Quick Facts About Manitoba’s Wapusk National Park: Where you’re going, you won’t need roads.
By Isabelle Khoo
The Park: Sandwiched between Manitoba’s boreal forests and the arctic tundras of Nunavut, it is an ecological transition range that visitors flock to for its remarkable wildlife. Wapusk draws its name from the Cree word for “white bear,” and it’s no secret why the park has named itself this way—it’s one of the largest maternity denning areas for polar bears in the world. In February, visitors to the park can visit the legendary Cape Churchill to see baby polar bears frolic via tundra buggy (Cape Churchill is inaccessible for anybody travelling alone and on foot). In late autumn, an estimated thousand grown polar bears can be found wandering the cape.
The Nature: The park is famous for its polar bear population and winter sights, but to many, summertime is when Wapusk National Park truly comes alive, bursting with rare birds, wildflowers, and other unique and interesting flora and fauna. Nature lovers can come to see the purple saxifrage or the small butterwort, flowers that are usually found much farther north. For the more adventurous traveller tundra hiking is available in the Churchill area—providing an experience that is so remote and pristine, would-be hikers must be flown in by helicopter first. Prefer to explore by sea rather than by land? Wapusk National Park has got you covered there, too. The Churchill River estuary is home to hundreds of beluga whales, and a curious explorer can strap on a dry suit and swim amongst them if they are so inclined.
The Draw: The sights of Wapusk National Park are also not to be missed. Containing more than 400 native plant species, even the rocks in Wapusk are beautiful, due to a bright orange lichen called Xanthoria Alleganis that slowly creeps along their surfaces. Cape Churchill is also a stunning place to take in the northern lights; in fact, it is considered one of the top places on the planet to view the phenomenon.
The Route: All monikers aside, a visit to Wapusk is anything but a walk in the park. There are no roads into Cape Churchill, so it can be difficult to reach. The peat bogs are treacherous enough that it isn’t just recommended to bring a guide; it’s mandatory. And it’s not uncommon for rogue polar bears to meander right into town (some sources even recommend carrying a firearm!) But if you are looking for a truly Canadian adventure, Wapusk National Park is a perfect place to visit.
- Isabelle Khoo was an editorial intern at Outpost, as well as editor at Huffington Post. Reach here on Twitter here.