Churchill Manitoba is the Polar Bear Capital of the World. I visited Oct 28 to Nov. 1, 2011, exploring with Frontiers North

Thanks to Tourism Manitoba I've had the opportunity to join @FrontiersNorth for one of Canada's coolest experiences in October 2011 - a visit to Churchill, the polar Bear Capital of the World.

In October and November this small community of 750 on the western shore of Hudson's Bay finds itself smack in the middle of a polar bear migration route. With almost an equal number of polar bears in the western Hudson Bay region, this situation makes for a unique challenge for the people of Churchill - and an amazing tourist attraction. This is one of the few easily accessible communities in the world where you can comfortably watch the beautiful beasts in their natural habitat. Tundry Buggys will take you out to view them in the wild, but you are just as apt to hear sirens and shotgun-propelled firecrackers at night as the polar bear alert crew nudges overly curious bears back out of town.

A few highlights from my vist:

 
No roads reach Churchill. Train (2 days) or plane from Winnipeg (2 hours) are your choices to reach this community during polar bear season.   You know it's not your average tour when you notice that your driver is armed and keeps guard when you step off the bus for photos.
Polar Bear Jail  
Polar Bear Trap
Churchill has what is know as 'Polar Bear Jail'. Bears caught too close to town are held here until the ice freezes on Hudson Bay. Then they are helicoptered out to the ice.   Problem bears caught hanging out around town are trapped and brought to the holding facility, out near the airport.
  Polar Bear Paw Print
Contact with humans is kept to a minimum, but sometimes at polar bear jail you can hear them inside.  
Within an hour of our arrival in Churchill we found fresh polar bear tracks just miles from the airport.
Mother Polar Bear and Cub  
Before we even reached town from the airport we spotted a mother bear nursing her cub
  Turns out not only do Polar Bears like to dine on ringed seals - they also like snowmobile seats.
     
Polar Bear Alert Sign  
A Polar Bear Alert program operates for the safety of residents and visitors. We city folks call 911 for help - they call 675 for the bear patrol.   St. Paul's Anglican Church was the first prefabricted building in North America. It was shipped as a kit from England.
     
 
Looking out the front window of our tour bus the claw marks of a polar bear are evident on the hood.   Want to know if there's a bear close to town, keep an eye for circling tourist helicopters.
     
 
If you drop by the local Canada Post office they will add a Polar Bear stamp to your passport.   In the same building as the post office you can Manitoba Conservation's daily posting of sightings.
   
 
We spotted twelve bears and one snowy owl on my first day on the tundra. Curious bears will sometimes pay a visit to the tundra buggys.   If you think pot holes are a problem at home take a look at the old military trails the tundra buggys have to stick to in the conservation area.
Eskimo Museum  
Pre-Dorset culture lived in the Churchill area and tent rings that would pre-date Cleopatra have been found near the Prince of Wales Fort a the mouth of the Churchill River. The Fort is a National Historic Site.   The town's Eskimo Museum has an excellent collection of carvings, cultural artifacts, and geological wonders. Under the shoreline in this region is an ancient shoreline that was once located close to the equator.
     
     
     

Check out the live Polar Bear Webcam, courtesy of @frontiersnorth  @exploreorg.

 

 
 
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Lucy Izon

Canada Cool is produced by award-winning Canadian travel writer & speaker Lucy Izon. Her travel stories & reports have appeared in numerous leading North American publications including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, and Chicken Soup for the Traveler's Soul. Bio page

Canada’s Coolest:

Welcome to a new feature on Canada Cool. I'll be presenting different 'Coolest' lists with my favorites and I encourage you to nominate suggestions from your own experiences. You can Twitter @CanadaCool or email Lucy@CanadaCool.com. Let me know what makes your suggestion exceptionally cool. Remember, by contributing your comments you are giving Canada Cool permission to quote you. Only a selection of submissions will be included, but all comments and submissions are greatly appreciated!

The first feature is: Canada's Coolest Single Day Scenic Drives

Here are some of my favorites...

Icefields Parkway - the world's most accessible glacier

The Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta - This 229 km (142 mi) Rocky Mountain route from Banff/Lake Louise to Jasper passes 100 frozen rivers and nudges the base of the Athabasca Glacier - the most accessible glacier in the world. You can stop and explore it. It spills down from the Columbia Icefield, an area of ice so massive that you could fit the entire population of North America on it with each person getting at least a square metre of space.

Algonquin Moose Viewing

The Corridor, Algonquin Park, Ontario – this 56-km stretch of Hwy 60 cuts through the southwest section of Algonquin Park. Less than three hours north of Toronto the park is a nature-lover's paradise with 7,725 km of lakes, rivers, forest, trails, camping, comfortable lodges and 2000 km of canoe routes. Offers hiking trails to stop and enjoy, but what makes it really cool is that it’s one of the best places in North America to spot moose (especially in May and June). And, on Thursday nights in August up to 600 cars will gather to listen to wolves howl.

Cape Breton Cabot Trail drive

The Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia – Driving this 303 km (187 mile) route is like riding a roller-coaster: the road snakes around hairpin turns, rises to heights over 365 metres (1200 ft), weaves around headlands revealing spectacular coastal scenery, and plunges down to sea level taking you into the heart of small fishing communities. The most dramatic scenery is between the Cape Breton Highlands National Park entrance near Cheticamp and Pleasant Bay, so go slow. And, plan some flexibility into your schedule, so you can drive it on a clear day.

And here are some of your nominations for 'Canada's Coolest Single Day Scenic Drives'...

 

More from Canada’s Coolest

'Canada's Coolest' topics we'll be publishing in the future:

  • Golf Course Features
  • Haunted Hotels
  • Hotel Special Services

Send your suggestions to lucy@CanadaCool.com

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