WOOD BUFFALO NATIONAL PARK
For those who have never been to Wood Buffalo, it’s hard to imagine the splendor of this place. The Woodland Bison National Park, which translates the name of the reserve (Wood Buffalo National Park), is located in northwestern Canada and covers the plain expanses of an area of 44,807 square meters. km It is the largest national park on the American continent, with a total length of 161 km from east to west and 283 km from north to south. Administratively, it is located in the Canadian provinces of the Northwest Territories and Alberta, geographically located between Lake Big Slave and Lake Athabasca.
A significant part of the national park is occupied by water bodies – rivers, lakes, swamps. Visiting Wood Buffalo, you can see one of the largest and most beautiful inland deltas created by nature. It is formed by the rivers Peace River and Athabasca, the waters of which flow into Lake Athabasca. Plains predominate in the park, although closer to the western side, adjacent to the Caribou Mountains, the terrain begins to change. Due to its proximity to the pole, protected lands have another attraction for tourists. In autumn and winter, visitors to the park have a unique opportunity to observe wonderful overflows of light in the sky – the northern lights.
Flora Wood Buffalo is rich and diverse. There are mixed and coniferous forests, shrubs, typical woodland tundra, meadow grasses and flowers, as well as typical grassy vegetation of wild prairies. All this, combined with local climatic features – long cold winters, which are replaced by warm short summers – creates favorable conditions for the habitat of numerous animals and birds.
Moose, several species of deer (white-tailed and black-tailed deer, caribou reindeer), hares, marmots, musky rats, porcupines, skunks and beavers are permanent residents of the national park. An interesting fact: on these lands, researchers recorded a beaver dam with a length of 850 m, which is considered a world record (usually the length of such structures does not exceed 100 m). In addition to the mentioned fauna representatives, American black bears and wapiti, wolves and lynxes, as well as over 200 bird species live in the park. Among birds, pelicans and white American cranes attract special attention, but the nesting sites of the latter are protected by environmentalists and are closed to tourists.
At the same time, as the name implies, the main inhabitants of Wood Buffalo are American bison, for the sake of saving the population of which the park was created. These massive animals are somewhat reminiscent of a European bison, weigh about a ton (900 kg), their body reaches 2 m in height and 3 m in length. Biologists distinguish between forest and steppe subspecies of bison, both are represented in Wood Buffalo and, in many respects, thanks to the protection of this protected area, still live on our planet. At the time of the creation of the national park (1922), the number of shaggy forest bison did not exceed one and a half thousand, now the herd reaches 2,500 heads and is recognized as the largest on the continent. The number of steppe bisons is much higher and back in the 1960s it crossed the line of 10 thousand.
The unique nature of Wood Buffalo became the reason for its inclusion in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which happened in 1983 and provoked a pilgrimage of tourists to these parts. Meanwhile, getting to the national park is not so easy. First you need to make a flight to the city of Edmonton (Canada), and then by car or charter flight to get (your choice) or to the city of Fort Smith (Northwest Territory province), or to the village of Fort Chipuyan (Alberta), which open access to protected lands. Fort Smith, where the Wood Buffalo Park Administration is located, can be reached via the Mackenzie Highway, while Fort Chipuyan, where the branch office is located, has no convenient road, only air.
When planning a tourist trip, you need to consider that there are practically no roads in Wood Buffalo. Only one car route has been created for excursions by the national park, while there are a huge number of rules for moving by car, the violation of which is punishable by impressive fines. As compensation, there are many walking routes for every taste. If desired, you can use short walking paths or choose complex and long hiking trails that require some experience with such trips. The risk of a close encounter with predators (lynxes, wolves) is minimal – they are cautious in nature and avoid human society.
In Canada, tourists are allowed water trips along large rivers. If you rent a vehicle (canoe or regular boat) in Fort Smith, you can go sailing to Fort Chipuyan, Fort Fitzgerald or Fort McMurray and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Wood Buffalo from an unusual angle.