The Town of Churchill
Located on the edge of the Arctic, Churchill has the feel of a frontier town with the amenities of a remote international tourist destination. A unique and accessible subarctic community, the town comes alive each time the train or plane arrives.
Polar bears are everywhere – on murals, signs, souvenirs and sculptures – and the live version occasionally wanders in to town as well. Conservation officers are on standby to protect both people and the bears, should one make an appearance in town.
The town of Churchill (population 900) is a northern Manitoba community accessible only by air and rail. Snowmobiles roar through town in winter and ATVs cruise by in summer. Tourism is a major contributor to the town’s economy. The Port of Churchill is North America’s only rail-serviced deep water Arctic port. The port receives shipments of grain and other commodities via the Hudson Bay Railway.
Churchill has a grocery store and liquor mart. The Churchill Town Centre Complex houses a health centre, school, library, swimming pool, indoor playground, curling rink, theatre, hockey arena, gymnasium and fitness centre. Interior walkways, lit by overhead skylights, are lined with brightly coloured Inuit wall hangings and prints, and a big carved-wood polar bear invites children to slide through his benign mouth.
Churchill is located at the convergence of three major biomes: the boreal forest, tundra and marine environments. These biomes are what support the diverse and unique animals and plants that call Churchill home.
Permafrost and the presence of Canadian Shield rock formations means the soil here is shallow. This affects the size of the trees in the area. Black spruce, the most common, are generally small and often they only have branches on one side. This is because the branches are prevented from growing because of constant freezing winds off Hudson Bay.
Wapusk National Park
Located east of Churchill, Wapusk National Park protects one of the largest polar bear maternity denning areas in the world. The 11,475 square kilometre park lies at the transition between the boreal forest and the Arctic tundra.
There are no roads into the park and because of safety risks, access to the park is available only with a licensed tour operator from Churchill. Frontiers North Adventures offers up-close experiences with polar bears at Cape Churchill in fall. Located just outside the park, Wat’chee Lodge, brings visitors into Wapusk for mother and cub viewing in February and March. In the summer, Parks Canada offers canoe excursion on the Owl River, offering a chance to see wildlife as well as archeological sites. Aerial tours of Wapusk National Park are also available through Churchill’s helicopter operators.