The surprising Carcross Desert is the tiniest, and in some ways most unique, desert in the world. However, despite the name, it is not technically a desert – just like Maine Desert.
This remarkable geological feature is also one of the northernmost deserts on earth. Perhaps the most astounding thing about this site is its location…but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Interestingly enough (one might even say astonishing), the story of conservation efforts for the Carcross Desert is different from most. In 1992, the local government attempted to enact a conservation program for the region.
However, the local populace actually rejected the idea, which is the opposite of what usually happens. The location is extremely popular with the local inhabitants, for recreational purposes.
Carcross Desert Origins and Nature
Believe it or not, the Carcross Desert is located in the Yukon section of Canada.
Evidence shows that region was once a lake bed, back in the Pleistocene Epoch. Technically, the area is actually a grouping of sand dunes, adjacent to the nearby Lake Bennet. Its bountiful sand was deposited during the last period of glacial activity.
The entirety of the desert comprises only 1 sq mi (2.6 sq km). This region remains arid (despite the climate of the surrounding region) due to the rain shadow effect of the Yukon mountains.
In addition, the area is also prone to strong winds which continually supply the region with new sand from the shores of Lake Bennet.
Carcross Desert Climate, Ecology, and Recreation
The Carcross Desert is not technically dry enough to be classified as a desert. However, it is significantly drier than the surrounding area, and indeed the entire country. The site receives less than 2 in (50 mm) of rain per year.
Despite this, however, a few hardy plants have adapted to the climate. Among these is the extremely rare (it’s only known to exist in four other locations in North America) Baikal sedge. Another species of flora that flourishes here, despite being extremely rare in surrounding regions, is the Yukon Lupine.
Local residents (and tourists as well….increasingly so) utilize the dunes for activities including hiking, all-terrain vehicular activity, and sandboarding. The site is also rapidly becoming popular for skydiving.