Exploring Canada’s Northern Territories
As the national anthem goes, Canada is “the true north strong and free”. For those seeking a travel experience that is out of the ordinary, full of breathtaking landscapes, cultural experiences, and the sky painted green with the Northern Lights, Canada’s Northern territories are the place to go.
Canada is home a substantial population of polar bears, and there are outfitters who will take you to see them- safely, of course. The best place in Canada to see polar bears is in the town of Churchill, Manitoba on the shores of the Hudson Bay. Churchill is known for the large polar bear population in the area around the town, and for the polar bears that frequently wander into and around town. If you’re looking to see polar bears, the best time of year is October and November, during the bears’ fall migration. There are a number of tour operators who will take you to view the polar bears, on a type of Arctic safari. Two of the better known operators are HYPERLINK “http://www.churchillwild.com/”Churchill Wild and HYPERLINK “http://www.churchillnaturetours.com/”Churchill Nature Tours. Churchill Wild operates wilderness lodges, located along the bears’ migration route; you can view them in safety as the lodges are protected by polar bear-proof fences. In the summer months, Churchill is also a great spot to view beluga whales. Churchill is a small, remote settlement; it can be reached by air from Winnipeg on flights operated by Calm Air or by train with Via Rail. Be forewarned, while more cost efficient, the train ride from Winnipeg is around 46 hours long.
First Nations Culture
Canada’s Northern regions are home to a wide array of different First Nations and Inuit. One great place for interacting with First Nations culture is in the nothern James Bay region of Quebec, known as Eeyou Istchee by the Cree who live there. Each of the 9 Cree communities, 8 of which are accesible by car in 8 to 18 hours from Montreal, have a hotel and airport. Before planning a trip to Eeyou Istchee, the HYPERLINK “http://www.creetourism.ca/”Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association can help you pick which community will best meet your needs and put you in contact with outfitters there. Some things which you can enjoy are ice fishing, snowshoeing, and the Northern Lights in the winter and pow-wows in the summer. In the community of Ouje-Bougoumou the HYPERLINK “http://www.ouje.ca/tourism/nuuhchimi_wiinuu_winter_summer.htm”Nuuhchimi Wiinuu outfitting company offers week long cultural excursions in both the summer and winter. Highlights include sleeping in teepees in the bush, fishing, snowshoeing, and eating tradtional foods all while learning about Cree lore and culture. Ouje-Bougoumou is a short drive from the city if Chibougamou.
Dogsledding is possibly the ultimate Northern winter adventure. There are a variety of HYPERLINK “http://spectacularnwt.com/whattodo/outdooradventure/dogsledding”outffiters offering all-inclusive packages where you get to experience the joys and thrills of dogsledding. One of the best areas to try the sport is around Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories. The best time to visit is in the winter months; some outfitters have modified their sleds to work in the summer using wheels, however. Winter also corresponds with the best season for viewing Aurora Borealis, and the period of the year when there are few daylight hours. It’s best to call the outfitter ahead of time for a packing list to make sure you have all the essentials, as temperatures in the Northwest Territories are often frigid during the winter months. Yellowknife is a city of approximately 19,000 people. There are daily flights to the city which is serviced by several airlines including First Air, Air Canada, and WestJet.
There are a tonne of incredible experiences awaiting travellers in the Yukon. HYPERLINK “http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/yt/kluane/index.aspx”Kluane National Park is home to some of the continent’s tallest mountains, most impressive landscapes, grizzly bears, and glaciers. The park offers camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, among other adventures. Some tour outfitters offer overnight, guided backcountry adventures, for those who want to spend more time in the park or who want a true wilderness adventure. Klune is located a 150 km drive from Whitehorse, and is also accesible by car from Alaska. There are tour outiffers in Whitehorse who offer day trips to the park, complete with shuttle service, such as HYPERLINK “https://www.google.ca/search?q=how+long+between+whitehorse+and+kluane+national+park&oq=how+long+between+whitehorse+and+kluane+national+park&aqs=chrome..69i57.11015j0j4&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8″ \l “es_sm=93&espv=210&q=day+trip+to+kluane”Arctic Range.
Whitehorse also has tour outfitters who provide you with the chance to tour the famous ice road to the Arctic Circle that was made famous on the TV show “Ice Road Truckers”. The tours are seasonal, dependant on when weather permits the ice road to be safely travelled, and are operated by HYPERLINK “http://www.adventures.ca/gasnet/itn63.htm”The Great Canadian Adventure Company. Whitehorse is accessible by car, by bus, or by plane, with flights operated by AirNorth and Air Canada on a daily basis.
The Yukon isn’t just about cold weather, majestic mountains, and Northern Lights. It is also a huge part of the history of the Gold Rush. In fact, walking through the city of Dawson City, you might feel as if you have been transported to the old west. The town’s Gold Rush heritage is obvious, in everything from the place names to the architecture. You can pan for gold yourself at HYPERLINK “http://www.dawsoncity.ca/klondikeattractions/claim6/”Claim #6 on Bonanza Creek, and learn about the history of the Gold Rush or visit a saloon that dates back to that era, the HYPERLINK “http://www.downtownhotel.ca/lounge.html”Sourdough Saloon. The Sourdough, in addtion to having a menu full of great drinks and food, also has live saloon-style entertainment and is home to the Sourtoe Club. Membership is gained by drinking a beverage with an actual human toe in it. You’ll get a certificate of membership if you pass the test! Dawson City is accessible by car and by bus from Whitehorse and from Alaska.
These are just some of the out of the ordinary adventures that await you in Canada’s North!