Riding Mountain National Park
|Riding Mountain National Park|
Clear Lake, Riding Mountain National Park
|Area||2,969 km2 (1,146 sq mi)|
|Established||1933 (National park)|
1986 (Biosphere reserve)
|Governing body||Parks Canada|
Riding Mountain National Park is a national park in Manitoba, Canada. The park sits atop the Manitoba Escarpment. Consisting of a protected area 2,969 km2 (1,146 sq mi), the forested parkland stands in sharp contrast to the surrounding prairie farmland. It was designated a national park because it protects three different ecosystems that converge in the area; grasslands, upland boreal and eastern deciduous forests. It is most easily reached by Highway 10 which passes through the park. The south entrance is at the townsite of Wasagaming, which is the only commercial centre within the park boundaries.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography
- 3 Wildlife
- 4 Activities
- 5 Photo gallery
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
A trading post was first established on Lake Dauphin north of present-day Riding Mountain National Park by the Hudson Bay Company in 1741. Pierre de la Verendrye and sons explored the region and traded with First Nations, who hunted and fished in the area for many years. In 1858 Henry Youle Hind, a professor of Biology and Chemistry at the University of Toronto, became one of the first Canadian explorers to reach the area now encompassed by Riding Mountain National Park during his surveying of present-day Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Hind described "pitching trails which lead from one part of the area to the other, following ridges, the only dry areas around" upon his ascent from Dauphin Lake. Hind, who travelled with several assistants and First Nations peoples, also described a final ascent upon Riding Mountain as "abrupt, consisting of a steep escarpment of drift clay and boulders covered with white spruce, birch and aspen." His early explorations helped inform the Government of Canada of the ecological diversity and potential of the Riding Mountain region.
In 1895, 3,975 square kilometres (1,535 sq mi) of land in Riding Mountain was designated as a timber reserve by the Department of the Interior, due to the quality of resources available to locals. The Dominion Forest Reserve Act, passed in 1906, and the Dominion Forest Reserve and Parks Act, passed in 1911, were among the first legally binding protection of the area. In 1906 the superintendent of forestry monitored permits for cutting timber, which were intended only for settlers of the region. At the same time, it was recognized that trees needed to be protected due to their esthetic properties and ability to hinder floods and erosion.
First Nation groups include Keeseekoowenin and Rolling River
On October 27, 1927, a meeting of representatives from the surrounding communities were called to the Court House in Neepawa, Manitoba to discuss a proposal to designate the Riding Mountain Forest Reserve a national park. Led by J. N. McFadden, the meeting aimed to highlight to residents the differences between a forest reserve and national park. One major difference is that its natural resources would be completely protected from development. Since 1918 reforestation had proceeded in the park, and it was planned as a destination for tourists to continue to invest money in the local economy. Although some wanted a national park to be located in the Whiteshell, a majority voted in favour of locating it in Riding Mountain. As a consequence of this decision logging operations were halted and the value of Duck Mountain increased.
The forest reserve was set aside as a national park in 1929, officially declared Riding Mountain National Park on May 30, 1933. The park opened to visitors on July 26 of that year, with Manitoba Lieutenant-Governor James D. McGregor unveiling a cairn and giving a speech at a dedication ceremony. In attendance were Manitoba Premier John Bracken, Minister of Natural Resources J. S. McDiarmid, and Thomas G. Murphy, Minister of the Interior. According to the Winnipeg Evening Tribune, over one thousand vehicles were registered at various park entrances and over four thousand people had been admitted inside the park forty-five minutes after McGregor arrived. Ten thousand people attended the ceremony, where the Clear Lake site was designated Wasagaming. Much of the public infrastructure in Riding Mountain National Park was created during the 1930s by labourers participating in Canada's great depression relief programs. Ten relief camps were supervised by James Wardle. Funding for these relief programs was provided by the 1930 Unemployment Relief Act and the 1934 Public Works Construction Act. In 1932 most relief workers were British and over half were from Winnipeg. At this time the 1 1⁄2-storey interpretive centre and several other buildings were built of log, many featuring a rustic architectural style. A lot of this early construction survives.
In the early days of Riding Mountain National Park, Parks Branch Commissioner James Harkin offered Archibald Belaney (September 18, 1888 – April 13, 1938) a job in the region. Belaney, who adopted the name Grey Owl when he took upon a First Nations identity as an adult, was a writer and became one of Canada's first conservationists. On April 17, 1931, Grey Owl arrived with his two beavers at a secluded lake several kilometres north of Wasagaming which had been selected by the park staff. He spent six months living in a cabin in Riding Mountain National park studying and working with wildlife, including two beavers named Jelly Roll and Rawhide. His main goal in the park was to re-establish beaver colonies in areas where they were exterminated. Riding Mountain National Park was found to be an unsuitable habitat for the beavers, as a summer drought resulted in the lake water level sinking, and becoming stagnant. Both the beavers and Belaney were unhappy with the situation, causing Belaney to search, with the support of the Dominion Parks Branch, for better living conditions. He later relocated to Prince Albert National Park, where there was a greater sized waterway and a lower risk of the lakes freezing to the bottom in the winter. Despite his eventual departure, he is regarded as a legend and major historical figure because of the influence he had on Riding Mountain National Park. The park now has an abundant beaver population partially because of his efforts. He also embraced his public persona during his stay at the park. His living quarters, now known as "Grey Owl's Cabin", still stand to this day and are a popular tourist attraction.
Whitewater POW Camp
During World War II Riding Mountain National Park was home to the Whitewater labour camp for German prisoners-of-war. Operating from 1943 to 1945, the camp was built on the northeast shore of Whitewater Lake, approximately 300 kilometres (190 mi) north-west of Winnipeg. The camp consisted of fifteen buildings and housed 440 to 450 prisoners of war. The decision to have a prisoner of war labour project in Riding Mountain National Park was the result of a fuelwood shortage in the winter of 1942 and 1943. To free up men for the war effort it was decided that prisoners of war would be employed. Following the end of the war and the achievement of a fuelwood surplus, the camp closed in late 1945. In 1945 an advertisement appeared in the Tribune soliciting the sale of the government-owned buildings. The camp has since been dismantled.
In 1986 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Riding Mountain National Park and the surrounding area Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve, as part of its Man and the Biosphere Programme. The Biosphere Reserve is a non-profit volunteer organization managed by representatives from the surrounding area. Prior to its creation, The Riding Mountain Liaison Committee (RMNLC) was entrusted to oversee the integration of this area and surrounding communities, eleven of which participated in a consultation process. Upon establishment, the Biosphere Reserve included 18 municipalities, several of which were merged in 2015 as a result of the Manitoba Municipal Amalgamation Act enacted in 2013 by the Manitoba provincial government. A Biosphere Reserve Management Committee (BRMC) was created to oversee the area. Biosphere Reserve land outside of Riding Mountain National Park is both privately and publicly owned and managed.
Over the years an increased emphasis was placed on wilderness conservation and commercial expansion within Riding Mountain National Park was limited. In 1965 the Winnipeg Tribune reported half a million visitors were entering the park annually. In 1970 Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne visited the park during their tour of Manitoba. In 1983 on the fiftieth anniversary of the park's opening a monument was erected south of the interpretive centre. In 1991 land removed from the Keeseekoowenin Objiway First Nation in 1930 by the Department of the Interior was returned to them after a land claim. In 2013, Riding Mountain National Park celebrated the 80th anniversary of the creation and opening of the park. It was the first National Park in Manitoba, and one of the first in western Canada. Anniversary celebrations included a re-enactment of the official park opening ceremony, along with year-long arts, culture and wildlife programs.
Riding Mountain National Park rises more than 457 metres (1,499 ft) over the surrounding Manitoba farmland. Riding Mountain is the highest point in the region, bordered by the Manitoba Escarpment in the east, the Valley River and Wilson River in the North, and a valley in the west. Further to the west is the Saskatchewan Plain.
During the last ice age most of the vegetation in the Riding Mountain region was eliminated, and it remained this way after the retreat of the glaciers 12,500 years ago. The Riding Mountain upland and surrounding plains and Manitoba Escarpment were mostly carved in the Tertiary era, but the ice sheets of the Pleistocene period modified the drainage and appearance of the land. Only the movement of the last ice sheet in this period left a visible effect on the features of the region. About 11,500 years ago a spruce dominated forest began to emerge in its place, with some of the vegetation being ash, juniper, sedges, buffaloberry, and trembling aspen. After this time the climate was dry, and the percentage of spruce decreased. During the Holocene climatic optimum up until 6500 years ago the amount of herbs, shrubs and grasses in the park increased. At the end of this time beaked hazelnut appeared and the amount of bur oak increased, with the climate becoming cooler and moister. Up to 2,500 years ago the amount of grassland species in general decreased and boreal forests migrated into the Riding Mountain region. It was at this moment that ecosystems began to resemble those of today, with species such as tamarack, fir, alder, pine and spruce becoming more common. Several streams that run through the park have headwaters in Riding Mountain's lakes. Clear Lake's water comes from underground springs rather than from streams.
The climate in the Riding Mountain region is similar to that of other regions of southwestern Manitoba. Under the Köppen classification it has a continental climate. It includes grasslands, upland boreal and eastern deciduous forest ecosystems. The park has hot summers and cold winters, with annual rainfall ranging from 40.6 to 50.8 cm. Around 80 percent of rainfall occurs between the months of April and October, with June being the wettest month of the year. The increased precipitation during the summer months is due to the large number of lakes and wetlands within the region as well as turbulence caused by the surrounding Manitoba escarpment. During the winter at an elevation of about 732 meters the mean snowfall is 127 centimetres. At a lower altitude of about 335 meters the snowfall drops to 25.4 centimetres. The town site Wasagaming has an average July temperature of 16.5 °C and an average January temperature of -19.7 °C. In general there is a lower amount of humid days within the park than in the surrounding prairie region. Wasagaming has lighter winds than the rest of the park due to the surrounding forest cover.
Riding Mountain National Park is accessible by car and bus from two municipalities. Dauphin lies 13 kilometres to the north and Brandon lies to the 95 kilometres south, connected by Manitoba Highway 10 with Wasagaming. Both of these cities have commercial airports, as does the town Erickson. Manitoba Highway 19 enters the park through the escarpment region from the east. The park can also be driven to from the city of Winnipeg. A permit is needed to enter Riding Mountain National Park by vehicle, and can be purchased at the park gates. In 1992 the East Entrance was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in recognition of its historic and rustic architectural design. The gate was designed by Shamus Marshall, a very renowned Canadian architect.
Elk, porcupines, coyotes, moose, wolves, beavers, lynxes, white-tailed deer, snowshoe hares, and cougars are among the animals that roam around this park. Common loons and Canada geese are some of Clear Lake's bird inhabitants. In total there have been 233 bird species observed in the park. The park also boasts one of the largest populations of black bears in North America. The black bear is one of 60 species of mammals inhabiting the park. There is also a wild bison enclosure located near Lake Audy. 20 Bison were originally reintroduced from Alberta in 1931. As of 2016, Lake Audy supports a population of about 40 captive bison.
Riding Mountain National Park is also well known for its wildflowers and wide range of unique vegetation, most of which is not seen anywhere else in the prairie regions of Canada. There are 669 species of plants in the park. Vegetation common to the region includes aspen poplar, balsam poplar, white birch or paper birch, white spruce, balsam fir, jack pine, black spruce, tamarack, American elm, Manitoba maple, and bur oak.
For all recreation activities within the park, it is advisable to contact Riding Mountain National Park administration for information and to acquire necessary permits.
Riding Mountain National Park has over 400 km (250 mi) of trails, with surfaces ranging from being grassy to gravelled. Backpacking trails include Ochre River Trail, South Escarpment Trail, and the Tilson Lake Trail. The Central, Baldy Lake and Strathclair trails are easy cycling trails while the Packhorse, Jet and Baldy Hill trails are more difficult On most back-country trails horse use is allowed, equipment being provided by local outfitters. During the winter months trails are open to cross-country skiing, which are not patrolled daily.
Ochre River Trail
Ochre River Trail is situated deep within Riding Mountain National Park, beginning just off Highway #10 and then winding its way through thick forest down to a parking lot on the north-eastern boundary of the park. Highlights along this trail include scenic campsites, river views, stream crossings, and a serene forest setting. The trail is used by backpackers, bikers, horseback riders, and cross country skiers. Skiers can make an over-night trek from the South Trailhead to Cairn’s Cabin (about 800m off the trail near the Ochre River Campsite) for the night and then back out again the following day. This cabin must be booked and paid for in advance. This trail has not been maintained since September 29, 2011.
Tilson Lake Loop
The Tilson Lake Loop is a multipurpose trail located in the western portion of the park, as that side of the park is not as heavily forested as the eastern side, and provides views over open meadows and rolling hills for hikers, horseback riders and bikers. The trail is 2-day loop and takes hikers an average of 11 hours to hike, but which can be joined up with some of the nearby trails to create a longer trip. The trail has few markings, but is wide and difficult to lose, and there are large, green signs clearly marking all junctions along the way. There are two campsites on the trail which have privies, fire pits, food storage bins, firewood, picnic tables and plenty of space for tents. It is possible to snowshoe this trail in the winter, but access can be difficult after heavy snow fall. This trail has not been maintained since August 11, 2011.
National Park Fishing Licenses are required for fishing within park boundaries. There are many clean, freshwater lakes within the park including Clear Lake, Lake Audy, Moon Lake and Whirlpool Lake among others. Walleye, white fish and perch are found in Clear Lake, and a limited number of rainbow and brook trout can be found in Lake Katherine and Deep Lake. Ice fishing is allowed on Clear Lake during the winter months. Snowmobiling is allowed on Clear Lake for the aforementioned activity only.
Clear Lake and Lake Audy have boat launches, both of which can be used for motorized boats. Moon Lake can also be used for this purpose though equipment must be carried 300 metres. On Whirlpool Lake, Deep Lake, Lake Katherine, and back-country lakes, only non-motorized boats can be used. All personal water crafts are banned within Riding Mountain National Park. Only four-stroke and direct injected two-stroke equipped motor boats are permitted on Clear Lake. Boats equipped with other motors are not permitted to use the lake for environmental reasons. The ban is enforced by Parks Canada and the RCMP.
Canoeing and kayaking
The lakes of Riding Mountain provide excellent conditions for canoeing and kayaking. At times, Whirlpool River and Jackfish Creek can be used for canoeing and kayaking when the water is high enough, usually after heavy rains or spring runoff.
Clear Lake is used by many people for sailing because of its relatively large size, and wind patterns. Parking and assembly areas are located at the Wasagaming boat launch.
Swimming and scuba diving
The Clear Lake main beach at Wasagaming, one of the park's most popular swimming locations, is equipped with washrooms, change rooms, and outdoor showers. Scuba diving is also possible at Clear Lake, with the deepest point in the lake approximately 34.7 m (114 feet). Other lakes used for swimming are Lake Katherine, Lake Audy and Moon Lake. Most of the other lakes in the park have muddy bottoms, so swimming is difficult but possible.
Camping and tenting
Wasagaming campground is one of the largest in Manitoba, and is a full service campground located near the Wasagaming townsite and Clear Lake. All sites in the Wasagaming campground contain a fire box, picnic table, and access to washrooms at the unserviced camp sites, and full service sites are equipped with all modern amenities including sewer, electricity, water, picnic table, and fire box. Other campgrounds suitable for car camping are located at Lake Audy, Moon Lake and Deep Lake. Tent camping is available at all campgrounds within the park. Whirlpool Lake campground is designated as a tenting only campground. There are also 22 wilderness campsites located in the back country of the park. These sites are equipped with firewood, pit privies, picnic tables and food storage containers.
There are 15 picnic sites in the park, usually along major roads and trails, such as Wasgaming, Lake Audy, and Moon Lake. These sites are equipped with barbecue pits, pit privies, and most have access to drinking water.
Clear Lake Golf Course is within park boundaries along the shores of Clear Lake. The course has received high ratings from multiple North American golf publications.
There are six professional tennis courts in the park at the Wasagaming townsite.
- Wasagaming, Manitoba - town-site in Riding Mountain National Park
- National Parks of Canada
- List of National Parks of Canada
- List of Manitoba parks
- Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve
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|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Riding Mountain National Park.|
- Parks Canada: Riding Mountain National Park website
- Parks Canada: Riding Mountain National Park Event Site
- Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve
- Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO site)
- Pemmican.org's - Guide to the Tilson Lake Loop Trail
- Pemmican.org's - Guide to the Ochre River Trail
- Sparrow's Bakery