Nares Lake, near Carcross, in the southern Yukon, is the western arm of Tagish Lake. The water flows in to Nares Lake from Bennett Lake via a 400 metre long river through the town of Carcross. Lake outlets such as these and the rivers downstream are often the first areas to develop open water in early spring. The site has extensive mud and sand flats, but is not very rich in vegetation; much of the flats are exposed by spring. The surrounding landscape is a mix of mountains, broad valleys, plateaus and rolling hills.
Mew Gulls use Nares Lake for staging during spring migration. This species has twice been detected in the area in globally significant numbers. In May, 1999, 1,200 Mew Gulls were counted here, while two years earlier, 1,000 birds were counted. These numbers represent about 2% of the North American population of this species.
This site is considered a minor spring migration area for waterfowl, which use the area, primarily in spring. An estimated 1,000 to 10,000 waterfowl use it annually; the upper number would be nationally significant if confirmed. Although the site does not appear to be as productive as M'Clintock Bay or Tagish Narrows, it is located on heavily used spring migration route for certain wetland birds (e.g. Mew Gulls and scoters) which migrate inland from the north end of Alaska's Lynn Canal. Under some weather conditions, large numbers of these may stop at this site.
The mud and sand flats are exposed by spring, which means they only get brief use by waterfowl after the ice on them melts. Nonetheless, shorebirds feed on the flats and are well represented, with up to 100 American Golden Plovers, 500 Long-billed Dowitchers, 12 Hudsonian Godwits and 150 Pectoral Sandpipers having been seen during their northward passage in May. Up to 200 Horned Larks, 400 American Pipits and 700 Lapland Longspurs can be seen in one day during spring migration in May. Breeding birds include small numbers of Canvas-back, Red-breasted Merganser, Herring Gull and Arctic Tern.
While the site has no protective status, it is included within the Canadian Arctic Resources Committees environmentally significant areas of the Yukon. As with other nearby sites (M'Clintock Bay, Lewes River Marsh, Tagish Narrows) water levels at the site are influenced by two dams on the Yukon River between Marsh Lake and Whitehorse. These dams create artificially high water levels from late summer through the winter months, which reduce the habitat available for late summer and fall migrants.IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status