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Northern Lights 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 Trip Report on Woodland Caribou Provincial Park.

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