Remote Wapusk Park looks to attract canoeists, hikers

Parks Canada wants to open up Manitoba's biggest park, best known for its polar bears, to canoe and kayak tour operators.
Aerial view of the Owl River with Hudson Bay in the distance. (Sheldon Kowalchuk)

Parks Canada wants to open up Manitoba's biggest park, best known for its polar bears, to canoe and kayak tour operators.

It's looking for businesses to offer tours on the Owl River in Wapusk National Park during June, when the bears have not yet come off the ice.

It's the first step in increasing visitors to the remote, located on the shore of Hudson Bay, just south of Churchill in Manitoba's far northeast.

Wapusk National Park (Google Maps)

About 125 people a year visit but acting Supt. Sheldon Kowalchuk notes the passenger train to Churchill makes a stop close to the Owl River, which could be the starting point for a canoe trip.

Canoeists could then travel about 100 kilometres down the river "through the sub-arctic area … and move to the Hudson Bay coast" where they would then be airlifted and given a chance to see the park from a totally different perspective, Kowalchuk said.

Wapusk, which means "White Bear" in Cree, has one of the world's largest known polar bear maternity denning areas.

Currently, there are two licensed operators offering polar bear tours and there are two compounds where visitors can safely watch the bears.

Apart from that, there is very little infrastructure in the park.

The aim is to increase that, and not only through the canoe tours. The park also plans to invite guided dog sledding businesses next year and guided hiking trips after that.