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Aklavik is located on the west shore of the Peel Channel in the Mackenzie Delta at 68°13'N latitude, 135°00'W longitude. The community is 58 air km west of Inuvik, 1143 air km northwest of Yellowknife, and 113 km from the Beaufort Sea.

An excellent trapping area and key transportation centre, Aklavik became the major community in the Delta by 1920. The Hudson's Bay Company established its post in 1912 and the Roman Catholic Church built a mission in in 1926. In the winter of 1931-1932, an RCMP officer approached Albert Johnson about trapline tampering. Johnson shot through the door of his cabin and injured the Mountie. The officer organized a manhunt and forced “The Mad Trapper of Rat River” on a 42-day chase ending with the death of Johnson and a few officers. Rapid development of Aklavik in the early 1950s coincided with disastrous flooding and erosion of the Peel Channel’s banks, prompting the federal government to begin construction of Inuvik.