throated loons for good measure. We land at a scenic Oldsquaw Bay, where we can hike on glacial rebound beaches in several directions. We often see caribou here, and peregrines and rough-legged hawks nest on the sheer cliffs. The lower slopes are a riot of wildflowers, and arctic poppies are often found on the gravel terraces. Grizzlies are sometimes seen here, so some of the guides go ahead to high lookouts to scan for bears.