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Wapusk National Park in Manitoba

 

Female Polar Bear with yearlings on pack ice (N. Rosing  / ©Parks Canada / Wapusk National Park)

Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations are still going strong, with free admission to national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas all year! Why not take a trip to one of the wildest and most remote places in Canada? This park is home to the biggest and best-known residents of the North — polar bears! Let’s find out more about Wapusk National Park!

Where is it?

helicopter landing in the tundra

Helicopter landing on the tundra in Wapusk National Park. (Chris Moskal  / ©Parks Canada / Wapusk National Park)

This park is big! It’s 11,475 square kilometres on the shores of Hudson Bay. It’s also hard to get to. There are no roads to the park or inside it. To get there, you need to fly to the nearest town, Churchill, Manitoba. That’s 1,400 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. After that, a guide or a tour company will take you into Wapusk. Depending on the weather, you might travel by boat, snowmobile, helicopter or dog sled! Once you’re in the park, guides are important to help keep a lookout for the park’s biggest attractions, the polar bears!

The Bears

close up of polar bear

Polar bear cub of the year. (W. Lynch  / ©Parks Canada / Wapusk National Park)

The word wapusk means white bear in the Cree language. And there’s a reason the park is named for them. Around 1,000 polar bears make their homes there. In October and November, the bears gather to begin their winter hunting as the ice starts to form along the shores.
 

momma polar bear with cub

Female polar bear with a cub. (T. Milse  / ©Parks Canada / Wapusk National Park)

Mother bears spend the winter in dens, coming out in the springtime with their cute new cubs. Polar bears are the biggest carnivores on land — adults can weigh more than 450 kilograms! That’s why bear-watching tours in the park have special bear-proof vehicles that let you watch the bears safely.

Other things to do and see!

visitor looking at caribou

Visitor observes male caribou in Wapusk National Park. (M. Gillespie  / ©Parks Canada / Wapusk National Park)

Wapusk National Park isn’t all about the bears. While you’re there you might spot arctic foxes, wolves, lemmings, arctic hares, wolverines and the 3,000 or so caribou that head here for the winter.
 

goslings in a nest

Lesser snow goose goslings. (W. Lynch  / ©Parks Canada / Wapusk National Park)

The area is also a big hit with birds who make the park a regular migration stop. More than 250 species have been spotted, including snow geese, great grey owls, Caspian terns, cranes, arctic loons, gyrfalcons and peregrine falcons.
 

beautiful display of northern lights

Northern lights, or Aurora borealis. (S. Kowalchuk  / ©Parks Canada / Wapusk National Park)

And make sure to keep watching the skies after the sun goes down — the northern lights can turn the night time into an awesome light show! Churchill, Manitoba, is one of the best places to see the northern lights — sometimes they get them 300 nights out of the year! The northern lights are brightest from January to April.


Want to learn more about the northern lights? Check out our explainer!


little white flowers close up

White Mountain Avens. (©Parks Canada / Wapusk National Park)

Wapusk is in a unique spot, in between the arctic tundra and the taller forests to the south. In the winter, it’s covered with ice and snow, but in the warmer months the landscape is green and filled with all sorts of wildflowers. It’s also a bit soggy, with hundreds of bogs and small bays.
 

paddlers in canoes

Paddlers on the Owl River in Wapusk National Park ( ©Parks Canada / Wapusk National Park)

Canoeing is an awesome way to see the park and Wapusk has a guided tour along the Owl River. It’s a chance to not only explore nature, but also archaeological sites that go back thousands of years. Wapusk offers polar bears and history all in one big national park!