Holiday water report 2019
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HOLIDAY WATER 2019 - MANITOBA NATIONAL PARKS
By Suzanne Forcese
Riding Mountain National Park
Water Today arrived in Manitoba, and like most tourists we thought we would just breeze through but discovered some of the best kept secrets of Canada. Even though you will see bison everywhere on the licence plates of Manitobans your best bet at seeing them up front and centre is in Riding Mountain National Park.
In the 1930's researchers discovered a large number of bison bones and the perfect bison dependent ecosystem in the area around Lake Audy where conservationists reintroduced the species from their original home in Alberta. Today, 40 bison live in the 582 Lake Audy Bison Enclosure.
Whether you're exploring the boreal forest under the summer sun, or ice fishing on Clear Lake in the winter, the park's diverse scenery and nature make it a destination for all types of travellers in all seasons. Here you can find peace at the meeting place of the boreal forest and aspen parkland, superb wildlife, birds, and sandy lakeside beaches.
Wasagaming (270 km from Winnipeg and 99 km north of Brandon) is the main town-site located at the south gate of the park. Sitting atop the Manitoba Escarpment, the park encompasses a protected area of 2,969 sq. km -- a sea of wilderness surrounded by a sea of farmland. It is 1 of the only 5 national parks that has a resort town site which means it has all the amenities for a comfortable stay, including ice cream. Comfortable camping? You got it. Along with events, festivals and natural wonders including the northern lights.
Find peace on the prairies in a place where the boreal forest meets the aspen parkland, superb wildlife, sandy beaches and hiking/biking trails. Be as lazy or as active as you desire.
There are 30 oTENTiks available between May 3 and October 13 with nearby washrooms, showers and potable water taps. If you are planning a stay in spring, fall or winter, bring extra blankets and sleeping bags with a temperature rating of -10° C.
Then there is the micrOcube which as you might expect is a tiny cube (10 m sq) offering a unique experience by virtue of a panoramic window that makes up one side of the cube. A contemporary design with a double bed, 2 chairs and table. Plan ahead to be equipped for colder days as this accommodation is not heated Bring your own bedding and eating/cooking utensils. Washroom/ showers/potable water nearby.
Looking for that family camping experience? Wasagaming Campground is open mid-May to mid-October. Located within walking distance of the town site of Wasagaming, is the main beach area and pier, restaurants, playground, tennis courts, and lawn bowling. The Visitor Centre, and access to walking and biking trails are also close by. Canoe, kayak and bike rentals are available. So is horseback riding, an 18-hole golf course and shopping.
In the evening stroll a nearby trail, roast hotdogs and marshmallows at your site, or take part in one of the campfire programs held regularly throughout the summer at the communal fire circle.
Park officials confirm there is potable water but remind visitors that water service is shut off Oct 1. It does get cold in friendly Manitoba.
Park officials also ask that visitors help stop the spread of invasive forest pests by not moving firewood from one place to another. Buy firewood locally, burn it on site and never bring it back home.
Front country Campgrounds include Lake Audry complete with playground, fishing and nearby bison herd. A water pump is available with safe water.
Whirlpool Lake Campground (tenting only) un-serviced tenting sites with a view to Whirlpool Lake, hiking, swimming, canoeing, kayaking and non-motorized boating. Bring your own water!
Moon Lake Campground has un-serviced sites overlooking Moon Lake. Bring your own water!
Deep Lake Campground's un-seviced sites overlook the lake and provide opportunities for canoeing, hiking, biking and wildlife viewing. No drinking water available.
Yurt Camping in the 700 Section of the Wasagaming Campground. The yurt consists of a wood frame enveloped in canvas and equipped with windows and a solid door. The Yurt is located on a hardwood floor and is 5 meters in diameter. Washroom and shower nearby.
There are 19 backcountry campgrounds that provide a challenging way to enjoy the park's natural beauty. Here you can hike, bike, horseback ride on maintained trails of varying degrees of difficulty. Be Bear Smart! Bring your own drinking water or be prepared to purify from natural sources. Water sources include slough, creek or well.
Cairns Cabin located on the Ochre River Trail 14.4 km from the trailhead on hwy 10 offers basic amenities including a wood stove. It is a hardy workout to a rugged accommodation meant to be shared with a couple of friends. There is access to a stream. NO drinking water on site.
Hiking and Biking Trails suitable for mountain biking vary in difficulty from the easy, gentle rolling hills of the Central, Baldy Lake and Strathclair trails to the rugged and steep Bald Hill and Reeve's Ravinetrails. Many backcountry trails are acceptable for biking, but most day-use trails are for hiking only.
The Red Chair Program
The goal is to help visitors connect with nature and heritage. Chairs have been added in spots featuring the most scenic spots in Canada but you might stumble on a couple in a secluded area.
Black bears are frequenting the Grey Owls trail. Please use caution while in area and make lots of noise while recreating in the area.
Boating Mandatory Inspections for Aquatic Invasive Species and Inspection Permit: All watercraft (motorboats, canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboards) that enter the Park must undergo a mandatory inspection for aquatic invasive species by Parks Canada watercraft inspectors. All watercraft operators must possess a valid inspection permit.
Fire is a natural part of the Park's ecosystem and this prescribed burn is being conducted in order improve ecological condition of fire-dependent forests and to restore grasslands. By increasing the extent of open grasslands in the area it will also increase suitable habitat for at risk species such as Monarchs, Dakota Skippers and the Yellow-banded bumble bee. For up to date info or facility closures on the prescribed burn, please check the park's website at parkscanada.gc/riding and Facebook page at facebook.com/RidingNP.
All right. We are going to sneak this one in. It's not exactly in the Park but you are sure to pass it on your way in or out where you can stop for some beer at the Farmery Estate Brewery. We are pretty confident it is potable.
Wapusk National Park
Located in the Hudson Plains ecozone, 45 km south of Churchill on the shores of Hudson Bay, Wapusk National Park is a remote location with limited access. It is one of the few places in the world where visitors can watch tiny polar bear cubs explore the world of snow for the first time under their mother's watch in the largest known maternity denning area. Getting there is part of the adventure with helicopter access only for an aerial tour by commercial tour operators in Churchill.
No roads or trails lead into the massive park made up of rough subarctic forest, tundra, musket and one of the largest expanses of peat bog on the continent.
Wapusk – Cree for 'white bear' – encompasses a good portion of the Hudson James Lowlands, a subarctic ecological transition region between Manitoba's boreal forests to the south and the Arctic tundra of Nunavut to the north.
Other wildlife including many rare birds, moose, wolves, red and arctic foxes, wolverines, lemmings, and 3,000-strong Cape Churchill caribou herd winter here. An ill-equipped unguided traveller could become lost and frozen within a day.
Canoe excursions are offered June 1-30 on the Owl River. The strategic timing is critical. The one-month window is prior to Hudson Bay becoming ice-free thus minimizing the risk of encountering polar bears. Spanning approximately 168 kilometres, the route traverses the entire breadth of Wapusk National Park and typically takes 4-7 days depending on conditions with canoeists camping along the way. To enhance your experience, you have the opportunity to hire a Parks Canada interpreter who will accompany you during the journey. Remember this is back country camping so bring your own water. Educate yourself on Polar Bear Safety by studying the information on the Parks Canada website.
Frontiers North Adventures is an eco-tour company licensed to operate in Wapusk National Park. Visitors stay in the Tundra Buggy Lodge, which is outfitted with sleeping berths, a café and lounge and split up into small groups for Tundra Buggy tours in the Cape Churchill area by day.
Summers on the Tundra are a surprise of vegetation and color. The park is home to over 1000 species of plants. As you travel the landscape, your eyes might fall
on dense mats of purple saxifrage, mountain avens, and vibrant Lapland rosebay. You may also feel the soft surface of peat under your feet, formed from the accumulation of partially decayed vegetation in moist environments, which covers 275 of the ground in Wapusk National Park. Berries are abundant throughout the park in summer and are a source of food to birds and wildlife. Bearberries, cranberries, blueberries, crowberries, cloudberries and raspberries are abundant.
Watchee Lodge just outside park boundaries is open for a short time. Guests are met at a remote railroad stop and hitch a ride to the lodge on all-terrain trucks. They may ride snowmobiles to see bears and take short walks near the lodge, but an armed guide must accompany visitors on all forays outdoors.
For those not quite up to the adventure challenges of remote exploration, the Wapusk Visitor Centre in Churchill provides interactive exhibits where you may view the national historic sites in Northern Manitoba. Don't forget to visit the natural garden at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre in Churchill, filled with many of the local plants and trees.
Few people are lucky enough to visit this remote location. Fortunately, remote trail cameras provide an opportunity to see the park's wildlife, undisturbed by the presence of people.
What an awesome place!
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