Article submitted by Parks Canada Youth Ambassadors
July is prime time in Manitoba. From the boreal forests of the south, to the open tundra of Hudson’s Bay, the province beckons visitors with its open and inviting landscape. This summer, we had the luck and good fortune of making our way around the province to see all that Manitoba has to offer.
Our adventure started north, way north, in Churchill and Wapusk National Park. A short flight from Winnipeg, Churchill is a hidden beacon of Canadian tourism. Best known for its polar bear viewing tours, the small town of 800 is also a summer haven for witnessing belugas in the wild. In the Churchill River, over 3000 beluga whales converge on kayakers, snorkelers, and cruisers alike, peeking up at the interesting newcomers who’ve arrived to check out their land. If the belugas’ smiling faces fail to make your lips curl up too, surely their melodic chirps and songs will. Also known as the canaries of the sea, it’s almost impossible to miss the whales’ voices out on the water. Sandwiched between Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site and the town itself, the Churchill River is easily accessible from the front door of your hotel, bed and breakfast or hostel.
To the eastern horizon lies Wapusk National Park. Created in 1996, this large swath of land protects a representative portion of the eastern sub-arctic ecoregion. A remote park, Wapusk is accessible by air in the summer months, and snowmobile in the winter months. Guided tours from Churchill take you out to the park in the fall and late winter. No doubt, the patient visitor will catch a glimpse of caribou, polar bear, and arctic fox, some of the common animal species that can be seen while on this subarctic safari. The sunsets will not only take your breath away, they will also draw new life on the tundra landscape; you’ll notice the bursts of colour from the blooming flowers, and the purple seashells littering the Hudson Bay beach. Make sure to stay up into the night for the more-than-occasional glance at the Northern lights before you leave.
Heading back south, summer is still as enjoyable as ever. A visit to Manitoba would not be complete without a trip to the escarpment, or high lands, of the province. Riding Mountain National Park provides the perfect venue. Three hours from Winnipeg, the charming townsite of Wasagaming beckons with manicured flower gardens, intimate coffee shops, delicious wood-fired pizza, and rich (yet cheap) ice cream. While in the park we strongly recommend heading out on a paddle of Clear Lake or Lake Katherine, hiking along a wild creek, or visiting the wild bison enclosure just north of there.
If time permits, head west to Rossburn to explore the little-visited Deep Lake sector of Riding Mountain. From your base at 9 Finger Ranch Hostel (also known as HI-Rossburn), set out on foot or horseback to a backcountry campsite, where you are almost guaranteed to have the site all to yourself. If camping isn’t your thing ride in just for the day and come back to enjoy a relaxing soak in the hot tub on the Ranch’s porch. Your body will thank you after the day spent on a horse.
During your time in the Riding Mountain area, take advantage of the long summer days to join in a traditional pow-wow at one of the seven First Nation communities surrounding the national park. The Anishinaabe people of Riding Mountain will welcome you with open arms as they dance, sing, and share their culture during competitive weekend events.
Finally, make your way back to Winnipeg to check out what this metropolis has to offer. In the center of Winnipeg, Parks Canada welcomes visitors to The Forks National Historic Site, where you can sunbathe alongside the river, throw a Frisbee with friends, and snack on local foods from the market. If it’s too hot or raining , make your way over to the brand new Canadian Museum for Human Rights to learn more about our country’s history.
As Parks Canada Youth Ambassadors we get to discover a lot of special places over the course of an adventure-filled summer. Now it’s your turn to discover a national park or historic site in Manitoba!
Justin Fisch and Minh-Tâm Thompson are Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Parks Canada Youth Ambassadors for 2015-2016. They work nationally to inspire young Canadians to connect to and visit their national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas. Follow along with them on Facebook and Twitter.