Located west of Red Lake, Woodland Caribou Provincial Park (ON) and the adjoining Atikaki Park (MB) represent over 2.2 million acres of protected wilderness.

Located West of Red Lake Woodland Caribou Provincial Wilderness Park is the fifth largest wilderness park in Ontario at  1.2 million acres.  Unlike most other “wilderness” parks the original Woodland Caribou Park has never been logged and has no roads within its boundaries.  West of the park is Manitoba’s first wilderness park,  Atikaki which is Ojibwa for “Country of the Caribou.” Sharing part of its border with Atikaki insulates Woodland Caribou Provincial Park further from outside influences.  These two parks combined represent over 2.2 million acres of protected wilderness and nearly 2000 miles of canoe routes.  Woodland Caribou is an outstanding representation of the Canadian Shield with unique examples of flora and fauna due to the influence of the nearby prairie ecosystem. Glaciers released the landscape of the park from their icy influence 9000 years ago, exposing the 3 billion year old  Precambrian shield, which is known to be among the oldest rock  on earth. As the glaciers were receding Glacial Lake Agazis flooded the area intermittently until it drained for the final time 7800 years ago. The result of this is a unique wilderness landscape of boreal forest characterized by a series of small, sheltered, elongated lakes ideally suited for quiet canoeing.  The rugged terrain is awe inspiring in its beauty and massive bedrock outcrops with thick beds of moss make outstanding campsites. Access to Woodland Caribou Provincial Park can be via floatplane, forest  access roads or by canoeing in from adjoining waterways.

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park contains several river systems within it boundaries, The Garner, Bird, Irregular, Haggart, Wanipigow and Gammon in the south and central portions of the park, the Musclow, Dutch, Sabourin and Bloodvein River in the north.  The two major river systems, the Gammon and the Bloodvein, are historically significant to our indigenous first nations people and were also traveled by fur traders and gold prospectors.  Numerous pictographs can be found along these rivers including the famous Artery Lake pictographs. The Bloodvein River has recently been classified as a Canadian Heritage River forever protecting it from development.  Traveling the Bloodvein River through Woodland Caribou Park is mostly a flat-water experience.  Enter into the Atikaki side and you now have a first class white-water river with 112 sets of class I-III rapids as the river cascades toward Lake Winnipeg.

Woodland Caribou Park lies within the Nelson River drainage basin, which is part of the Arctic Watershed.  All water flows westward into Lake Winnipeg and the Nelson River, then eventually north to the great Hudson Bay. An abundance of pristine drinking water rivers and lakes provides over 1200 miles of canoe routing choices with many more routes waiting to be discovered. On the seldom-traveled portages you are more likely to encounter the tracks of wildlife than the footprints of man. Keep your eyes open for the elusive caribou,  as well as moose, otter, martin , wolverine, cougar and bald eagles.

Within the boundaries of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park is found some of the best quality sport fishing in Ontario. Some of the more sought after species include walleye, northern pike and lake trout, but also present are smallmouth bass, whitefish, perch and the elusive muskellunge. Though the heat of summer these fish are known to bite and fight all summer long

Provincial fishing licenses are required and can be purchased locally. Currently live bait is still permitted in the park but be aware that regulations prohibiting live bait are being reviewed and will be enacted banning it’s possession in the not too distant future. This is the best course of action to prevent invasive species from entering the pristine environment of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. Considering that the fishing is so superb live bait is not at all necessary. Great fishing success can be hand using  artificial baits and lures, but if you still feel you must use live bait, use only locally caught bait so as not to introduce foreign species into the parks lake/river systems.

Most of the lakes are species specific with Northern Pike and Lake Trout dominating the oligotrophic lakes. Walleye are more common to larger utrophic lakes such as those that can be found along the Gammon and Bloodvein Rivers.

Smallmouth bass are the only foreign species in the parks fisheries. Introduced in 1959 they have endured in a small portion of the lakes.

Of the naturally occurring species, Muskellunge is found only in Irregular Lake,  but Whitefish, and Yellow Perch can be found in virtually every lake. fishing activity varies so routes can be tailored to the species you enjoy the  most.

A large herd of the now threatened Woodland Caribou was first identified around the time of the Second World War in what are now the confines of the current day park.  Protection of this herd and the habitat that sustains it was one of the primary reasons for the establishment of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in 1983. The 60 to 100 year old jack pine forests which are essential to the existence of the caribou, are contained in the area of the park and can be found in few other places in Ontario. They provide ideal conditions to support lichen growth, which is the main winter food for caribou during the long bitter winter season. As well, the many lakes with their numerous island provide protection from predation of young caribou calves by bears or wolves.

The fire-influenced mosaic of boreal forest within Woodland Caribou Park contains species of animals indigenous to the boreal forest, including the woodland caribou, moose, white tail deer, and black bear. Other wildlife that may be seen include, the ever present beaver, otter, muskrat, mink fisher, martin, weasel,  wolverine, lynx, cougar, fox, and timber  wolf as well as over 100 species of birds during breeding season. With it’s  proximity to the prairies, the park also contains flora and faun that is unusual  to a boreal forest, as seen by the stands of Burr Oak, the occasional blossom of the prairie crocus, the Franklin’s ground squirrel, Forster’s Tern, white pelican, and red sided garter snake.

WCPP presents a unique blend of these two ecosystems. Its isolation to outside influences has prevented the introduction of foreign species, thus keeping the ecological integrity of the park intact.

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park is located in the Arctic Watershed and offers over 1200 miles of exceptional quality canoe routes. since most headwaters originate within the park there is little opportunity for outside land uses to affect the quality of the water. As such, the water is clear, pristine and good for drinking, swimming and fishing. The “canaux et lac” drainage patterns means the lake systems are controlled by bedrock surroundings with short quick drops of falls or rapids. This makes travel by canoe fairly  easy with the average portage being only 200-300 meters in length. With less than 900 paddlers per season the possibility of encountering others is very slight. It is still possible to take a two week trip and not encounter another soul.

Imagine travelling for days and sharing this pristine wilderness area with only the animals denizens .

WCPP – Photos by Mauricio Neri

WCPP – Photos by Max Haftmann

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