Herschel Island, Yukon's first territorial park (established in 1987) is located just off the northern coast of the Yukon mainland on the Beaufort Sea. The island is in an area of great scientific and ecological interest due to the Beaufort Gyre, an ocean current which carries warm, fresh water from the Mackenzie River delta along the Yukon coast. As a result, the Herschel Island area is unusually rich in freshwater and saltwater marine life, birds and large mammals including predators like seals and bears.
Archaeological evidence indicates that Herschel Island has been used by the Inuit and earlier people of the Thule culture for at least 1000 years. In the late 19th century, the island was used by whalers hunting bowhead whales on the Beaufort Sea. By the mid-1890s, Pauline Cove on the eastern part of the island had a population of more than 1500 people. The community was gradually abandoned as whaling declined in the 20th century, but the Pauline Cove site, which includes 13 historic structures and other archaeological remains, has been maintained as a historic site within the park. The park is open to visitors in the summer, but conditions can be very severe and the park is only accessible by chartered boat or float plane.