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See Polar Bear Cubs At Wapusk, One Of Canada's Most Accessible National Parks

TheTravel logo TheTravel 4 days ago Aaron Spray
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  • What Makes Wapusk National Park Particularly Remarkable
  • How To Get To Wapusk National Park
  • Licensed Tour Operators Of Wapusk National Park

Much of Canada is hidden away in the largely unpopulated and inaccessible north. The Canadian Arctic is massive and offers a wealth of attractions, from dramatic glaciers to polar bears. Like Alaska, many of Canada's national parks are remote and have no road access. This area around Churchill is one of the best places in the world to go on a polar bear tour.

One of the stunning subarctic national parks to visit is the Wapusk National Park. It is one of the more accessible Arctic Canadian national parks - or at least accessible in a relative sense - there is still no road access. It is particularly noted as a breeding region for polar bears. The Canadian High Arctic is a world apart and is a region everyone should see.

What Makes Wapusk National Park Particularly Remarkable

Wapusk National Park is an expansive wilderness at the transition between boreal forest and the Arctic tundra. It protects some of the largest polar bear maternity denning areas in the world. It is thought to have a polar bear population of around 1,000. Indeed, "Wapusk" is from a Cree word for polar bear.

  • Size: 11,475 square kilometers (4,430 sq mi)
  • Polar Bears: Approx. 1,000
  • Caribou: 3,000 Strong Cape Churchill Herd
  • Established: 1996

The Wapusk National Park is situated on Western Hudson Bay. While it is known for its polar bears, it is also home to Arctic hares, Arctic Foxes, caribou, wolverines, and over 200 species of birds. Many of the animals in this park (like caribou and polar bears) are vulnerable to climate change and melting permafrost. The caribou population has been steadily declining over the last few decades.

One of the main attractions in the park is Cape Churchill - it is regarded as the best place in the world to see and photograph polar bears. The Hudson Bay is so large that it creates its own microclimate bringing the Arctic much further south.

The polar bears come ashore when the ice melts on Hudson Bay and wait around on the tundra until the water freezes again. The pregnant females shelter in the maternity dens in the peatlands (peatlands cover around 27% of the park). Wapusk is one of only a very few places in the world where tourists can see three-month-old polar bear cubs venture out of their dens and explore their world for the first time.

Related: How To (Safely) See The Iconic Polar Bears In Alaska

How To Get To Wapusk National Park

There is no road access to Wapusk National Park, and access is only by helicopter or Tundra Buggy. Prospective visitors need to go there via authorized commercial tour operators in Churchill. The park is located just south of Churchill in Northeast Manitoba on the Hudson Bay.

  • Gateway: The Northern Settlement Of Churchill

While there are no roads to Churchill, there is a train. VIA Rail runs a passenger service from the main Manitoba city of Winnipeg to Churchill twice weekly. The service goes Tuesdays and Sundays out and Thursdays and Saturdays back. The train takes two nights to get there (there are sleeper cars) and can be delayed in the winter. If there is heavy frost, the train may be slowed to nine miles an hour.

  • Access: By Train & Air

Alternatively, tourists can fly to Churchill with either Calm Air or Kivalliq Air. People can also drive up to Thompson that's much closer, and take the train or fly from there.

Related: These Polar Bear Tours Were Voted The Best In The World

Licensed Tour Operators Of Wapusk National Park

Very few people get to visit Wapusk National Park. Those who do get to visit generally need to visit through a licensed tour operator in Churchill. Licensed tour operators are required for all activities in the park (except canoeing on the Owl River). Tourism is present, but not high in the park. Those who do get to visit get to see some of Canada's wildest and most remote landscapes.

Wat'chee Expeditions is the company licensed to take tours to the park from Churchill. For availability, trip dates, and prices, visitors should contact them directly - tours are not listed on their website.

The companies that are able to offer private aerial tours of Wapusk are Hudson Bay Helicopters (also called Prairie Helicopters) and Custom Helicopters.

Anyone wanting to visit Wapusk will need to plan and book the tours well in advance.

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