Which Desert Is the Smallest?

Though not technically a desert because it receives slightly too much rain, the Carcross Desert in Canada's Yukon measures just 1 square mile (2.6 sq km).
Though not technically a desert because it receives slightly too much rain, the Carcross Desert in Canada's Yukon measures just 1 square mile (2.6 sq km).

If you're ever challenged to walk across a desert, choose the Carcross Desert in Canada. Not familiar with it? That's not surprising. The entire place takes up just 1 square mile (2.6 square km) in the Yukon. Though it is quite dry, the Carcross isn't technically a desert because it receives slightly too much annual precipitation. To qualify as a desert, an area must receive less than 9.84 inches (25 cm) of rain per year, and Carcross doesn't quite make it, seeing about 10 inches annually.

Still, it's dominated by sand dunes and beloved by hikers and many who enjoy riding ATVs and sandboards. Of course, if anyone had stopped by about 10,000 years ago, they would have seen a massive lake instead of all that sand and silt. But as the last Ice Age ended and temperatures warmed, the glaciers that created and filled what was known as Watson Lake dried up, and the lake followed soon after.

Some dry facts:

  • Technically, deserts can be cold or hot, which makes Antarctica the largest desert in the world.

  • Although no rain has ever been recorded falling in Chile's Atacama Desert, it remains the home of more than 1 million people.

  • Every continent on Earth has at least one desert, which collectively cover more than one-fifth of the world's land area.

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    • Though not technically a desert because it receives slightly too much rain, the Carcross Desert in Canada's Yukon measures just 1 square mile (2.6 sq km).
      Though not technically a desert because it receives slightly too much rain, the Carcross Desert in Canada's Yukon measures just 1 square mile (2.6 sq km).