To help celebrate Parks Canada’s 100th anniversary this week CBC has asked their community members to decide which of Canada’s national parks is their favourite.
This is an easy choice for me now that I am living in Fort Smith. My pick is Wood Buffalo National Park.
This park is the largest park in Canada, and one of the biggest in the world. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The sheer vastness of this park constantly leaves me in a state of awe at how truly immense and untouched most of Canada is. I regularly visit many areas of the park within driving distance of my home in Fort Smith.
Especially breathtaking are the Salt Plains, where a beautiful contrast is struck between the endless blue sky and the vast expanses of cracking salty earth lined with bison tracks.
Equally beautiful is Grosbeak Lake, where a terrain covered in salt crystals and peppered with boulders is reminiscent of a moonscape.
Last year, I was lucky enough to visit a very isolated section of the same park, Sweetgrass Station in the Peace-Athabasca Delta. The local high school was planning a trip for students and I, along with 5 friends, took the trip to make sure it was feasible. Sweetgrass Station is home to an extensive system of abandoned corrals that were built in the 1960s and used to round-up bison herds for anthrax vaccinations. This backcountry location is hard to reach. We were lucky to be taken by helicopter, flying over an incredible landscape of bogs and boreal forest.
Immediately after landing we spotted a large wolf, likely very surprised at the sight of humans. We hiked to Lake Claire, basking in the unique feeling of being literally hundreds of kilometers from any other people.
After spending the night, we set about on our trip back, which required a 12 kilometer hike through the forest, camping overnight, then a 2-hour boat ride to Peace Point.
The park is not just large itself; it is also home to very large animals. This includes the enormous wood bison, the largest land mammals in North America, which often literally cross our path as they slowly wander across the roads through the park.
The park also gained some fame when it was discovered to be home to the largest beaver dam in the world. The park also provides an invaluable protected nesting site for the last remaining flock of endangered whooping cranes, which are also the largest birds in North America.
The karst topography of this area also creates some unique landscapes, including large cracks and crevices (providing homes to garter snakes) and giant sinkholes, which have even created some of the lakes in the region.
Due to its endless number of isolated and untouched areas, I think Wood Buffalo National Park is truly an unrivalled natural wonder.