What Is The Smallest Desert In The World?

By Antonia Čirjak on June 16 2020 in Answer

Sand dunes of Carcross desert, the smallest desert in the world. Yukon Canada.
Sand dunes of Carcross desert, the smallest desert in the world. Yukon Canada.
  • The smallest desert in the world is the Carcross Desert. It is located in Canada, near Carcross, Yukon, and its size is approximately 1 square mile.
  • The desert gets its sand from Bennett Lake nowadays, and it is mostly carried over by the wind.
  • This patch of desert feels out of place in Canada, which could be one of the reasons why it is so interesting for locals and visitors.

The smallest desert in the world is the Carcross Desert. It is located in Canada, near Carcross, Yukon, and its size is approximately 1 square mile. While it is considered a desert by most people, it is actually just a series of sand dunes. For an area to be considered an actual desert, the humidity should be much lower than it is in the Carcross Desert. Still, for the sake of this article, we should consider it a desert, just like almost everyone considers it.

The sand in this desert was formed when glacial lakes deposited silt while they were forming during the last glacial period. However, the desert gets its sand from Bennett Lake nowadays, and it is mostly carried over by the wind. Locals use the dunes in this desert for recreation, which is why it was never made into the protected territory.

The Little Desert That Could

This patch of desert feels out of place in Canada, which could be one of the reasons why it is so interesting for locals and visitors. Yukon is known for its large mountains and lakes, so it is weird to find a sandy desert placed there. However, nature works in mysterious ways, and it would be boring if we could predict absolutely everything about it. 

Carcross Desert set in a sandy area surrounded by conifer trees with mountains in the background. Yukon Territory, Northern Canada.  A
The Carcross Desert, Yukon Territory, Northern Canada.

The name Carcross comes from the words caribou and crossing. It got its name because caribou used to wander the area frequently. There are not a lot of people living there currently, but the area does draw a lot of tourists, mostly those that are on their way to Klondike or cruising through the area.

The Carcross Desert is noticeable from the road, which could be the reason why many people visit it. It is impossible to miss it if you are driving through the Klondike Highway. This road used to be the path that gold searching parties took during the late 19th century. Back then, gold was discovered in Klondike River, so many people scouted the area in search of an easy way to get rich.

What Makes A Desert

Even though the Carcross Desert is not technically a desert, it is publicized as one everywhere. The moisture levels in this area are just a bit higher than what is needed for a place to be considered a desert. Still, no one seems to mind, since the place has naturally formed dunes and plenty of dry air and winds that make it seem like you are in an actual desert.

The moisture levels in this area are just a bit higher than what is needed for a place to be considered a desert. Still, no one seems to mind,
The moisture levels in this area are just a bit higher than what is needed for a place to be considered a desert. Still, no one seems to mind.

These technicalities won’t stop us from considering it the smallest desert in the world. Even though the desert is quite small, the dunes seem large once you step foot in it, and at times you won’t be able to see anything but the sand around you. 

The small size of the Carcross Desert can be a good thing occasionally since it allows you to explore every part of it on foot. What another desert in the world gives you that option? Many people take cruises through Alaska, and one of the stops on their journey is this desert. It can get filled with many tourists that are eager to see what the world’s smallest desert looks like.

People like to take part in various activities when they visit this desert. One of the most popular ones is sandboarding, but also beach volleyball and hiking. During the winter you can see people snowboarding and skiing in the Carcross Desert.

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