Wapusk National Park
A Parks Canada webcam keeps a digital eye on one of the largest polar bear denning areas in the world, but few people are lucky enough set foot in this vast wilderness of bogs, boreal forest and tundra.
Wapusk - Cree for white bear - is just 45 kilometres southeast of Churchill, but it's a world of its own. There's no road access and you'll need a guide to visit the park, although you can take a helicopter tour to see some of the 11,475-square-kilometre expanse.
It's home to a huge herd of caribou, wolverines, foxes and about 30 other mammals, including Arctic hare that can grow up to 15 pounds and outpace most predators at top speeds of 60 kilometres per hour.
Male polar bears, who can measure three metres in length and weigh in at over 1,200 pounds, are at the top of the food chain, but the smaller females and their cubs are the main attraction when they emerge from dens in early spring. That's when Watchee Lodge, just outside park boundaries, is open for a short time to help photographers get close-up views. 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.
Frontiers North Adventures is the only other 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. Book trips early - they fill up fast.
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