Aklavik is located on the Peel channel of the Mackenzie River Delta 113 km south of the Arctic Coast. There is no summer road access, however, in winter, an ice road stretches across the Mackenzie Delta to Inuvik.
Aklavik is a peaceful community of some 700 Gwich'in and Inuvialuit, many of whom still harvest fish and muskrats. Traditionally, Gwich'in and Inuvialuit gathered here to trade for goods from as far away as the Pacific and Arctic coasts. The Hudson's Bay Company set up a post across the channel in 1912 to trade for furs. By 1918, Aklavik was a permanent settlement and the centre of a thriving trapping economy based on local muskrats and white fox from the Arctic.
The Anglican mission was set up in 1919, and Aklavik became the headquarters for the RCMP in the western Arctic in 1922. The Roman Catholic mission was established in 1926. Mission hospitals and residential schools attracted people from the surrounding region, and by 1952, some 1500 people, as well as government services, were based in Aklavik.
Serious flooding and erosion of Aklavik's island townsite caused an attempt to move the community. Inuvik was built by government some 58 km west, and in 1961, the new town was ready. Although most services were moved, many residents decided to remain in Aklavik.