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May 15

The best national park in Canada

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.

One of many views while hiking the South Loop.

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.

View over the Salt Plains.

The Salt Plains before a storm.

Equally beautiful is Grosbeak Lake, where a terrain covered in salt crystals and peppered with boulders is reminiscent of a moonscape.

Grosbeak Lake.

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.

Taking off from Peace Point.

View of the abandoned bison corrals.

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.

Owl chicks spotted on the hike to Lake Claire.

Sunset over the Peace River at Sweetgrass Landing.

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.

Wood bison on the way to Pine Lake.

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.

Sandhill cranes

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.

Angus sinkhole.

Due to its endless number of isolated and untouched areas, I think Wood Buffalo National Park is truly an unrivalled natural wonder.

12 comments

2 pings

  1. Luke

    Great pictures! That red grass?? is pretty spectacular!

    1. Carolyn
      Twitter: anorthernnomad

      Thanks! That’s red samphire which is salt tolerant, so it’s one of the few plants that can grow on the salt plains.

  2. Sybil

    What a marvellous adventure you are having.

    Great park.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Carolyn
      Twitter: anorthernnomad

      Thank you for reading my post. It is quite an adventure living up here!

      1. Cindy Iam

        Very professionally written blog, Carolyn. Liked that you voted for this vastly unknown park…having been there to see some parts of it, I concur that it is truly spectacular.

  3. Carolyn
    Twitter: anorthernnomad

    Some of my pictures are now up on a CBC gallery:

    Your Picks for Parks Canada’s 100th birthday – Your Community.

    1. George Lessard

      So are some of my WBNP at the same address as yours!

      1. Carolyn
        Twitter: anorthernnomad

        Very nice shots! WBNP is taking over the slideshow! Maybe some people will be encouraged to come up here…

  4. Adrian

    Some great photos there. Congrats on getting them put on CBC, that’s a big deal!

  5. Eileen Ludwig
    Twitter: eileenludwig

    This is a really big park with a variety of interesting terrain
    Eileen Ludwig recently posted..Up Up and Away in my Beautiful Balloon

  6. Bob Bielski

    Heading to Wood Buffalo and Fort Smith for my first time this coming August. Can’t wait!

    1. Carolyn
      Twitter: anorthernnomad

      That’s very exciting! Not many people make it all the way up here! I think you’ll love it. The mosquitoes should have died down a little by then too :)

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