Banff National Park
Banff National Park is the first and perhaps still the finest of all Canada’s National Parks. Banff’s bustling town site is an oasis of civilization surrounded by untamed wildlife. Within its boundaries, Banff National Park contains a sampling of Canada’s greatest natural assets—from tiny snails, to grizzly bear tracks; from back country skiing to ice climbing. But hosting almost 4 million visitors a year means Banff must balance the infinite complexities of a vast ecosystem with the heavy footprint of the modern world.
Bruce Peninsula and Fathom Five National Park
Located in prime Great Lakes territory, two protected areas sit side by side, brimming with life, spectacular scenery, and cultural treasures. Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park are the last refuge in Southern Ontario for many rare species. Thousand-year-old cedars, rare orchids and the Eastern Massassauga Rattlesnake all live with and within the landscape’s rocky cracks and crevices. But, life underwater is out of control. Invasive species are taking over. And preserving diversity on this ancient geological backbone is a constant struggle that requires a delicate balance.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park is the oldest National Park in the Canadian Maritimes. Winding through this prime whale watching territory is the Cabot Trail—showing off the park’s most striking assets. Home to some of the highest densities of moose ever recorded anywhere in the world; it’s virtually impossible to travel here without seeing some kind of wildlife. But, for Cape Breton it is the explosion of populations that remains a threat. Park ecologists scramble to deal with the aftermath of the budworm and moose infestations, while threats of multiplying populations loom underwater. Cape Breton Highlands is the oldest national park in the Maritimes, but in many ways it’s still evolving.
Fundy National Park
Fundy National Park is a small patch of rugged wilderness in southern New Brunswick. Sitting on the Bay of Fundy coast, the park is heavily influenced by the bay’s tides—the highest tides in the world! But the fish in these waters are in serious trouble, especially the area’s unique salmon species. Logging took a heavy toll on the water system here. In only fifteen years, the number of returning adult salmon dropped from forty-five thousand to a mere two hundred. Now the park is teaming up with public and private industry and special interest groups to try to influence what goes on around it.
Grasslands National Park
Grasslands National Park sits on Canada’s border between Saskatchewan and Montana. Two separate blocks, one east and one west, protect the North American mixed grass prairie—one of the most threatened ecosystems in North America. In an attempt to protect the land, and the endangered species that live here, Parks Canada is trying to stitch the landscape together by buying chunks of real estate from willing sellers. They are also using the ranchers that sold their estates back to the Park as rangers. It’s a unique treatment but it needs to work. The future of the park hinges on it.
Gulf Island National Parks is a fragmented structure, stitched together from a series of islands sandwiched between the urban development of Vancouver Island and mainland British Colombia. The park was established in 2003 in order protect this diverse landscape from recreational development that threatened to overrun this natural wonder. The latest high tech equipment is being used to help rare ecosystems fight back against years of misuse.
Every fall La Mauricie National Park in Quebec becomes vibrant and alive as the leaves of the Canadian Shield forest turn to red and gold. The trees lure visitors from around the world. But as much as those trees are a blessing, they have also been a curse. The 150 lakes are clogged with the effects of a hundred years of logging. The desire to preserve what hasn’t been cut has also damaged the forest. Now prescribed burns and lake cleanups are attempting to erase the sins of the past.
Pacific Rim Reserve National Park
On the west side of Vancouver Island, stands the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve—one of Canada’s most beautiful and powerful parks. Raging pacific storms pound 125 kilometers of rugged western shore into one of the world’s premier coastal temperate rainforests—dumping an average annual rainfall of nearly 3 and a half metres. With all that rainfall comes unique vegetation. The park’s formidable Sitka spruce can grow to 100 meters tall and boasts a trunk you could drive a small car thru. Despite the richness of the environment, it is also home to 42 species-at-risk. From tiny flowers, to giant marine mammals, to the most fragile rainforest ecology, Pac Rim in spring showcases the struggle for survival on a rugged windswept coast.
Point Pelee National Park
Point Pelee is the second smallest national park in Canada. While point Pelee may be small, its reputation among bird watchers is gigantic. This small patch of land in southwestern Ontario boasts one of the biggest concentrations of birds during spring and fall migration. But this birder’s paradise is also a theatre of life and death. There are more species at risk here than in any other park in Canada. In fact, the park itself is in danger from coastal erosion, and massive use of pesticides in the past. For the park and the animals that stop here, every day is a fight for survival.
Quittinirpaaq National Park
Quittinirpaaq National Park is quite literally on top of the world. Visitors here number in dozens annually, and some years not even that many make the trip. It is remote and beautiful. However, even in this pristine surrounding you can find the ugly footprint of humans. Bases for arctic exploration are littered with garbage, some of it toxic. The effects of climate change are felt in the melting polar cap and the 20 degree heat. To visit Quittinirpaaq National Park is to see the best and the worst this world has to offer.
Riding Mountain National Park is a constant friend to many Manitobans. More than 250,000 people visit the park every year. But the popularity poses a problem. How do you protect the landscape from the people and for the people at the same time? You can see this battle in the ecological balancing act that is Clear Lake, a crystalline pool that cannot be left to its own will. The battle is also felt in the debate over bovine tuberculosis in the deer and elk in the park. The disease is sometimes transferred to neighbouring cattle herds. There are no easy answers when you have to protect nature and people at the same time.
Terra Nova National Park
Tucked into the Newfoundland coast is a beautiful enigma, Terra Nova National Park. It’s a place where assumptions of the truth prove false. Its rugged boreal forest was protected from fire for decades, a decision that is in fact destroying many of the most prominent trees. The introduction of the moose seemed benign, but now the next generation of trees is being decimated. The otter was though to be a threat to the delicate cod nursery, but instead it is found to be a protector. Terra Nova National Park is a testament to reexamination and perseverance against everything you once thought right.
Torngat National Park
Torngat Mountains National Park folds treeless and rugged up the Labrador coast. Aboriginal people have lived, fished and hunted in this region for over 7000 years. But in the mid 20th century they were systematically moved off the land. This park was in part created to return the aboriginal people to their birthright. This park is also an ideal spot to get an advanced look at the effects of climate change on arctic regions.
Auyuittuq National Park
Above the Arctic Circle, in Canada’s far north sits Auyuittuq National Park. This remote wilderness is home to polar bears, massive glaciers and Mount Thor—one of the sharpest sheer drops to be found on the planet. ‘Auyuittuq’ means ‘The Land That Never Melts’ in Inutituk, the language of the Inuit. However, research reports rising temperatures and this once frozen landscape is changing.
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve
Known as the ‘Canadian Galapagos,’ Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve shelters some of the most lush and remote landscapes in the continent. Home to the Haida Nation for over 10,000 years, the area’s coasts and ancient spruce forests are rich in cultural treasure as well as natural life. The southern tip of the park reserve is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, where one can find century old totem poles and longhouses eaten away by thriving lichen. Distinct species have flourished here and a sense of primeval life has been retained on these isolated islands.
Nahanni National Park
Recently expanded to nearly six times its original size, Nahanni National Park now envelops the entire Nahanni River Watershed. The South Nahanni River rushes through the park providing scenic routes for visitors to immerse in this wilderness. Travelling down the river one comes across striking waterfalls, vast mountain peaks and canyons as well as natural hot springs. In the past there have been challenges with pollutants flowing from outside the park down the river. But, as the park area is now the third largest in Canada, the management of this immense and wild environment faces a whole new set of challenges.
St. Lawrence Islands National Park
The scattered terrain of St. Lawrence Islands is a significant migration corridor for many small mammals and rare wildlife. Sandwiched between some of Canada’s largest urban centers, this landscape is also host to many other travelers. Balance between maintaining natural areas and the encroaching human development is a delicate challenge facing this fragmented environment.
Wapusk National Park
One of the world’s largest polar bear denning sites, Wapusk means “white bear” in the native Cree language. The park is a unique ecological zone bordering the arctic, hosting both tundra and coastal marine environments. This landscape provides habitat for over 250 species of birds as well as hyper-abundant snow geese colonies. Though wildlife seems to be growing, this evolution must be monitored. Parks Canada continues to watch over this landscape as it sits on the precarious border to the ever-changing Canadian north.
Waterton National Park
Waterton National Park lies on the border of two of Canada’s most striking landscapes—the Rocky Mountains and the vast prairie grasslands. The contrast of these two biologically diverse ecosystems makes this one of the best places in the country to spot wildlife. However, the untamed nature of the park’s predators has caused deadly confrontations on cattle ranches neighboring Waterton’s borders. Now the park must work with its neighbors to ensure protection on both sides of the fence.
Kejimikujik National Park
The only inland park in the Canadian Maritimes, Kejimikujik history is visible. Petroglyphs carved into the landscape represent a time when the park’s lakes and rivers were prime canoe routes for tribal communities of Mi'kmaq. Yet, with a 200-day growing season the park is a lush green paradise on Canada’s east coast.
Mingan Archipelago National Park
A scattering of thirty limestone islands and over 1000 islets, Mingan Archipelago is a sacred gem along the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. This park’s ecosystem protects a world of diversity from huge monoliths created during the last Ice Age, to Minke whales and the rare Mingan thistle.
Pukaskwa National Park
Pukaskwa’s unpredictable landscape features boreal forests and iron rich plutonic rocks, which scientist have compared to the geology of Mars. On cobbled beaches overlooking Lake Superior, one can spot rare arctic plants due to the cooling effect of the lake. This diverse, rugged wilderness is the only one of its kind in the province.
Tuktut Nogait National Park
This hidden wonder of the arctic is one of the great secrets of the Parks system. Tuktut Nogait (“young caribou”) offers a traditional land where caribou, bears and wolves roam among spectacular canyon vistas. More than 500 archaeological sites are co-operatively managed with the Inuvialuit, who still use the park for subsistence hunting, fishing and trapping.
Wood Buffalo National Park
At almost 28, 000 square miles – the size of Sweden - Wood Buffalo is Canada’s largest National Park. Populated by one of the biggest free-roaming bison herds on the planet, this vast boreal wilderness expands over unique salt plains. The park is also home to the last remaining natural nesting area in the world for endangered whooping cranes.
Yoho National Park
On the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains is Yoho National Park. The park’s 28 mountain peaks are carved by picturesque waterfalls and more than 250 miles of hiking trails. Some of the world’s most significant fossils rest in Yoho’s steep rocks. The Burgess Shale World Heritage Site holds the fossilized remains of more than 120 mammal species dating back more than 515 million years.
Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin is a major research hub for those wanting to learn more about the wild population that reside there, such as grey jays and bears.
Garibaldi Provincial Park
Located 70 kilometres north of Vancouver, Garibaldi is home to many steep mountains and glaciers, as well as an interesting selection of wildlife, including the largest member of the weasel family, the wolverine.
Killarney Provincial Park
Featuring beautiful fall colours, the topics covered include acid rain and Canada's collective of landscape painters, the Group of Seven.
Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park
A popular stopover for people traveling the Alaskan Highway, this remote park in Northern BC is home to the second largest hot spring in Canada.
Quetico Provincial Park
Find out how Quetico earned its reputation as the Canoeing Capital of Canada.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
Find out just how important this park is to the residents of Thunder Bay, and take a look at the annual ski festival, the Sleeping Giant Loppet.