North of the Great Lakes forests of Quetico, and south of the swamps of the
Hudson Bay lowlands, lies the Canadian Shield with its shallow soils,
hundreds of lakes gouged out by glaciers, and almost limitless mazes of
wilderness waterways. This is the land of the Boreal (northern) Forest. It
is also the land of very interesting and unique wildlife, like golden and
bald eagles, the rare wolverine, wolves, sandhill cranes, fisher, otters...
and caribou. Caribou are secretive and spectacular. The Ontario caribou are
the largest in the world, with some of the bulls weighing 600 pounds.
Caribou and paddlers both value remoteness and roadlessness, and use
exactly the same habitats.
Caribou calve on the islands of large wilderness
lakes in the spring and summer, and their migration corridors are the
chains of lakes, rivers, and portage trails that paddlers use except that
they use them when frozen. The good news and the bad news about caribou
country are the same: it is remote, extensive, and hard to access. It takes
creativity, commitment, trains, floatplanes, good maps, and often the
advice of an experienced outfitter to really get to the best spots in a
safe and efficient way. It is not for everyone, but for the paddler who is
well prepared or outfitted, it is incredibly rewarding.
There are many
wonderful trips in Woodland Caribou and Wabakimi Wilderness parks, as well
as on the Crown Land outside those parks. Permits are required for
non-residents, and are available from the POA members in northwestern
Ontario, who offer trip planning, maps, outfitting, and both guided and
unguided canoe and kayak trips into one of the last true wilderness areas
remaining on Earth.
- Click here to see a Paddling.net Trip Report on Woodland Caribou Provincial Park.