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Manitoba's Wapusk National Park of Canada - An Overview

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Polar bears can often be seen playing within this national park.

Polar bears can often be seen playing within this national park.

© A Well Dressed Bullet

Contact Info:

Mail: P.O. Box 127 Churchill, Manitoba, Canada R0B 0E0

Phone: 1-888-773-8888

Email: wapusk.np@pc.gc.ca

Overview:

Polar bears have long been admired and continue to be protected by conservationists who realize their endangerment. And Wapusk National Park serves as one of the largest protective areas known polar bear maternity denning areas. In fact, Wapusk means "White Bear" in Cree.

It is comprised of a large area of the Hudson James Lowlands, a plain bordering the Hudson Bay, and is full of permanently frozen soil. The land has been slowly rising at a rate of up to one meter every 100 years since the last continental glaciers melted about 9,000 years ago. And this phenomenon, known as isostatic rebound, can be seen in the beach ridges that parallel the coast of Hudson Bay.

History:

Archeological evidence in the park tells us Inuit, Dene, and Cree have lived in the area for more than 3,000 years. During the 17th century, Métis and European traders arrived while aboriginal people began establishing permanent settlements near Prince of Wales Fort and York Factory. Both are now National Historic sites, located north and south of the park.

York Fort is thought to have been the most important post in western Canada throughout the 18th and 19th century. From 1684 to 1957 it served as the Hudson Bay Company's main depot and point of entry to the west.

Prince of Wales Fort was destroyed by the French in 1782, but its successor, Fort Churchill, remained until 1930 when it was abandoned in favor of the port facilities of the east bank. Wapusk, the land between these two historic sites, was a source of furs and provisions for the two trading centers, and a travel passageway between them.

When to Visit:

Weather in the North is harsh and can change quickly. During the summer, temperatures can range from -10° C to 35°C, and can plunge 20 degrees in less than one hour.

The fall, September and October, are typically stormy, with temperatures ranging from -25°C to 15°C.

Winter lasts from late October to early May. The average December and January temperature is -26°C, but it can drop as low as -50°C, with wind chills pushing temperatures even further.

It is important to remember that snowstorms can happen at any time of year. Current weather conditions can be obtained at Canada's WeatherOffice.

Getting There:

The park is located less than 5 miles from Churchill Airport, which is the most convenient destination for visitors.

Fees/Permits:

Typically there is no daily entry fee, however there are charges for guided walks of othewr programs. Fees are updated every April 1st so be sure to check the Wapusk offical website before your visit.

Note: Access to Wapusk is through authorized commercial tour operators in Churchill. Unescorted visits to the park are not recommended. For the most current list of operators, email the park office or call at 1-888-773-8888.

Major Attractions:

As noted earlier, York Factory National Historic Site is a must-see. Visitors experience the diverse history of the Hudson's Bay Company and the fur trade of the 1600-1800s. The Parks Canada Visitor Centre in Churchill provides tours, museum fur-trade exhibits, and special presentations.

Because the park is known for its polar bears, it offers many convenient viewing opportunities. In November, Cape Churchill is your best bet. In January and February, Wat'Chee Lodge offers chances to view.

For those looking to see everything at once, try Hudson Bay Helicopter aerial tours for a grandiose view of the park.

Accommodations:

Nearby York Factory National Historic site is Silver Goose Lodge which provides limited accommodations through advanced reservations. Camping is not permitted in the park.

Manitoba offers various hotels, motels, and inns that are still convenient to Wapusk.

Visitors are encouraged to contact the Churchill Chamber of Commerce at 1-888-389-2327 for information on where to stay.

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